Sun/Netscape put Linux on back burner

Making at a long-time promise to make Linux a critical platform for its server wares, the Sun Microsystems Inc.-Netscape Alliance will upgrade the Netscape Application Server (NAS) next month -- without a Linux port.

The pending NAS 4.0 release marks the product's last major upgrade before it is fused with Sun's NetDynamics next year.

Netscape executives have publicly stated since July of last year that open-source Linux would be a critical platform for its server products going forward. But, now, several months after America Online Inc. purchased Netscape and dealt its server software to Sun Microsystems, the Linux app server port has been put on the back burner.

"Linux is fun, it definitely has a cool factor... but it isn't one of the operating environments that our customers are asking for," says Roseanna Marchetti, senior product marketing manager of the Alliance's app server products. Marchetti, who notes that the Netscape directory and messaging servers were ported to Linux in March, says an app-server port could come if enterprise demand rises.

Alliance officials are trumpeting the NAS 4.0 upgrade for its adherence to standards and bolstered scalability. Standards supported by NAS 4.0 include Enterprise JavaBeans, Java Server Page technology (JSP) and the Java Servlet API. The product also supports SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol), which can tie the app server into enterprise systems management software, among other apps. "This is our foray into standards. We didn't want to do it in an iterative way," says Marchetti.

Alliance officials expect a couple of more minor point releases for both NAS and NetDynamics before the products merge under the iPlanet moniker in mid-2000. The bulk of the iPlanet app server is slated to come from NAS 4.0, although several features of NetDynamics will also make the cut.

Alliance officials claim the last quarter, ended in late June, was the best yet for NAS, with a total of 75 deals inked. Of those 75 sales, 45 copies went to new customers and 30 went to existing accounts.

The app server release, priced at $35,000 per CPU, will be available in August on Windows NT and Solaris. Ports to HP/UX and Digital will be released in the following months.

Targeting for release weeks after NAS 4.0, the Alliance is also uncorking Netscape Application Builder 4.0, designed to provide a development environment for building high-end e-commerce apps. The latest version of Netscape Application Builder provides an Enterprise Java Beans wizard, presentation wizards, a database wizard and a template editor.

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