January 08, 2001, 9:16 AM — IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc. last week each launched products and services for the corporate wireless infrastructure market. IBM put the total value of the new systems and services required to power that information technology market at $50 billion during the next three years.
Sun said it plans to develop a line of what it called "carrier-grade servers" targeted at the high-speed networks that telecommunications carriers plan to build in the next three years. In a media and analyst event at its headquarters last week, the company also launched a business unit dedicated to wireless communications. Sun said it has pumped $100 million of venture-capital funding into start-up wireless companies.
IBM's products include new versions of its WebSphere Everyplace Suite middleware, which was first launched to support wired e-commerce applications. It now includes technology to connect wireless devices to Web content.
Elliott Hamilton, an analyst at The Strategis Group in Washington, said the full-court press by Sun and IBM to capture the corporate wireless infrastructure market illustrates that "the business market for wireless is hot right now. It's much closer to reality than the consumer market. A corporate sale also means the chance to hook up thousands of users at one time."
IBM also introduced a new server, the p640, to support wireless applications. Michel Mayer, general manager at IBM's Pervasive Computing division, said in a statement that the company is already providing wireless infrastructure support to customers in Europe and plans to extend it "worldwide, with new servers, software and services that allow businesses to build to scale Web and enterprise applications for mobile devices."
Sun said it plans to build carrier-grade servers that meet the exacting standards of reliability required for network performance, which should also benefit enterprise customers. Bruce Wootton, an analyst at Hurwitz Group Inc. in Framingham, Mass., said any enterprise that wants to run its wireless applications on its own needs a carrier-grade server.
Besides priming the wireless pump with its venture capital, Sun said it has formed a partnership with more than 50 wireless service providers that will allow potential customers to evaluate products from multiple vendors in one place.