The latest tidbits on Sun deals and product news

July  1998
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eSuite's sweet on NCs

San Francisco (July 16, 1998) -- Sun and Lotus teamed up this week and introduced the Lotus eSuite WorkPlace for Sun's JavaStations.

The eSuite WorkPlace is a Java-based desktop environment that includes an integrated Web browser, terminal emulator, file manager, e-mail, and a set of business productivity applets such as word processing, spreadsheet constructing, calendaring, an address book, and presentation graphics.

Of the eSuite WorkPlace, Ron Rappaport, industry analyst at Zona Research says, "It looks like a bunch of typical office productivity applications. It's basically a non-Microsoft Office office suite built in Java. It's exactly what Sun needs to have on it's Java-based NCs." Rappaport says eSuite WorkPlace seems to make sense given Sun's arrangement with IBM to work together on Java.

The product is offered on a "Try and Buy" basis. This means customers who purchase Sun's Netra j server software package to enable and administer JavaStations will get a free trial version of Lotus's eSuite product. The trial period lasts 120 days, and at the end, U.S. customers can buy eSuite WorkPlace for $49.00 per seat.

Sun's JavaStations only began shipping in May of this year so it is hard to say what impact eSuite WorkPlace will have on JavaStation sales. The product has not been on the market long enough for analysts to determine hard and fast sales numbers. But those who dare to venture a guess say that the number of JavaStations sold since May falls in the low thousands. "The closer that Sun comes to offering a robust workstation environment on Java-based computers the easier it becomes for Sun to offer them (NCs) as a viable business solution," says Rappaport.

--Stephanie Steenbergen, SunWorld

Sun reports record Q4 revenues

San Francisco (July 16, 1998) -- Buoyed by strong sales of its servers and workstations, Sun Microsystems Inc. today reported fourth-quarter earnings of $288 million before charges, or an all-time high of 73 cents per share, Sun said.

Revenues for the quarter were $2.9 billion, also a record for Sun, and up 13 percent over the previous year, the company said. That compares to fourth quarter 1997 results of $2.54 billion in revenue, with net income of $237 million, or 61 cents per share.

During the quarter Sun incurred one-time charges related to a company acquisition. Including those charges, Sun's income and earnings per share for the quarter were $273 million and 69 cents, respectively.

Twenty-two brokers polled by financial watchdog First Call Corp. produced a consensus estimate of 71 cents per share for the quarter.

Strong growth in the U.S. and Europe was sufficient to offset a 12 percent decline in sales in Japan compared to the year-ago quarter, said Ed Zander, Sun's chief operating officer, in a conference call with press and analysts.

For the full 1998 fiscal year, Sun's revenues were $9.8 billion, up 14 percent compared with $8.6 billion in the previous year. Net income was $906 million, up 23 percent over the same period a year earlier, excluding one-time items for fiscal years 1997 and 1998.

In the conference call, Scott McNealy, Sun's chief executive officer and Zander reveled in recent press coverage of Jini, the newest piece of Sun's Java platform which the company says will enable disparate devices connected to a network to communicate and share resources with each other in a way previously not possible. (See "Sun to let Jini spec out of the bottle.")

"Even if we go and look at people's research papers there's just nothing out there that's this far down the road," McNealy said.

But the technology is still just that -- a long way from being turned into usable products -- and won't contribute to Sun's bottom line yet, Zander said.

Meanwhile back in the real world, Sun decided to delay until the first week of October the introduction of its first full 64-bit operating system, Solaris 2.7, a decision made in the last 10 days, Zander said. The operating system was planned to ship in August but the company has delayed the release in order to conduct more tests, Zander said.

"We've not had a major systems transition since the late 80s and we're building one that will carry us through the next decade quite nicely," McNealy said. "I can't tell you how resource-consuming that effort has been."

