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Sun Broadens Windows NT Offerings

Sun Microsystems Inc. (www.sun.com) muscled its way further into rival Microsoft Corp.’s territory today.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor of the Solaris-flavor of the Unix operating system unveiled several products and services widening its interoperability with the Windows environment.

Among the announcements were an April shipment date for Sun’s Project Cascade software that allows Solaris servers to provide native Windows NT network services and a May shipment date for the SunPCi co-processor card that allows Sun Ultra workstation users to run both Solaris and Windows NT applications from a single desktop. Sun also extended its storage capabilities for Windows NT down to several of its lower level StorEdge products and announced new services for integrating Solaris and NT environments.

John Shoemaker, Sun’s vice president for Enterprise Desktop Server Systems, claimed the products and services Sun was discussing opened a $30 billion market to Sun, with about $20 billion of that coming from storage. Many market analysts predict storage on Windows NT will grow exponentially over the next few years.

Sun’s stock shot up 15 points on the news to $145 in afternoon Nasdaq trading. By late afternoon, shares had settled down to $140.625. Microsoft was down nearly a point to around $94. Sun first announced its interoperability initiatives last Fall. Since that time, Sun shares have climbed steadily out of the $25-$55 plateau they had occupied for the previous 2 years.

The official name for Project Cascade will be Solaris PC NetLink. Sun licensed Windows NT 4.0 code from AT&T Corp. to allow Solaris servers to natively provide Windows NT network services including file and print, directory and authentication.

"Users get familiar network services on a far more reliable platform," Shoemaker said. In addition to touting the reliability, availability and scalability advantages that Solaris is widely acknowledged to enjoy over Windows NT Server, Sun has also engaged in an aggressive pricing strategy. The company will not require companies to buy client licenses for the servers. Microsoft charges $40 a seat.

Many analysts questioned Sun about where its customers would be left when Microsoft releases Windows 2000. Much of the PC NetLink functionality comes from having the source code to NT 4.0. Microsoft is unlikely to help Sun by directly licensing Windows 2000 code.

Mark Canepa, Sun’s vice president and general manager, Workgroup Servers, said Sun had a "multi-faceted approach" to Windows 2000. "Customers are just in the process of deploying the Windows 4.0 infrastructure services," Canepa said. "Even when NT 5.0 or Windows 2000 starts to ship, the primary environment that product will find itself in is an application server."

In addition to the lead time that Sun believes it will have to catch Microsoft, Windows 2000 will be compatible with the Windows NT 4.0 infrastructure, and Microsoft has been moving toward industry standards with Windows 2000 such as LDAP and Kerberos, Canepa said. "Those capabilities are already available on Solaris," he said. "The process of interoperating with Windows 2000 is far more straightforward."

Canepa also expressed confidence that Solaris would find other ways to obtain the code. "In the NT 4.0 timeframe, we seem to be able to have done it without cooperation from Microsoft."

The SunPCi card is the second in Sun’s series of three interoperability cards. Sun is already shipping a version that puts Windows 95 in a Sun Ultra workstation. A version for Windows 98 is planned for an unspecified future date. The card effectively creates a virtual machine running the Windows operating system in a window on the Unix desktop that can be maximized to fill the entire screen. The card includes a dedicated 300 MHz AMD processor and 64 MB to 256 MB of memory. Some rudimentary cutting and pasting is possible between applications in the two operating environments. "The vast majority of users are using (the Windows 95 version) to get their personal productivity tools on there," Canepa said. The card costs $495 and users must purchase the Windows NT operating system separately.

Perhaps the largest revenue opportunity for Sun comes from getting several StorEdge products on Microsoft’s hardware compatibility list. Products passing Microsoft test suites include the Sun’s StorEdge A1000, A3500 and A5000 disk arrays. The high-end Sun StorEdge A7000 disk array was already approved.

New service offerings include server consolidation services to help customers move Windows NT servers into Solaris machines, support packages and training solutions. -- Scott Bekker, Staff Reporter.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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