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December  1997
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New low-end Ultra workstations to be launched next month

San Francisco (December 19, 1997) -- Sun plans to bring the UltraSparc processor to the low-end of its workstation line with two new machines, the Ultra 5 and Ultra 10, which will formally unveiled on January 13, 1998, according to a report in C/Net.

Sun had been promising to announce a sub-$5,000 workstation by the end of 1997. This will, in fact, be the Ultra 5. The Ultra 10 is expected to cost under $10,000, according to the report.

Like their higher end sibling, the U ltra 30, Sun's new boxes will be based on the 270-MHz (megahertz) UltraSparc-II(i) processor, according to the report. This would mark a continuation of Sun's strategy to reduce the cost of its workstations by using volume components, like the PCI (peripheral connect interface) bus.

The "i" in UltraSparc-II(i) stands for "integrated," which means that the processor contains things like the memory, graphics, and PCI Bus controller, making for a less complicated motherboard and making it easier for Sun to include industry standard components, like PCI.

DataQuest analyst Peter ffoulkes notes that low-end workstations would be likely replacements for Sun's aging SPARCstation 5 model, which has been "clinging on to life by a thread," he says.

He adds that a sub-$5,000, 270-Mhz UltraSparc workstation would make Sun "unique in the Unix world in having a very strong entry-level Unix product," but questions Sun's positioning of the product as an NT-on-Intel killer. "They have done a very good job in erecting a seawall to slow down the migration to NT," he notes, adding that if customers have already chosen to work on an NT environment "there is very little here that will make them go to Unix instead."

Sun Microsystems was unavailable for comment.

--Robert McMillan, SunWorld

Baratz touts Java computing as solution to enterprise "anarchy"

New York (December 11, 1997) -- JavaSoft president Alan Baratz used his keynote speech this morning at Internet World here to tout new Java products announced yesterday by Sun Microsystems Inc.

Information technology needs to adopt Tennyson's famously paraphrased line, "out with the old, in with the new" and embrace a programming platform that lets software work on any operating system with any Web browser. Of course, in Baratz's world view that platform would be Java.

He demonstrated a number of new products, including the Java Activator, which allows Java applications to work on either Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer or Netscape Communication Corp.'s Navigator. He also showed the audience Java JumpStart for the Enterprise, which bundles various Java products for Web and server applications.

Developers, Baratz said, are demanding open standards and while it might not seem like it, "the industry wants to work together" to deliver on those demands.

"The industry now understands that the new rules of the game are defined by one word: open," he said.

Another industry driver is that users want to be able to have new software installed on their computers far more quickly than information system managers are able to manage. Currently, IS staff have to touch every desktop or laptop in an organization in order to add applications and that frustrates employees, creating what he calls "defiant clients" as workers defy IS managers and simply add applications to their own computers.

"This is a system of anarchy in the enterprise," created because each employee has a hard drive, Baratz said. But the new line of Java enterprise applications released here yesterday allows managers to install software only on a server, which then can be easily accessed by employees using existing databases, he said.

He demonstrated the line of products using six different 100 percent Java software packages from six different companies. In the demonstration model, Baratz showed how an employee's personal information can be easily updated in the company database to reflect a promotion and then how that worker's expense report and office equipment purchasing can be easily handled online using the Java platform on any browser.

Baratz noted at the end of his talk that he had refrained from blasting Microsoft Corp., with whom Sun is involved in an ongoing legal dispute over Java licensing. He did, however, open his speech by taking swipes at Microsoft, Apple Computer Corp., American Online Inc. and Oracle Corp.'s CEO Larry Ellison, using the "Weekly World News" tabloid as his vehicle for information technology humor.

Opening a copy of the tabloid, Baratz said he was surprised to see IT predictions for the coming new year.

"Larry Ellison abducted by aliens," he said. "Why would they want him?"

In a later prediction, Ellison was returned by the aliens because his ego proved too large for the alien universe.

But it was this jab that drew the most laughter from the audience: "Microsoft announces complete year 2000 solution. Delivery expected in 2004."

--Nancy Weil, IDG News Service


Sun targets ISPs with Netra Proxy Cache Server

San Francisco December 10, 1997 -- Sun has announced two new products from its Netra line of servers. The Netra Proxy Cache Server and Netra Proxy Cache Array, are designed to ride piggyback on the Internet backbone to reduce network latency.

The server is designed for network-based businesses, including ISPs. Here, Sun will be competing against vendors like Cisco Systems, Inc. and Network Appliance, Inc. "Cisco is really an interesting one," says Daniello Russo, director of network products marketing for Sun, "because they actually ship the server proxy cache but the server is packaged with a router...but the question really is: how well can Cisco build a server?"

Accordant with the Netra modus operandi, the Proxy Cache Server and the Netra Proxy Cache Array 30 claim easy installation and integration into an existing network infrastructures.

Russo says, "Proxy Cache, in a nutshell, allows storage of frequently-accessed sources of data. So if customers access continuously a similar source of data, they don't have to go through the network to the main server to get this data. They access it from cache sources contained on the Proxy Cache server."

Greg Garry, a senior analyst with Dataquest, says, "I think these servers from Sun are very timely and will serve only to deepen the companies penetration into the ISP space as well as the selected targets of global enterprise information access providers. Members of those particular user-site segments are hungry for as much help as they can get in improving their server performance because of the heavy traffic demands of the Web. And it looks like the price points are pretty aggressive."

The products, available in January 1998, ship with the UltraSPARC 250 MHz microprocessor, 128 MB memory, an 8.4 GB hard drive, and they run Solaris 2.5.1. U.S. list price for the Netra Proxy Cache server starts at $13,995 and the Netra Proxy Cache Array 30 starts at $18,995.

