Sun takes over iPlanet as partnership ends

Sun Microsystems last week formally took sole control of the iPlanet e-commerce and middleware software it had jointly developed...

Sun Microsystems last week formally took sole control of the iPlanet e-commerce and middleware software it had jointly developed with Netscape Communications for the past three years.

Sun and Netscape dissolved their iPlanet E-Commerce Solutions joint venture which will now become a division of Sun, who owns all intellectual property rights to the software.

Sun plans to solidify the standing of iPlanet's technology as a core component of its Sun Open Net Environment software line, according to a Sun chief executive officer, Scott McNealy.

The iPlanet products include e-commerce software and middleware tools such as application, directory, messaging and Web servers. McNealy said iPlanet is "critical to Sun" and described the venture with Netscape as "a remarkable success".

But David Smith, an analyst at Gartner, said the partnership between Sun and the AOL Time Warner subsidiary turned out to not be as good a fit as the companies had hoped.

"The alliance did not live up to its potential," Smith said, adding that Sun and Netscape never fully gelled with one another. Some iPlanet applications, such as the e-mail and directory servers, have been commercially successful, but others haven't done as well in the market, Smith said.

For iPlanet users, the end of the alliance will not produce any immediate negative changes, Smith said. Instead, he predicted, the software is likely to get more focused attention now that it's being developed solely by Sun.

Chicago-based American Hospital Association, which is installing Sun hardware and iPlanet software to set up a unified server farm and single end-user portal for 38 Web sites that are operated by different groups under its organisational umbrella.

The breakup of the alliance with Netscape will not affect those plans, said Herman Baumann, the association's executive director of business development. "If anything, it's been better because we've been able to work [more directly with Sun] on a cohesive basis," Baumann said, referring to changes that were made informally before the breakup became official.

When the hospital association was weighing what software to use as part of the project, the joint venture "didn't play a role in whether we went with iPlanet or not," he added.

IPlanet E-Commerce Solutions began as an alliance between Sun and Netscape to develop a software platform for the creation and delivery of Web services. Sun said the venture was ended under terms set when the deal was first signed. Under the agreement, iPlanet's employees will be fully under the wing of Sun. Financial details were not disclosed.

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