Sun Microsystems Monday cemented a relationship with EDS that will see the two companies work more closely together on joint customers.

Through a Continuum of Services program, EDS and Sun said they would provide customers with an expanded suite of solutions with an integration experience that would involve a single point of contact. While the details of the partnership were not entirely clear, the partners said they would use their best practices to develop joint solutions using hardware and software from Sun with the consulting and integration expertise of EDS.

The companies said the partnership could be worth an estimated US$3 billion in the next five years. EDS has at least two Canadian customers that may work with the companies under the new arrangement, but vice-president of global alliances and direct marketing strategies John Wilkerson refused to say who they are. “We’ve got at least two active pursuits right now,” he said. “We have a number of existing customers where we might be able to go back,” he said. “There’s also some new emerging opportunities.”

Sun executive vice-president of global sales operations Masood Jabbar said the program would include promotion, marketing, revenue targets, planned cross-training and account planning.

“What we’re trying to get done here is present one face, not necessarily only at the engagement level but also at the customer communications level,” he said. “From a customer standpoint, they will see there they’re dealing two separate entities. And that’s a big, big problem. I don’t think anyone has been able to execute that today.”

For EDS, which two months ago split off its Innovations arm to concentrate more closely on its integration business, the partnership resembles a very close reseller agreement. But it also raises questions about the company’s platform independence.

“We’ll continue to be a true trusted advisor with checks and balances in the way that we administrate our opinion and the execution of our relationship with our clients,” Wilkerson said. “But we’re looking very specifically at the combined opportunity with the relationship we’ve just announced.”

Sun already has a network of systems integrators as well as a channel it has built up through its iForce initiative. Jabbar said the Continuum of Services program would not jeopardize through relationships.

“This is not an exclusive arrangement,” he said. “There will be other opportunities that we work with. At no point in time with the choice for the customer be taken away, because we are specialize in working together, there will be a natural tendency to develop on the strength of this relationship.”

“For many of the customers we have, they’ll continue to be shopping for solutions other than Sun’s,” Wilkerson added. “But where it makes sense for us we will introduce Sun as an alliance partner and take a look at technology refreshes.”

Jabbar would not get specific about the amount of money dedicated to building out the sales capability of the program. But he said there are “several million dollars” committed to getting Sun’s iForce Ready Centres prepared to show off the joint Sun/EDS solutions to customers around the world.

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