Sun Looks to BEA and WebLogic

Sun to bundle BEA's WebLogic application server with the Solaris 9 operating system.

Sun Microsystems Inc. Monday announced a deal with BEA Systems Inc. whereby Sun will bundle BEAs WebLogic application server with Suns Solaris 9 operating system.

The offer, which starts next month, means that Sun will ship an integrated version of its own Sun Open Network Environment (Sun ONE) application server with Solaris 9 along with an evaluation version of BEA WebLogic 7.0 with the Solaris 9 system administrators kit, officials at Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun said.

Under the agreement between Sun and BEA, based in San Jose, Calif., Sun will include a six-month trial license for BEA WebLogic 7.0 with each Sun server shipped running Solaris 9.

Sun officials said the move would help to expand customer choice for their enterprise applications and Web services. Analysts and observers say the move is aimed clearly at IBM, which competes with Sun in the server space and against BEA in the application server space--where the two companies are running neck-and-neck at the head of the pack, according to various market research reports.

Both BEAs WebLogic and IBMs WebSphere hold about 35 percent of the application server market.

Some say the move benefits Sun because the company gains the lions share of its revenue from hardware and any move to boost hardware sales is a positive one. However, not everybody agrees Sun has pursued a coherent strategy to this point.

"What [Sun CEO Scott McNealy] either doesnt realize or wont admit is that the SunONE Application Server is of such poor quality that theyre having trouble even giving it away," said Jason Bloomberg, an analyst at ZapThink LLC., Cambridge, Mass.

"Sun is fully committed to the Sun ONE Application Server," said Sun spokeswoman Jennifer Doettling. "It is one of the primary components of our Sun ONE platform. Since we have always promoted Sun ONE as an integratable platform, this deal with BEA is consistent with our strategy to provide customers with choice. They can choose BEA or they can choose the Sun ONE Application Server, which will be fully integrated with Solaris 9, beginning in January with the update 2 release, and will continue to be sold separately as well. We believe this provides a really compelling alternative to IBM."

BEA officials were not immediately available for comment.

Curt Stevenson, vice president of business development at Back Bay Technologies Inc., a Needham, Mass. Integrator and Sun customer, called Suns move "interesting," and said he is curious as to how it all will play out. "Sun is definitely saying it is in no way going to impact the investment in SunONE App Server," Stevenson said. "While Im sure customers are skeptical, this could be valid. Solaris will now come with both BEA and SunONE application servers, giving the customer the choice.

"An application server decision at the enterprise level is still a significant one and corporate customers are probably not going to be swayed by what is shipped with their OS. WebLogic is the right choice for some customers and SunONE is right for others."

John Rymer, an analyst with Giga Information Group, based in Santa Clara, Calif., said for Sun the deal provides "a clear relationship with one of the two leading J2EE [Java 2 Enterprise Edition] server vendors with which to drive server sales. Previous to this, Suns relationship with BEA is ambiguous, which always gives customers pause. The fact is that the two companies have many, many joint customers. WebLogic is by far the leading J2EE server for Solaris."

Rymer said he does not see the deal hampering Suns effort to offer its own J2EE application server. "I see no evidence that Sun is ready to throw in the towel on SunONE Application Server."