Sun restructures services and expands offerings

Sun Microsystems is to improve its IT services unit with internal restructuring moves and the planned addition of higher-level...

Sun Microsystems is to improve its IT services unit with internal restructuring moves and the planned addition of higher-level consulting and managed services offerings.

The aim is to offer better co-ordination within the Sun Services organisation and develop of a knowledge management system that will store product and user installation data. That information will be used to deliver new kinds of IT services to corporate users.

Next year Sun will introduce an automated service for checking installed systems to root out configuration errors and potential security vulnerabilities.

The unit is also looking to offer utility-computing services within the next few months. Sun is still working to develop usage metering and more flexible billing capabilities, which would become available early next year.

Sun Services hoped to use the so-called intellectual property being captured in the new knowledge management system to differentiate its services offerings from those of server rivals IBM and Hewlett-Packard.

"In the past, our services were really thought of as service - meaning support," said Sun Services executive vice-president Patricia Sueltz. "What we're trying to do now is have Sun Services more involved in consulting right at the beginning [of projects]."

Sueltz stressed that Sun did not want to usurp the roles played by systems integrators and IT outsourcing vendors, but instead offer users a single point of contact on projects involving its servers. It will continue to rely on business partners to do most of the hands-on implementation work.

Internally, Sueltz has combined marketing and strategic planning operations for Sun Services' three main businesses - customer support, training and professional services - under a single executive.

Another executive has been given the job of ensuring that common services methodologies are being used throughout Sun Services.

Summit Strategies analyst Tom Kucharvy said Sun's latest strategy was born of necessity. Sun had previously shied away from building up its IT services portfolio to focus on selling technology. "But they have no choice," Kucharvy said. "They have to make this transition because that's the way the market is going."

But, he added, the planned switches to higher-level consulting and more automated customer-support work "are both massive transitions". Sun faced multiple challenges, such as the need to beef up its internal expertise and build credibility with users, Kucharvy said.

The intellectual property aspect of Sun's strategy was not fully clear at this point to Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata. "IBM talks to customers too. I didn't see the meat here that made a convincing case for Sun being that much smarter than IBM."

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