Snapshot: Sun Messaging

Vendor Name: Sun Microsystems.
Date of Publication: February 7, 2005
Author: David Ferris.
Source of Information: Jennifer Belissent, Group Marketing Manager
Quick Summary of Firm's Offerings. Sun sells a variety of messaging products, mostly to service providers, government departments, large corporations, and educational establishments.

Company Statistics

  • # Full-Time Staff: 32,600. Ferris estimates Sun has the equivalent of about 1,200 full-time staff focused on messaging.
  • # Full-Time Product Development Staff. About 600 full-time staff develop and maintain the messaging software (ie, the email, calendar, directory, and instant messaging code set).
  • Stock Market Status: Publicly held.
  • Revenues: Ferris estimates Sun's entire messaging business to be worth some $300M to $400M annually. These revenues split roughly as follows: 50%-service providers, large enterprises and government-30%, 20%-OEMs.
  • Profitability: Sun has not been profitable for several years. Sun has been profitable for the past two quarters.
  • # Live Paying Customer Seats:
  • Sun claims to have sold some 240 million messaging seat licenses. However, many of these haven't been deployed or are virtually inactive. Ferris estimates this translates to some 125M active messaging users.
  • Plenty of Sun's larger service provider clients have several million deployed seats, up to as many as ten million. Eg, Sprint PCS has 3.7 million, AT&T Wireless has 5.6 million, Telekom Malaysia has 2 million. OEM Mobeon has sold 28 million seats to service providers. These are unified communications mailboxes, which store voicemail, email, fax and videomail. Overall, Ferris estimate around 100M active seats among service providers.
  • Universities--their students and alumni associations--account for around five million seats.
  • Large corporates, such as Renault, Air Canada, and Bristol Myers Squibb, account for one to two million active mailboxes.
  • Government departments, including military groups, account for some 15 to 20 million seats. Many customers here are very large. Eg, a European public health service has 1.2M seats, and a North American military organization has 1.4 million seats.
  • Generally, Sun's largest clients are governments and service providers.

Product Line

Server Software: (More information here)

  • Sun Java System Messaging Server. This provides a POP/IMAP message store, a Message Transfer Agent (MTA, or SMTP relay), and public and shared folders. The message store is multipurpose, eg, it can store sound, video, and text as well as emails. It provides streaming delivery, obviously useful for voice and video. A web-based client, Communications Express, with access to email, calendar, and built in address book functionality is included with purchase of the messaging server.
  • Sun Java System Calendar Server. This provides shared and group calendaring, task management, and to-do lists. Reminders are distributed via instant messages and email. The web-based client, Communications Express, with access to email, calendar and built in address book functionality, is included with purchase of the calendar server.
  • Sun Java System Instant Messaging. This provides presence, chat (1 to 1 or many to many) conferences, moderated conferences, polling, news, and alerts. For connectivity with other IM systems and third party software, there is XMPP support.
  • Sun Java System Directory Server. With purchase of any of the above servers, this LDAP server is automatically included at no charge, for use with the purchased products.
  • Sun Java System Portal Server, Mobile Access. This provides access to Sun's messaging services—mainly email, calendar, and address book—from mobile devices such as wireless PDA and cellphones. It uses WAP to communicate with Windows CE, PalmOS, and Symbian devices. Additional mobile access solutions are available through business partners, of which the most important are Notify, Consilient and Aligo. Notify and Conciliant provide access to RIM devices. Further information will be available on Sun's website soon.

Client Software: (More information here)

  • Communications Express. This web client provides calendaring, messaging, and address book, and is included with purchase of either Java System Messaging Server and Java System Calendar Server.
  • Sun Java System Connector for Microsoft Outlook. This connects Outlook to Sun's messaging, calendar, and address book servers. More information at
  • Evolution. This is an Outlook lookalike running under Linux.
  • Sun Instant Messenger. This is the client piece included with purchase of Sun Java System Instant Messaging. This Java application runs on all the server platforms above plus Macintosh. It communicates with the Sun Instant Messaging Server using the XMPP protocol, and provides a user interface to the server's services.
  • Portlets providing access to most Sun messaging services. The portlets are written to the JSR 168 standard, providing for portability between portals.
  • Sun Java System Synchronization Tool. This provides data synchronization with handheld devices running Windows CE and Palm. More information at

Platforms. All server products run under Solaris X86 and SPARC, Linux, Windows and HP/UX.

Main Plans--Next 12 Months:
Voice--both VoIP and PSTN--will be added to the instant messaging server

  • The instant messaging server will get better scalability and reliability for service providers, allowing it to accommodate some of Sun’s largest customers, with millions of deployed seats.
  • The messaging server's manageability will be improved.
  • Calendar events will be able to have attachments. E.g., you'll be able to add a presentation to a meeting.
  • Sun's stores are optimized for their specific purpose. There are thus servers for messaging, calendar, directory, and instant messaging. The firm is grappling with ways of letting users access all this information as a single, integrated, logical view. Sun refers to its approach as "federation".
  • "Glow". This is a rich Windows client for calendaring and address book. It will integrate with Mozilla and other third party products to provide standards-based access to email.
  • Working with partners (especially Notify and Concilient), mobile messaging connectivity will be simplified.
  • Rich clients will be developed for mobile devices, such as Nokia and Ericsson phones, and Palm OS wireless PDAs. They are being written in J2ME, satisfying the MIDP standard.
  • Sun anticipates selling more to ASPs offering hosted messaging to SMEs. The Outlook Connector is a key element.

Other Ferris Research Comments

  • Sun is one of the largest and most successful messaging vendors. Compared to its other main competitors in the service providers space--Openwave and Critical Path--has a stable, and proven business.
  • Sun's messaging activities have always been innovative.
  • Large organizations use Sun messaging to provide a mailbox service to their clients. Eg, banks often provide a limited mailbox service for online banking customers. The mailbox may be accessed through a web browser or a proprietary interface, and provides for greater privacy and protection from intruders.
  • Sun says it is seeing a growing demand from firms offering hosted messaging to SMEs. This is plausible. Outsourced hosting is still of very little interest to large organizations.
  • Sun also reports growing interest in instant messaging offerings among service providers. Probably this is an indication that instant messaging is beginning to replace SMS texting.
  • Service providers in Eastern Europe and Russia, both publicly and privately owned, are lively sales areas.
  • Sun is not as successful as it could be in explaining its messaging offering and its strong competitive position. The firm has a limited sales and marketing budget for messaging. Its culture tends to put hardware or basic OS software infrastructure first.
  • Ferris believes that Sun management does not fully understand the strengths and weaknesses of its messaging business, which constrains the business from reaching its full potential.


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