NEC and Sun have expanded their alliance to cover systems integration, network technologies and middleware.

The effect will likely be felt primarily in Japan, where NEC does the majority of its systems integration work, but NEC's president said it hopes to grow its business worldwide as a result of closer ties with Sun.

The companies will combine NEC's Univerge VoIP gear with Sun's SunRay blade servers and promote the result as a SunRay reference architecture to customers worldwide. In middleware, NEC will integrate its Valumo platform with Sun's Java Enterprise System to offer a joint identity management system.

NEC's "open mission critical systems", which are software and hardware packages for tasks such as supply chain management, will continue to support Sun's Solaris operating system. The companies will also work together on standardisation efforts such as the Liberty Alliance, they said.

Sun CEO Scott McNealy said the alliance will help the companies compete better against IBM. "I won't identify the loser but it's a very large, blue global services organisation," he said.

NEC is particularly keen to expand sales of its mobile Internet platform for telecommunication carriers. The agreement calls for both companies to promote the system in the Americas, Russia and the Middle East. A smaller version of a system is used by NTT DoCoMo Inc. in Japan.

The agreement continues a business relationship that began in 1993 when NEC began reselling Sun products in Japan.