--Stephanie Steenbergen, SunWorld


Sun joins with Nasdaq, Chilean exchange on trading systems

San Francisco (December 4, 1997) -- Sun Microsystems Inc. has joined with a subsidiary of the Nasdaq Stock Market and Bolsa Electronica de Chile, Chile's only online stock market, a venture to develop and market software and hardware for conducting commerce online, Sun officials said today.

The Open Global Electronic Transaction System, or OpenGets, the alliance will make and sell products that support automated securities markets like Bolsa's, as well as online auctions and biddings, trading floors, and other commerce activities.

OpenGet's flagship product is Sitrel, a family of software and hardware components that can be adapted for use in various forms of electronic commerce, officials said.

Besides supporting the trading activities of Bolsa, OpenGets has licensed its systems to companies in other Latin American countries, including Colombia, Costa Rica, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

The alliance plans to use Sun's presence in more than 150 countries to take its products worldwide.

Ownership of OpenGets is shared equally between Nasdaq International Market Initiatives, Sun and Bolsa, officials said.

Details of pricing and availability for Sitrel were not immediately available.

--James Niccolai, IDG News Service


Java QuickStart ready to serve developers

San Francisco (December 3, 1997) -- Sun today announced a new service for companies wishing to speed up their development of Java applications.

Java QuickStart is a two-week workshop where Sun Professional Services Java architects mentor developers so they can gain Java technology experience while developing a Java application prototype.

In April 1997, Forrester Research polled Fortune 1000 companies and learned that 84 percent are either working with Java technology or plan to within the year. However, Mark Bauhaus, director of the Internet and Java Consulting Practice for Sun Professional Services, does not cite this poll as the major impetus for Java QuickStart.

"We've done a lot of Java projects of various kinds," says Bauhaus, "and we've just seen a demand for this unique combination of getting a quick prototype to show the beginnings of the possibilities of a project and, at the same time, show that there really is a wealth of knowledge and some best-practices to help people be successful. This seems like the best venue to do that -- this sort of two-week practicum."

What kinds of companies benefit the most? "There are three categories," says Bauhaus, "People who are new to Java and Web applications, people that want to learn internally about Java -- they don't want to outsource the applications, and they want to be trained on how to do it -- something you could call transitional insourcing, and the third category would be people who really want to get a jump on the competition."

Bauhaus stresses that this should not to replace training courses on the language, rather it's to share real-world experience on applications and design best-practices.

What if a customer wishes to have a longer workshop? "Indeed, people often want longer-term prototypes. What we've seen in the marketplace is a need for people to one -- test the waters with a prototype and two -- have this mentorship built into it. Hence the initial packaging of two weeks, but it is certainly is expandable and customizable," he says.

How much does the Java QuickStart workshop cost? "The fee varies by country," says Bauhaus, "The U.S. list price for this is $40,000. This includes two weeks and four to five developers coming in to one of the Sun Professional Service Java Centers and working with us through the process."

"If you look at this as a combination of creating a prototype, plus training, plus mentoring and having the facilities to do all that in, it's an excellent way of getting started," says Bauhaus. The price for Java QuickStart varies internationally.

--Stephanie Steenbergen, SunWorld


Encore shareholders angered by recent Sun purchase

San Francisco (November 26, 1997) -- This week Sun Microsystems Inc. announced that it had completed the purchase of Encore Computer Corp.'s storage products business at a price of $185 million, but Encore shareholders unhappy with the deal have now filed for a judicial review of the Sun transaction.

The Encore shareholders hope the courts will order a second vote. They are critical of Encore's vote on the transaction, held November 24.

Matt Miller, a lawyer for the shareholders says, "We think there were several irregularities here. A lot of shareholders didn't get their proxy materials in time, or didn't get them at all."

Miller continued, "We also believe the company has disseminated a lot of misleading information concerning the transaction and otherwise. Given the totality of the circumstances there are some very big big problems with the proxy vote."

Sun shrugged of shareholders claims that the Nov. 24 vote could be ruled null and void. According to Mark Davis, a Sun Microsystems spokesperson, "Any concerns [the shareholders] have are between the shareholder and Encore. The transaction is complete. The part of Encore we bought is now Sun property."

According to the terms of the transaction, Encore's storage business will become part of Sun's Enterprise Server and Storage Group -- a group led by vice president and general manager John Shoemaker. Sales and service personnel from Encore will be integrated into Sun's operations, according to Sun.

Bob Collings, a common shareholder of Encore, says that the agreement was first to be an OEM with Sun. "That OEM agreement degenerated, from our perspective, into a sale of assets," says Collings.

"Our feeling is that this wasn't a good deal that Gould negotiated with Sun because they basically lost the OEM agreement. And then they came home with only half a pie and then decided not to share it with anybody else," he says.

Shareholders unhappy with the deal struck by Encore Computer Corp.'s board of directors to sell the company's storage business to Sun have filed a lawsuit against Encore's parent company, Gould Electronics, Inc.

"We're not real pleased with the proposed transaction," says Collings. "We feel that the way it's been dealt with has involved some massive conflict of interest," he says. "People on the Encore board voted for salary, severance pay, and incentive bonuses -- voting for themselves -- which you never have happen in a public company. There are just a lot of things that just don't smell right with the whole transaction."

Encore's mainframe and open systems connectivity, data sharing, and business continuance products -- including the Infinity SP40 storage server and the DataShare mainframe/open systems sharing product -- will be added to Sun's existing line of scalable enterprise storage and server systems, say officials. Sun is hoping the acquisition will boost its presence in the open storage market.

--Stephanie Steenbergen, SunWorld, with additional reporting from Elinor Mills, IDG News Service


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