Sun Microsystems Inc has announced a Java-enabled version of its Solstice Enterprise Manager 3.0 network management suite. The company says it has also extended what Solstice can do through partnerships with Edge Technologies Inc and with ADC Metrica, a division of ADC Telecommunications Inc.Group marketing manage Andrew Taylor explains that as telecommunications companies are deregulated and made to compete in global markets, they find themselves forced to streamline operations so as to provide the same or better services at lower cost. This is where Sun believes it can find a niche for Solstice, less as an alternative to rival off-the-shelf network management systems from IBM, HP and Compaq than as a replacement for the mainframe software which telcos used to write in-house.Unlike those monolithic, centralized systems – into which category Sun places its own Domain Manager and Site Manager software as well as the proprietary systems it wants to replace – Enterprise Manager has a distributed architecture, which Taylor says makes it more scalable and more robust. The idea is that with Enterprise Manager 3.0 in place, developers can develop new services for customers – voicemail, for example, or call waiting – as Corba objects written in Java. The telco can deliver those services and start charging for them immediately. A notable strength of this approach, Taylor claims, is that Enterprise Manager does not enforce any policies or any particular style of implementation on its telco clients. That makes it much more flexible than typical off-the-shelf software, but at the same time, it means Enterprise Manager could be seen to be harder to install and use. That’s where Sun’s business model steps in. The company plans to deliver the product exclusively to OEMs, developers and systems integrators, who will add other features or software they write themselves and hand these custom packages on to the telco end users. As Taylor puts it: The channel sells for us. So we have a competitive advantage in that we do not sell direct to the end user. Therefore there is no conflict with the channel. The partnerships with Edge Technologies to deliver real-time, web-based remote management consoles, and with ADC Metrica on performance management systems, exemplify this part of Sun’s strategy. Shipping dates and pricing information for Enterprise Manager will be announced in the next 60 days.