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Sun To Unwrap Long-Awaited Details Of Orion, Mad Hatter Software Projects

Sun Microsystems at its annual SunNetwork show Tuesday is expected to take the wraps off its long-awaited Project Orion and Project Mad Hatter software products as components of a six-tiered strategy called the Sun Java System Family.

The plan is the beleaguered technology company's attempt to provide a disruptive, per-user subscription model for software pricing as Sun continues its transition from a hardware vendor to a software and solution provider.

At the conference, being held in San Francisco this week, Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun also will reveal pricing for the Orion and Mad Hatter, newly rebranded Sun Java Enterprise System and Sun Java Desktop System, respectively, said Ingrid VandenHoogen, director of software strategic marketing at Sun.

CRN previously reported Sun would offer the Java Enterprise System, a package of Java-based software, for a $100 per employee subscription for a year. VandenHoogen confirmed this price and said pricing for the Sun Java Desktop System, a desktop OS based on open-source software, will be similar at $100 per desktop per year.

However, companies can buy both Java Enterprise system and the desktop system for a flat fee of $150 per employee for the year, she said. And staff and faculty of academic institutions can receive the Java Desktop System for a discounted price of $50 per employee.

The first version of Java Enterprise System will contain Sun's directory, application server, identity server, Web server, metadirectory, portal, clustering, messaging and collaboration software.

The product will ship for the Solaris OS on Sparc-based servers and Solaris on x86-based servers in November, VandenHoogen said. Customers can begin ordering the product Tuesday through Sun or its solution provider partners.

A version of the product for Linux will be available in the first quarter of 2004, she added. Future versions of the product also will include Sun's Project JXTA peer-to-peer software, a grid engine and provisioning server software.

The Java Desktop System will contain the Star Office 7.0 suite of office-productivity applications; the GNOME user interface; Mozilla browser software; Evolution e-mail client; Java 2, Standard Edition; and Java card software.

Pricing for both products also includes training, support and a specified amount of Sun professional services if a customer wishes to use those services, VandenHoogen said.

In addition to the Java Enterprise System and Java Desktop System, Sun plans to unveil four other facets of its Java System family.

The first is Java Studio, a developer toolset for all of the products in the system, VandenHoogen said. Sun also plans to unveil the Sun Java Mobility System, the Sun Java Card System and N1, a dynamic provisioning system for utility computing, at SunNetwork Tuesday.

VandenHoogen and other Sun executives insist Sun has done its homework to ensure pricing for its per-employee software model is competitive for customers that currently buy software from companies such as Microsoft, IBM and BEA Systems on a per-CPU basis or per-desktop licensing basis.

Based on this analysis, Sun is putting a price cap on the Java Enterprise System for enterprise customers with more than 120,000 employees, said John Loiacono, vice president of Sun's operating platforms group. That means enterprises with more than 120,000 employees will not pay the $100 per-employee fee for customers above that number. Otherwise, he said, paying per user would not be logical to provide a sufficient return on investment for the customer.

However, Loiacono added that for companies that provide hosted services, such as Verizon, there is no price cap for the amount of employees that can be charged for the software.

VandenHoogen admitted that Sun can't promise "great price comparison out the door" with its Java Enterprise System. She said Sun's software pricing aims to provide a competitive return on investment over a period of several years and is obviously better for some customers than others.

Ideally, customers who have a moderate amount of employees and a large customer base will reap the most cost benefit from buying the Java Enterprise System, she said.

Customers such as call centers and rental-car agencies whose employees tend to use their computers for single functions in a work environment are the ideal candidates for the desktop system, Loiacono said.

Sun will not reveal all the details of its other software products in the software family this week, VandenHoogen said. Java Studio will be officially launched, but the products are part of Sun's road map and will be formally unveiled at a later date.

Based on Sun ONE Studio, Sun's current toolset for its Java software, the Java Studio product will include a Java IDE, connectors to back-end applications, a Java framework, wireless tools, services and support for developers as well as membership into Sun's developer program.

Java Studio will cost $1,795 per developer seat, but there is a discount for customers that buy the Java Enterprise System and Java Desktop System, VandenHoogen said. Those customers can receive Java Studio for an additional $5 per employee.

Sun also will unveil the Sun Java Mobility System, the Sun Java Card System and N1, a dynamic provisioning system for utility computing, at SunNetwork Tuesday.

Rob Wolfe, president and CEO of Silver Spring, Md.-based solution provider AvcomEast, said there is a "tremendous value proposition" for both customers and partners to consider the Java Enterprise System, particularly to build new applications on top of the infrastructure. "It's a services play--we only make money if we sell services," Wolfe said.

Wolfe also is bullish on Sun's desktop strategy as a strong competitive play to Microsoft's Windows OS dominance in the market, particularly when the Java Desktop System is paired with the next generation of Sun Ray thin clients the vendor is preparing to roll out soon.

Wolfe said that while it might take some convincing at first for customers to go along with implementing an open source desktop OS, by teaming closely with solution providers, it's possible for Sun to sell that message successfully.

"Part of our job as channel partners is to educate our customers," Wolfe said. "This is a whole new world."

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