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SunSoft (finally) releases Project DOE

Long-touted networked objects effort is ready for sale

By Mark Cappel

October  1995
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New York City -- Perhaps the only vaporware touted for a longer period of time before its release than Windows 95 was Sun's Project DOE. This ambitious object-oriented programming toolkit and distributed operating environment that offers built-in network awareness has arrived at last. The company chose a hastily planned morning press event during Unix Expo to offer details on the software Sun's talked about for almost five years.

The software and programs making up Project DOE (Distributed Objects Everywhere) are now under the umbrella term "Neo," a word Sun CEO Scott McNealy joked doesn't stand for anything in particular except it being the last three-letter word not trademarked in the US. (Apparently, the second to the last was "JOE," a term Sun picked up for its Java application development tools.)

Neo consists of two separately priced components:

  1. Solaris Neo 1.0 is the run-time addition to Solaris 2.4 for SPARC that allows the objects to operate. Sun says Solaris Neo does not interfere with existing Solaris applications. It costs $990, and consists of three standard components available now and two promised for later release:

    The components going into beta test now, and scheduled for availability by the middle of next year are:

  2. WorkShop Neo 1.0 is an integrated set of software tools based on SunSoft's suite of development aids. Prices begin at $11,995, though SunSoft is offering a half-price sale for a limited time. The 1.0 release consists of three components:


    Neo operates on Solaris only. SunSoft has added product from two companies to help make Neo work and play well with databases and PCs. For relational database access, SunSoft tapped Persistence Software. According to SunSoft, the Persistence code in Neo maps objects from relational tables for seamless integration into object-oriented applications. For interoperability Microsoft Windows applications using OLE, SunSoft is using Iona Technologies' Orbix.

    Neo Business Alliance
    In support of its Neo software, SunSoft formed the Neo Business Alliance to help train systems integrators and value-added resellers develop and deploy object-oriented applications.

    SunSoft says it will offer certification to VARs that complete its training program. Certified VARs will be able to stand side-by-side with Sun salespeople when pitching potential customers SPARC-based solutions requiring skills in networked objects.

    For ISVs, SunSoft has created a Neo objects category in its Catalyst program. Catalyst promotes Solaris software produced by independent developers. SunSoft says more than 75 firms have expressed interest in listing their wares in Catalyst.

    Object Reality Business Program
    For customers, meanwhile, SunSoft said it had formed a $4 million plan to help in-house developers in the telecommunications and finance industries. The training locations, which SunSoft calls Object Reality Centers, will do more than train, they will help users develop and deploy object-oriented applications.

    SunSoft signed up several tools and objects developers to participate in the training program, including NeXT, ParcPlace-Digitalk, Rogue Wave Software, and Teknekron Software Systems.

    Will it sell?
    "Sun's put a lot of effort into into Neo, and the technology is sound," said David Smith, a Gartner Group market analyst. "Other vendors have not spent the time Sun has on managing objects. No one else can answer the question, 'How do you manage objects once you unleash them on users?' "

    Smith pointed out Neo's back-end objects are limited to operating on Solaris, and Sun has not committed to porting Neo to other operating systems. "Sun is relying on CORBA (compliance) for object interoperability [across platforms], and that's iffy," Smith said.

    Lighthouse Design is the largest developer of NeXTStep applications, with a portfolio of a dozen applications ranging from development tools to spreadsheets. Angela Grady, Lighthouse Design's marketing manager, says her company is sold on OpenStep, and says her company's products work without a hiccup on the Solaris version of OpenStep.

    -- Mark Cappel

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