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Sun Microsystems will use its channel partner network to create virtual subsidiaries in emerging markets around the world with the first one in Vietnam.

The program, called Sun Equity Partner, or SEP, lets Sun gain a greater presence in particular geographies by creating a joint venture company between Sun and one of its partners in the area, said Tim Pawloski, senior director of the new SEP program.

"This offers the look and feel of a subsidiary," Pawloski said. "SEP will give all partners in the country more resources there that they can leverage like solution centers. There’s a place where people with Sun business cards will be walking around and doing presales."

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Sun’s new program is the next logical step of similar successful joint ventures with partners in Indonesia and the Philippines. Sun chose Vietnam as the place for the formal launch of the SEP program because it is one of the fastest-growing economies in the region, Pawloski said.

Sun is currently evaluating locations and partners for other potential SEPs. Sun said it sells in 160 countries throughout the world, but Pawloski would not pin down how many additional joint ventures are likely in 2008.

Joint ventures with partners to get a leg up in a new geography is not a new idea.

Recently more vendors have been creating such joint ventures with local partners in emerging geographies to beef up their local presences. For example, Symantec recently announced that it had closed a joint venture deal with Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies to develop and distribute security and storage appliances to global telecommunications carriers and enterprises.

"You will see more and more of these in the news," Pawloski said.  "It’s a more innovative way to penetrate a new market, particularly in an emerging region."