Sun Microsystems has provided further details of Project Orion, its plan to synchronise all its server software releases into single quarterly updates.
The company already ships quarterly releases for its Solaris operating system, but Project Orion will see applications added to those updates.
"Project Orion represents a fundamental shift in our software strategy," said Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice president for Sun Software. "It is a move away from the chaos existing in the middleware marketplace."
Though pricing has yet to be determined, Sun said it would take three forms: traditional licensing, flat-rate yearly pricing and, eventually, metered pricing. The company is to develop its pricing strategy in discussions with customers over the next few months.
Early access shipments of Project Orion are set for this summer, with full shipments expected by the end of the year.
Initially, Project Orion will include the Sun Open Network Environment (ONE) bundle of server applications, including its application server and directory, portal and messaging software, among others.
Eventually other applications, including file management and storage management, will be brought into the project. Customers will still be able to select individual Sun applications, but pre-integrated options will be provided, according to Sun.
Although analysts have welcomed the move they questioned its ability to attract new users to Sun's software.
"For companies already using Sun software this should make it easier to install and implement, but neither of those are usually the key criteria in selecting new software," said Daniel Sholler, vice president at the Meta Group.
Although there will be a Project Orion version for Linux running on x86 architecture, Project Orion is primarily about boosting the appeal of its Sun's Solaris platform and the Sun hardware it runs on.
Sun has also said it will evaluate what to do with products running on rival platforms such as AIX and HP-UX, a move that could worry some enterprise customers, analysts believe.
"This could be seen as a de-emphasis of Sun applications running on other platforms," said Shawn Willett, principal analyst at Current Analysis.
"Customers with Sun's directory server on HP-UX or AIX should be asking some hard questions about the future of those platforms."
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