RealTime IT News

Sun Set to Switch and Fight

Apparently, Sun Microsystems has decided it would rather switch and fight, at least potentially, with Cisco and other traditional switch vendors.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computer maker will ship a family of Secure Application switches starting later this year, the company said. Sun said it plans on delivering early versions of the product to select customers later this month. The first device will be based on Nauticus N2000 products, which Sun acquired earlier this year, contradicting the company's original plan for Nauticus' technology.

The original N2000 included layer 4-7 application switching and load balancing functionality, with up to 6 Gbps of switching throughput and support for Secure Sockets Layer. Sun's debut in this market with Nauticus' technology is not expected to be much different than the original, other than that it will be chock full of software that will allow it to easily fit into Sun's utility computing architecture, also known as N1.

At the time of the acquisition, Sun said Nauticus would become a part of its Volume Systems Products organization under the watchful eye of Neil Knox, then executive vice president of Sun's Network Systems Group. While the integration continued behind the scenes, John Fowler has since replaced Knox as head of a revamped NSG.

Sun does not usually comment on unannounced products, but a spokesperson said executives are prepared to talk about the Nauticus-inspired switch in more detail during its NC04 Q3 event in New York later this month.

Michael Dortch, an analyst with research firm Robert Frances Group, told internetnews.com Sun had to do something with the Nauticus acquisition.

"Simply integrating Nauticus technology into Sun servers wouldn't likely deliver the level of intelligence and seamless integration across enterprise IT infrastructures that IT executives need or that Sun's N1 initiative promises," Dortch said. "IT executives seeking to implement effective, enterprise-wide, secure management of enterprise intellectual property across its entire life cycle will likely find Sun and N1 more compelling with the addition of this new switch to Sun's portfolio."

If there is a potential downside, Dortch said, "It is in the persistent disconnects between pronouncements from Sun HQ and the ability of the filed forces to carry out those pronouncements."

Translation: Sun may be burning a bridge or two in this space, as its partners will have to decide which Secure Application switches to use. However, Sun's true target may not be market leader Cisco, but the second place spot. The LAN switch market is a current dead heat between HP, 3Com, Nortel and Extreme Networks, according to market analyst group IDC.

Second place is no slouch, as IDC recently reported a 2 percent dip in the worldwide market for LAN switches for Q2 this year. However the market overall grew 23 percent over last year, the IDC analysts said, prompting them to forecast an additional 3 percent of growth for LAN switching this year and giving hope to network equipment manufacturers.