Sun Hones its Collaboration Offerings

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.

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 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

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.