Sun has also pushed back by a month the release of Java Development Kit 2.1, which includes Sun's HotSpot technology. Sun's JavaSoft division has touted HotSpot as the solution to Java's cross-platform performance problems. The product, which has been delayed more than once already, will now ship in late September or early October, Zander said.

Sun has completed its internal reorganization announced in April, which involved eliminating its five separate operating companies and forming several new groups focused on products, sales and services.

"The reorganization is behind us. Everyone is in place, and we're firing on all cylinders," Zander said.

--James Niccolai, IDG News Service

Enterprise 250 fleshes out Sun's PCI server line

San Francisco (July 14, 1998) -- Sun today released a PCI-based replacement to its popular Ultra Enterprise 2 server line called the Enterprise 250.

Priced at $10,000 for entry-level configurations, the Enterprise 250 ships with either single or dual UltraSPARC-II processors. The chips are available in 250- or 300-MHz clock speeds. The new server has a greater internal storage capacity (up to 100 GB) than the Enterprise 2, and, like its higher end sibling the Enterprise 450, it comes with hot-swappable arrays and a redundant power supply.

The Enterprise 250 has four PCI slots and two 64-bit PCI buses and comes with what Sun calls a "Remote System Control tool." Based on technology from the high-end Ultra Enterprise 10,000 servers, this feature consists of firmware and an embedded controller on the Enterprise 250 motherboard that lets administrators remotely run low-level diagnostics and turn the machine on and off. The Control tool can also alert administrators when the operating system crashes.

Sun's director of workgroup server marketing, David Douglas says that he would like to integrate this Remote System Control tool into other servers, for example the Enterprise 450, but that will not happen in the near future. "You need to have a pretty big design rev in the system to bring this in," he says.

The $10,000 entry-level price tag gets you a uni-processor 250-MHz system with one-megabyte (MB) cache, 128-MB memory, and 4 GB of internal storage running Solaris for Intranets. The new systems are available immediately, according to Sun.

--Robert McMillan, SunWorld

Sun releases SunForum whiteboard tools

San Francisco (July 8, 1998) -- Today Sun announced SunForum, a suite of interoperability tools that allows people who are working in either Solaris, Windows, Macintosh, or any OS that has a data conferencing program that meets International Telecommunications Union (ITU) T.120 standards to work together in real-time.

SunForum consists of five applications: a shared electronic whiteboard application, a shared application program, a file transfer utility, a chat utility, and a shared clipboard.

Sun is offering the product at no cost. It can be downloaded for free from Sun's Web site. So, what strategic purpose does this serve for Sun?

"[We want] to enable our customers to be more productive outside of the Sun world," says Arvie Martin, senior product manager for digital media at Sun. "As much as we'd like to think that everybody has a Sun machine, we need to interoperate with other computers."

Regarding SunForum's lack of cost, Martin says this whiteboard product is now what's known as a "check-off item" versus what's paid for by customers. "Millions of copies of a whiteboard product created by a little company called Microsoft have been downloaded for free off the 'Net," he says. "The expectation now is: `why should we have to pay a ton of money to interoperate? This is a standard feature.' We wanted our customers to be treated just as friendly [as Microsoft's]."

From Martin's description of SunForum, it sounds as if it differs very little for an end user from other whiteboard products such as Microsoft's NetMeeting product. He says there are "additional capabilities for Sun-to-Sun [whiteboard collaborations]. There is more functionality and flexibility." He says Sun's product offers users a key to tell you who is doing what. If one person has a green pen or the other has a red, the user is able to observe who is making amendments to a document on the whiteboard.

SunForum also has a stamping function. Users can create custom bit map stamps to "paste" on the whiteboard during a meeting. According to Martin, Microsoft's product does not have this function.

--Stephanie Steenbergen, SunWorld



Sun, Microsoft agree to postpone Win 98-Java hearing

San Francisco (July 6, 1998) -- Sun Microsystems Inc. and Microsoft Corp. have agreed to postpone until September a late July court hearing on Sun's request to require Microsoft Windows 98 to be compatible with Sun's Java technology, spokespersons for the two software companies said today.

In agreement with the Northern Division of the U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, an initial hearing planned for July 31 has now been postponed until Sept. 4 in order to give both parties more time to prepare, the spokespersons said.

In two motions filed in May, Sun asked the court to require that any copy of Windows 98 that has Sun's Java technology in it be shipped with a version that is compatible with Sun's own. Sun also asked the court to bar Microsoft from shipping its software tools for the Java programming environment unless they generate only fully compatible Java software.

--Torsten Busse, IDG News Service

Sun to cut 200 jobs as sales forces combine

San Francisco (July 1, 1998) -- Sun Microsystems Inc. confirmed today that a plan to consolidate two software sales forces within the company will result in about 200 Sun employees being displaced from their jobs.

The workers have been given about 90 days to find alternative employment, said Sun spokeswoman Anne Little.

Sun is consolidating its Solaris software and Java software sales forces as part of a broad restructuring plan that was announced in April. The plan calls for the elimination of Sun's five operating companies and the formation of seven new divisions that will be overseen by Ed Zander, the company's chief operating officer.

In April Sun said it did not expect any layoffs to result from the restructuring.

Today Little said that some of the displaced workers will find alternative employment within the company.

--James Niccolai, IDG News Service

Sun purchases start-up NetDynamics Inc.

San Francisco (July 1, 1998) -- Sun today will announce the purchase of NetDynamics Inc. The acquisition of NetDynamics, a Web application server and tools vendor, will be a stock-for-stock merger. Sun would not disclose the price of the deal.

NetDynamics, a Menlo Park, CA, start-up, focuses on building and deploying application server technology. Platforms supported are Solaris, Windows NT, HP-UX, and AIX. The company also recently announced support for Sun's enterprise JavaBeans.

--Stephanie Steenbergen, SunWorld


Sun announces support of Intel's Pentium II Xeon processor for servers

San Francisco (June 29, 1998) -- Sun and Intel sidled up close to one another today when Sun today announced support for Intel's new Pentium II Xeon processor for servers. Sun claims to have worked closely with Intel throughout the product's development to ensure Solaris' ability on the new processor.

This is part of Sun's attempt to universalize Solaris. In a statement, Sun's president of Solaris Software, John McFarlane noted that Sun has added five new system partners in the past year, for which Sun is averaging 100 new Intel applications per month.

Sun also reported that support from ISVs is growing. In recent months, companies such as Daleen, E3, InConcert, Infoseek, Integral Solutions, NetPartners, Pioneer Technologies and RMS have decided to port their applications to Solaris.

--Stephanie Steenbergen, SunWorld

Sun acquires Redcape, Dakota Scientific

San Francisco (June 25, 1998) -- Sun this week purchased two companies: Redcape Policy Software and Dakota Scientific Software.

The acquisition of Boulder, CO's Redcape is meant to bolster Sun's StoreEdge product line. Sun plans incorporate Redcape's Java-based automated policy software, which automates storage operations that would otherwise be done manually.

In a statement, Sun's director of Software Marketing, Scott Hansbury, says the combination of Redcape Policy Framework and Sun StorEdge software will make storage management easier by making user- and application-based decisions possible. Sun hopes this will result in reduced overhead, increased efficiency and few errors for its customers.

Sun's acquisition of Dakota Scientific Software (DSS) follows a three-year-long partnership between the two companies. DSS is a supplier of high performance software components for scientific and engineering applications. For Sun, DSS provides the Sun Performance Library which is a part of Sun's Performance WorkShop Fortran product line. Sun hopes the acquisition will improve the Solaris operating environment for high-performance computing applications.

Financial details of both the Redcape and DSS acquisitions have not been disclosed.

On a related note, Sun announced this week that Sun's HPC 10000 Starfire server is the leading installed system in Netlib's top 500 list of the world's most powerful supercomputers.

--Stephanie Steenbergen, SunWorld


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