Sun network tool `back on the short list'
Invigorated Solstice management tool to lord over Windows NT
Atlanta -- Many network management users and analysts have written off Sun Microsystems in the three years since the former market leader began developing an enterprise-level platform.
But at Networld+Interop held in late September, Sun delivered an Internet-oriented package, Solstice Enterprise Manager 2.0, designed to manage the largest organizations. "It's time to put Solstice back on the short list of management platforms to evaluate," said Bob Sakakeeny, director of field research at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston. "Sun's navel-gazing paid off," allowing the company time to apply its diverse Internet expertise to the management of intranets, he said.
"We've never been gone," retorted Janpieter Scheerder, president of the SunSoft division in Mountain View, CA. Many sites continued to run SunNet Manager, the tool kit included with Sun systems that handles domains and LANs, he said.
But users didn't consider Sun an enterprise player as other vendors took the lead with distributed technology that could scale to meet their needs. Now, those loyal users who stuck with SunNet Manager won't have their backs to the wall, Scheerder said. They can build a management hierarchy or monitor tens of thousands of nodes centrally, whatever the need of their support structure. And managers can check their networks anywhere via a World Wide Web browser and Java applets.
"This architecture let us distribute management applications closer to our systems and our users, and build our own Web interface," said beta tester Mike Skeith, software development vice president at Hughes Network Systems Inc. in Washington.
Remote management ability is vital to the leading provider of satellite communications because "site visits are tough and expensive to base stations located on mountains in Mongolia and Alaska," Skeith said. The platform's distributed architecture, scalability, and simplicity attracted Stacy Pettit, network operations coordinator at Ellijay Telephone Co. in Ellijay, GA.
"We're just getting into this scope of network management but already know we must be able to cover more users and services without too much complexity," Pettit said.
But Sun may have a hard time recapturing the interest of users who have moved on to distributed platforms such as OpenView Network Node Manager from Hewlett-Packard Co. and Spectrum from Cabletron Systems Inc. For example, network managers at Chevron Information Technology Co. in San Ramon, CA, said they gave up on SunNet Manager to expand their reliance on OpenView.
And even Sun users aren't shoo-ins for the new platform. Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting System Inc. relies on servers from Sun for its Web presence, but the vendor's management efforts "seem dead," said Charles Hebert, manager of software services support."Sun has major problems reaching the right buyer for network and systems management software," Sakakeeny said.
Solstice Enterprise Manager shipped a year ago to key developers and users, primarily in telecommunications, in a form that required much integration effort.
SunSoft embraces NT
SunSoft hopes to gain further attention by making a strong commitment to supporting Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT. Company officials announced that more than half of its new products released by the end of the year will work with NT. By mid-1997, 80 percent of its software products will support it, with others to follow, officials said.
For example, Solstice Enterprise Manager 2.0 works with Windows NT as a client and will by mid-1997 be able to operate as a management tool on Windows NT, said Stephen Borcich, director of product development for enterprise-management products at SunSoft. Support for NT is key to offering a complete intranet management solution, officials said.
"Somebody has to manage Microsoft," said Scheerder. "They're not doing it."
For users, Sun's emphasis on cross-platform management will be a welcome message. "Sun is embracing reality by accepting the reality of NT being on the desktop," Sakakeeny said. "Nobody has a [pure] Sun installation, an NT installation. They have a mix of things."
Sun also announced that the draft specification for the Java Management API, its Java implementation for building systems and management applications, is available from JavaSoft http://www.sun.com/solstice or http://java.sun.com.
The following are availability, pricing, and other details on products Sun featured at Networld+Interop:
--Patrick Dryden, Computerworld and Sari Kalin, IDG News Service, Boston Bureau
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