Sun Microsystems Inc. is aiming to ease product integration and release cycle by moving its middleware applications into the Solaris operating system.

The company said Wednesday that its Web services infrastructure, directory, identity

manager, messaging software and other products will be rolled into its flagship operating system and released on a quarterly basis. The integration project is called Orion.

“”The shift that begins to occur once we make the transition for the customer is that they now have one product rather than literally between 30 and 50 products to integrate,”” said Jonathan Schwartz, Sun’s executive vice-president of software, who spoke during a conference call.

“”We’ve made a fundamental decision to move away from the historical model of delivering a lot of products throughout the quarter to one that is better suited toward their capacity to integrate our solutions into their systems.””

The process will begin this year, starting with the integration of the company’s Web services platform, said vice-president of software marketing Anil Gadray. “”That has become the new religion. That is definitely the new priority.””

All products will still be available on a separate licence, but Schwartz said the CIOs he has spoken to recently “”have been really leaning on us, along with the rest of the industry, to make life simpler for them.””

Acknowledging the predominance of the heterogeneous approach to network and systems management in enterprises, Schwartz added that Sun customers will be able to plug in software elements from other vendors. He admitted that Microsoft, with its Active Directory, Exchange Server and .Net Web services infrastructure may be Sun’s chief head-to-head competition.

Sun hopes the philosophy of integration may help it move into the small and medium enterprise — markets the company has made repeated attempts to crack. “”As soon as we remove that cost and complexity, we can move down market very rapidly,”” said Schwartz. “”We are intending with our own systems business to move more aggressively into the SMB market and in addition we expect to partner with OEMs to drive into that space as well.””

Sun reseller Brian Fleming said that there may be more mid-market opportunities for the company, but noted that integrated software doesn’t necessarily relieve all the headaches of hardware deployment. The Orion approach may, however, actually help them win business from Microsoft.

“”I think what you’re looking at is getting things like calendaring — things like Microsoft Outlook (would have). If Sun’s idea is to have less and less Microsoft products having any sort of impact on their product family, it bodes well for Sun,”” said Fleming, who works at Kingston, Ont.-based CanTech Solutions Ltd.

Solaris will still be sold thro

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