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Sun to bundle apps and Solaris

While some observers called last week's Project Orion unveiling much ado about nothing, Sun Microsystems (http://www.sun.com) executives insisted that the plan could significantly streamline how customers buy and upgrade its enterprise software. The plan calls for synchronizing the company's software releases into a combined quarterly update.

Unveiled last week at the Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computer maker's Worldwide Analyst Conference, Sun executives told the group that Project Orion will provide ''a predictable, scheduled, quarterly release of an integrated software system distributed on Solaris, Solaris for x86 and Linux.''

Sun already ships its Solaris operating system with the latest upgrades, patches and bug fixes on a quarterly basis, officials noted. Orion will bundle applications into those releases to ''align the integration, testing and release of all of the company's software products and pricing models,'' according to Sun.

Scheduled for a June rollout, the new software strategy is based on so-called ''software-train'' releases that define a set of criteria that all components must satisfy before the integrated system will ship. ''Project Orion is a total redefinition of our software,'' said Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's executive VP of software. ''[Our customers] have had to hand-assemble the parts that we can deliver on the system itself. We will be delivering all of the products on a quarterly 'release train' that will become a single product called Solaris.''

Initially, Orion will consolidate Solaris releases with upgrades of its SunONE (Open Network Environment) bundle of server applications, including the app server and directory, and portal and messaging software, among other applications. The company said other applications, including its Web, application directory, identity, integration and storage products will be brought into the project at a later date.

Customers will be able to purchase individual applications or the entire software system, Schwartz said. The new pricing scheme will come in three forms: traditional licensing, flat-rate yearly pricing and, down the road, metered pricing.

Not surprisingly, Project Orion will focus initially on integrating releases of Sun applications with upgrades of the Solaris OS, but Schwartz pledged that the same kind of integrated release schedule will come soon for applications running on Linux on the x86 architecture. The company also said that it is considering how it might provide similarly scheduled releases and pricing for products running on rival platforms, such as AIX and HP-UX.

Sun officials also revealed plans to launch its open-source Mad Hatter project sometime this summer. The Microsoft-compatible, Linux-based desktop stack currently comprises a JavaCard security tier, the company's platform for connecting to MS Exchange, StarOffice, a Mozilla browser, Java 2, Gnome 2 and Linux.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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