Sun makes cost-cutting moves

According to a Sun executive, Sun's investment in its software projects will not be affected, despite the company's research and...

According to a Sun executive, Sun's investment in its software projects will not be affected, despite the company's research and development (R&D) budget being flat this year.

"There is a shift in Sun to greater R&D spending on software," said Mark Tolliver, Sun's executive vice-president and general manager for Sun ONE products

"The big bubble in terms of hardware spending was getting the UltraSPARC III systems done. The next few generations will be speed enhancements and not huge new architectural shifts."

In a bid to cut costs, Sun is shifting more of the development work for its software projects to low-cost locations such as India.

"We are trying to keep the engineering headcount the same although we are trying to make it more cost effective," said Tolliver, who takes charge as Sun's chief strategy officer and executive vice-president for marketing and business development in July.

Sun's engineering centre in India has 235 engineers developing Sun ONE products and accounts for 25% of the engineers working on Sun ONE worldwide. The Bangalore centre also has 200 more engineers working on issues related to the Java programming environment, Jini networking initiatives and other software projects.

Sun is also finding ways to finance its software projects, by making customers pay for them. Its decision to price the latest version of its office productivity suite, StarOffice 6.0, was determined largely by the need to make Sun's software projects self-financing, according to Tolliver. StarOffice was, initially, offered for free.

However, it is unlikely that Sun will increase the licensing fees for Java anytime soon.

"Our licensing terms for Java, relatively speaking, have been based on the notion of broad use, on proliferating the technology," said Tolliver. "There are investment phases and payoff phases, and you have to recognise which products are in which phase. The investment phase for Java was five to seven years. Java still needs Sun pushing it and continuing innovation."

Sun's alliance with AOL Time Warner for iPlanet E-Commerce Solutions helped Sun save costs, according to Tolliver. iPlanet products and staff were merged with Sun in March after the three-year agreement with AOL ended and is now a key component of the Sun ONE initiative.

Sun is now finding that it is costing less to have the iPlanet project in-house, according to Tolliver. It is also helping Sun speed up the development of new products. "I am seeing significant acceleration now. Our engineering progress now is about 30% to 40% better than it was during the AOL days," added Tolliver.

One of the reasons is that a great deal of time during the alliance was spent in consultations between the two companies, said Tolliver.

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