Sun is following Netscape's lead in targeting internet service providers (ISPs) after it released an update of its Solaris operating system.
Roger Nolan, group marketing manager for Solaris software, said: 'We are going to provide the basic platform for ISPs.' He claimed this meant ISPs will be able to concentrate on adding services to differentiate from competitors.
Executives at Sun outlined a future in which ISPs will offer outsourcing of services that have traditionally been supplied by internal IT departments.
A consulting group has been set up at Sun to help ISPs with this evolution.
Sun introduced a number of products for ISPs. A version of Unix-based Solaris will ship in July - the third custom implementation of the operating system following Solaris for Intranets and Solaris for Enterprises, both announced in the second half of 1997.
Solaris for ISPs will be available on Sparc and Intel platforms. It will offer the basic operating system with additional network security features, internet services and tools to help ISPs set up servers. Solaris for ISPs will allow host cloning, so a server's setup can be replicated. It will by default load only components that are needed to run the internet services, the overall improving security.
Another feature for ISPs will be a performance monitor that creates a virtual subscriber, connecting to the system from outside to create reliable performance statistics.
Most of the features of Solaris for ISPs can also be obtained by manually configuring the standard version of Solaris. But Sun pointed out that the main advantage is ease of installation. Pricing will start at $5,995.
Sun also released two additional services on top of Solaris: a calendaring server and an updated mail server.
Sun Internet Calendar Server will join the company's existing range of News, Web, FTP and Mail servers. It will allow users to access personal and group agendas using a Web browser. It supports the iCalendar standard from the Internet Engineering Task Force.
Sun Internet Mail Server 3.5 features enhanced scalability and fault reliability. Up to 120,000 mail users can be supported on one Sun Ultra Enterprise 6000 server, the company claims. A high availability option allows automatic failover to a standby server.
Internet Mail Server 3.5 adds connectivity to IBM Profs, cc:Mail and MS Mail. Both Internet Calendar Server and Mail Server 3.5 will include Sun WebAccess and an HTML interface that allows users to access their information from any Web browser.
Internet Mail Server 3.5 was scheduled to ship in September for $1,496 in a Departmental and $3,495 in an Enterprise version. Internet Calendar Server 1.0 will ship in the autumn.
Sun said products such as the Mail and Calendar servers will become increasingly integrated to ease management and will eventually be offered in the form of a suite.
Sun's strategy towards the ISP market was very similar to the plans that Netscape outlined a week ago. Netscape said it would direct its attention to ISPs and enterprise service providers (ESPs).
John McFarlane, president of Solaris Software, acknowledged the similarities with Netscape's approach and said both companies would compete for the ISP market.
'The difference is Sun doesn't have an operating system, while we don't have a portal,' McFarlane said. He added integration with the operating system would offer Sun an important advantage.
McFarlane said he believed Netscape's internet portal site, Netcenter, might be more of a disadvantage than an advantage in this market. 'There's the risk of competing with their customers,' he pointed out.
Thirty thousand Japanese consumers will be using a set-top box running Sun's Personal Java and JavaOS by August. The pilot project is expected to reach 200,000 consumers by the end of 1999.
The set-top boxes will deliver information services that can be dynamically downloaded, including distance learning and news broadcasts. The devices will be based on Hitachi SH3 processors.
Jim Hebert, general manager of embedded systems software at Sun, said the deal was smaller than an earlier agreement with US cable company TCI.
But the Japanese project, unlike the US one, has already started shipping systems.
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