Sun risks upsetting partners with switch launch

Sun will unveil its first content switch later this month.

Sun will unveil its first content switch later this month.

The load-balancing and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) acceleration switch is based on the Nauticus N2000 products that the company acquired when it bought switch supplier Nauticus Networks in January.

Sun plans to ship its new switch by the end of the year, and will deliver early versions of the product to selected customers in time for a press and industry partner event, to be held in New York on 21 September.

"The Nauticus switch allows us to have a classic load balancing switch with much higher performance and security than you would normally see in these products," said John Fowler, executive vice-president of Sun's Network Systems Group.

The Sun-branded switch will be integrated with Sun's N1 management software, "so it all works together as a seamless whole", Fowler said.

"What we can do with this box is run security so fast that you can always be secure," said Fowler. "So you don't have to worry about your banking site, for example, being spoofed because it's always going to be secure."

The switch also has a "virtualisation" capability that allows customers to run a number of disparate networks on a single switch, Fowler said.

"It has the ability to partition and have a whole bunch of different routing domains or policy domains. This is something that other switches cannot do."

Until now the only networking products that Sun has sold have been networking cards for its systems, a virtualisation switch for the company's StorEdge 6920 storage system, and network switching products that go into its blade servers.

Its decision to move into the content switch market came as a surprise to some analysts, who say that the move risks antagonising Cisco, a long-time Sun partner, which paid $5.7bn (£3.1bn) in stock four years ago to acquire content switch supplier ArrowPoint Communications.

"Sun is not, as I understand its business, very much into the network switch business, and it has a lot of friends, partners, and allies that are in that networking business," said Jonathan Eunice, an analyst with Illuminata.

Others say Sun's move should not come as a complete surprise. "I am sure there are some high-level discussions, with people asking, 'Why is Sun competing with us in this market', but this happens all the time," said Joel Conover, principal analyst with Current Analysis.

The real trick for Sun will be to avoid confusion in its sales channel now that it is offering products that compete with its partners, Conover said.

Robert McMillan writes for IDG News Service

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