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Sun Revisits Its Telecom Roots

Sun Microsystems is going back to its roots with fresh eyes as a key supplier in the telecommunications marketplace.

Once the undisputed king of the telcos, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computer maker is now having to revitalize its offerings to make sure its faceplates are visible in data centers.

Case in point: Sun today announced its intention to launch a product family compliant with Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (AdvancedTCA), supporting both the Solaris operating system and carrier-grade Linux. Sun also today unveiled the AC version of its UltraSPARC processor and Solaris OS-based Netra 440 system.

AdvancedTCA is the latest industry standard (PICMG) specification for next-generation carrier-grade blade servers. Sun said its Netra AdvancedTCA systems will include UltraSPARC and AMD Opteron-based processors. With the infrastructure in place, network equipment providers and carriers will be able to streamline their 3G network applications, including Gateway GPRS Support Node (GGSN), GSM Serving GPRS Support Node (SGSN) and Radio Network Controller (RNC).

Starting at USD$13,995, Sun's Netra 440 AC follows in the footsteps of its battery -powered version released in June 2004. The company said the 4-processor 5U chassis is designed to fit into heavy-duty use models such as telecom, military and other OEM customers.

Sun also announced a long-term partnership with semiconductor design house ARM to include better Java compatibility for mobile devices that use ARM's Jazelle hardware. The partnership links ARM hardware technology into Sun's Connected Limited Device Configuration HotSpot Implementation (CLDC HI), which is a Java Virtual Machine for mobile devices with low power or memory. Sun said it plans to ship CLDC HI products integrated with Jazelle technology-enabling software by the end of this year.

The companies said the partnership is perfect for the mobile Java data services market, which the companies estimate should reach 1.5 billion consumers by 2007. And, according to Sun's numbers, there are currently over 350 million Java technology-enabled mobile devices deployed by 31 handset manufacturers through 93 operators worldwide.

"We are seeing extremely high, worldwide deployment of Jazelle technology-enabled cores, leading to a significant increase in Java performance on a wide range of embedded devices," Mike Inglis, executive vice president of marketing at ARM, said in a statement. "By integrating optimized hardware and software for mobile Java devices, we are improving users' experiences while increasing return on investment for handset manufacturers and network operators."

Sun is already seeing the fruits of its efforts. The company is working with Korea Telecom Freetel to support Korean mobile operators to complete its transition to Wireless Internet Platform for Interoperability (WIPI) and to sell its Java technology throughout the region.

Since its introduction in 2001, WIPI has become the standard mobile Internet platform in Korea. In April 2003, the Korean Wireless Internet Standardization Forum chose Java technology to serve as a core component of WIPI.

Sun has been working closely with the Korean consortium to jointly develop and commercialize the next version of the wireless standard, and the strategy has worked. Already, the Korean Ministry of Information and Communications has advocated successfully for a common, J2ME-based client software environment across Korea's three main operators. By April 2005, WIPI will be Korea's official wireless Internet standard.

The win is reminiscent of a recent multi-million dollar commitment with Telecom New Zealand. The contract includes Sun's products from Throughput Computing and Solaris 10 through to the Java Enterprise System.

"Typically, when customers are making choices based on a single vendor, it means they are really seeing value in the brand," Sundeep Agrawal, product marketing manager for the Netra product line, told internetnews.com.

And while no data center is completely homogeneous, Sun said its products are usually purchased in bundles. The strategy, along with telco provider demand for its Netra servers, may account Sun's posting the highest growth rate overall among top-tier vendors in worldwide server shipments in a recent report by IT analyst firm Gartner.



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