Sun Hones its Collaboration Offerings

By Clint Boulton (Send Email)
Posted Apr 7, 2003


Sun Microsystems Monday unfurled another banner in its Sun One strategy for computer services on demand with the introduction of a platform that it claims will make workflow communications in the corporate sector more efficient, and ultimately, its users more productive.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company, which recently reopened its corporate offices in Menlo Park, introduced the Sun ONE Collaborative Business Platform at the AIIM 2003 enterprise content management event in New York. Looking to pry customers from Microsoft and IBM, Sun unveils the latest component of its Sun One strategy, a platform for helping employees work together more efficiently.

The suite of software includes applications for e-mail, calendaring, instant messaging, search, unified messaging, and content management. Sun, looking to lure customers from entrenched platforms such as Microsoft's Exchange and IBM's Lotus, envisions a range of employees, partners, customers, students, faculty and citizens using the platform to perform multiple tasks, according to Patrick Dorsey, group manager for Sun One communication products.

The messaging services scale to over 10 million users and allow customers to integrate virus checking and document conversion and provide varying levels of delivery service based upon the identity of the user and a routing service. It also lets users convert e-mail to fax, e-mail to SMS wireless messages, or Word to HTML.

As for calendaring and scheduling, the platform lets users manage schedules, share resources, and schedule events or appointments, as well as access services that can monitor calendar changes, stock price thresholds or auction notifications, then deliver a notification to the relevant application or device. As for content management, the applications let users access unstructured content, such as text files, via search, browse and taxonomy management capabilities.

Dorsey told internetnews.com the products are piped through a single sign-on, federated portal that makes it easier for the user to access. It also boasts secure remote access and wireless capabilities for traveling workers to tap into from the road via handheld devices.

The software family also includes professional consulting services from Sun and its iForce partners, as well as the new Sun ONE Instant Messaging 6.0 software. Dorsey said the state of New Jersey, with over eight million citizens and thousands of employees and partners, has already endorsed the platform, using its e-mail, calendar, and instant messaging applications.

David Ferris, president and analyst of messaging and collaboration research firm Ferris Research, called the suite "impressive and innovative." Ferris also said the portal boasts strong integration with messaging and collaboration.

"Sun takes the view that collaborative portlets represent an important qualitative advance in the usefulness and effectiveness of a portal," he said. "Both IBM/Lotus and Microsoft share this view and also offer collaborative portlets."

Ferris said Sun is gunning for Exchange users in the corporate realm, but noted that this will be challenging.

"Its value propositions in this regard center around offering a more secure and scalable platform, avoiding the need for a big upgrade to Windows 2000 and Active Directory, and TCO savings," Ferris explained in a research note. "We doubt these messages will persuade many corporations to switch. Nevertheless, Sun has a lot to offer IT organizations that see themselves as service providers to their users. Sun also has a lot to offer organizations in which most employees aren't office workers, such as retail chains, transportation businesses, and educational establishments. Here, the kiosk- and portal-based approaches, with low provisioning costs, should be attractive."

Still, he said the company's messaging and collaboration business is large and profitable.

Available now, pricing for the Sun ONE Collaborative Business Platform varies on customer needs and deployment requirements. Sun ONE Instant Messaging 6.0 begins at $30 per user with a tiered volume discount. The software is cross-platform, running on Solaris, Windows and HP-UX today, with Linux support due by the end of 2003.

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