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Sun Microsystems Refreshes Partner Program

Looking to reinvigorate its partner program, Sun Microsystems said it will replace its iForce program with a new approach and name.

The Sun Partner Advantage Program will replace iForce, making it easier for partners to work with Sun. The company picks partners that spread the influence of Java by writing, marketing and selling software applications based on the popular programming language.

Rather than swing the hammer across the entire base of the program, Sun plans to phase the metamorphoses of the partner program in stages, beginning with the independent software vendors (ISVs), said Marsha Cavanagh, Sun executive director of partner programs and services.

Based on feedback from the partners, the Sun Partner Advantage Program for ISVs uses "tiered participation," rewarding increased partner commitment with greater investment from Sun.

ISVs will be able to use more than 20 new education, technology, marketing and sales technologies based on Java, with offerings valued at over $250,000 for an annual cost of $495. This fee will be waived for the first year one year from program inception.

"It gives us a way to show our ISVs how they can grow with Sun," Cavanagh said. "It's our way of addressing the separate communities of interests in the ISV ecosystem."

Beginning in December, Sun will promote the Sun Partner Advantage Program's Industry Advantage Track, which will provide technology, marketing and sales offerings to certain ISVs in key verticals. This will allow certain ISVs to enter the Sun Industry Advantage Program at a higher level of benefits.

Sun plans to make additional benefits available for channel and system integrator partners in 2006.

Cavanagh said the new-look program will be promoted next Monday at Sun's quarterly news blitz, an event that will take place in New York. During the same event this time last year, Sun vowed to take back Wall Street.

Throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s, Sun had been a top seller of workstations and servers based on its UltraSparc architecture. The Santa Clara, Calif., company began to lose market share when IBM, using advanced virtualization and Linux as a wheel, began making a comeback from some horrid enterprise infrastructure years.

Sun's staunch refusal to steer clear of Linux and successful x86-based servers made from Intel and AMD chips until the last few years didn't help. In IDC's latest server market share report, Sun's revenues declined 5.3 percent from the second quarter of 2004.

At the event in New York next week, Sun officials are expected to unveil the company's Galaxy line of servers based on AMD's Opteron chip architecture.

The machines are expected to be more powerful than Opteron-based servers Sun began hawking last year, but the systems vendor should have a few more tricks up its sleeve to differentiate itself from IBM, HP and others.

For example, at last year's event, Sun began offering a Solaris operating system license at half price if customers move from Linux to Solaris. The company later made Solaris available under open source and began offering a version of it for x86.