Sun bundles collaboration tools
- By John K. Waters
Sun Microsystems (http://www.sun.com) believes that companies want collaborative communications services -- things like messaging, calendaring and access to groupware applications -- to scale across distributed and increasingly mobile user communities. And that these IT organizations they want such services wrapped together in an integrated package that provides secure, Web-based access.
"Collaboration solutions that meet the needs of a couple thousand users at headquarters are fine and useful," said Patrick Dorsey, group manager of the Sun ONE communications software group. "But our customers are telling us that what they really want to do is to extend that out to retail shops -- whether a grocery store or a hamburger stand -- and allow their store managers and people in the field to get e-mail, calendaring, and to be able to communicate daily using Web-based communications services, as well as extend those out to wireless devices."
Sun today unveiled its solution for these new requirements -- the Sun ONE Collaborative Business Platform. Sun officials said the new offering bundles several existing Sun products -- real-time collaboration, calendaring and scheduling, content and knowledge sharing, and messaging offerings -- and makes them accessible via the Sun portal server, and protects them with its Liberty-based identity management service.
The market for corporate collaboration tools has traditionally been dominated by client-based applications like Microsoft Exchange and IBM’s Lotus Notes, products Dorsey said are not competitive with the new Sun offering.
"We’re taking a different cut at it," Dorsey said. "Exchange and Lotus are very much about the Outlook client and having desktop-based access. We think that’s important. We provide interoperability with those applications, but we are coming from a strength in a service provider market, which differentiates us when you’re trying to deploy to a large number of users in a number of communities. To expose these services to a broader set of users, you have to get away from client-based solutions and start worrying about mobile devices and Web-based access. And when you do that, you need an engine and a platform that is fundamentally based on a service provider model to allow it to scale and to be reliable.
Through an initiative called GovConnect, the State of New Jersey has been using pieces of the Sun ONE collaboration package for about three years to electronically connect the clerks and finance officers of more than 500 municipalities, said Odysseus Marcopolus, director of the state’s Office of Information Technology. Today, New Jersey is using the platform to deliver collaborative services to a broad set of user communities through a secure portal platform.
"We wanted to build a portal that would accommodate any user community," Marcopolus explained. "Today we use that same single infrastructure for probably a hundred different user communities. And we can turn on a new user community in 24 hours."
The Collaborative Business Platform includes a set of quick-start and deployment professional consulting services from Sun and a set of partners that include AC Technology, ANTlabs, Avcom East Inc., Back Bay, DewPoint, eForce, IC Synergy, InSolutions, Intraware, MG Solutions, Navidec, NCS, Sharp Consulting, TLA Consulting, True North Technology and Wingra. According to Sun, these firms are offering consulting services that are focused, fixed-price packages to help customers get their Sun ONE product up and running quickly.
The collaboration package also includes the latest release of Sun’s instant messaging product, also unveiled today. Sun ONE Instant Messaging 6.0 combines presence awareness with chat, conferences, alerts, news, polls and file transfers. New features in this release include the ability to archive and retrieve message transcripts, real-time, pop-up notifications of calendar events and task deadlines in Sun ONE Calendar Server, and the ability to enable content filtering for virus and SPAM detection.
"IM has become a requirement in the proposals that we see from our customers," Dorsey said. "Increasingly, whether it’s communication with customers or employees in distributed locations, this type of real-time communication is an essential technology."
According to Dorsey, Sun is targeting organizations of about 10,000 users with its new soup-to-nuts solution. For companies that size, the pricing is about $25 per user, he said. And customers can still buy the individual components of the package.
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached