Hardware Today: Fujitsu Server Snapshot

By Ben Freeman (Send Email)
Posted Feb 23, 2004


At first glance, Fujitsu's U.S. server offerings appear easily dissected. They fall into two product lines split evenly between the x86 and SPARC realms. Historically, the vendor has a stronger market presence outside of the United States but is a relatively recent addition to the North American server scene: The Primepower and Primergy lines hit U.S. shores in November 2000. Despite their parallel entrance, the back-end-oriented Primepower servers have made a bigger splash in the U.S. server market, from both a design and user base perspective, than the front-end-geared Intel-based Primergy servers.

Fujitsu has its bases covered in the U.S. server market. The SPARC-based Primepower servers take care of the back end while the Intel-based Primergy servers look to the edge. In this Server Snapshot we examine the two product lines and discuss the latest developments.

But that may soon change. The recent introduction of the RXI600 4-way Itanium rack server, and a second blade, the BX600, are signs of Fujitsu's commitment to Primergy and the x86 space. More differentiation will be needed for these x86 offerings to contend with the longer-standing heavyweights, and the release of a 4-way Xeon MP blade later this year may be the bolster the Primergy line needs.

On the Primepower SPARC side, which is where Fujitsu contends most strongly in North America, the vendor offers mainframe-caliber features on its SPARC version 9 compliant SPARC V chip. Like its still-offered predecessor, the SPARC 64 GP, the SPARC V features ECC data correction across all data paths. Vice President, Product and Solutions Marketing for Fujitsu Computer Systems (the North American arm of Fujitsu), Richard McCormack, touts the SPARC64 V's advantages over Sun SPARC chips: "The SPARC64 V has faster clocks, greater performance, and more reliability." McCormack continues, "While it has more transistors on the silicon, it uses less power and runs cooler than its predecessor." He adds that the Primepower 650 and 850 models have sold well, with the enterprise 1500 and 2500 models also showing momentum.

Fujitsu's Primergy line is based largely on Xeon dual- and multi- processor (DP and MP) architecture, and offers Xeon DP and Xeon MP servers that can scale up to 16 processors. It branches out into the Itanium 2 space (with the RXI600) and offers entry-level Pentium 4 servers to boot. Xeon DP and low voltage Pentium III blades match or exceed typical vendor blade offerings. The RX300 has been a standout sales success from FCS's perspective, yet the low-end RX100 and RX600 also sell well.

The vendor keeps a refreshingly honest approach to its operating support. "Fujitsu does not recommend one operating system over another and our customer base is varied," McCormack said. Fujitsu's SPARC servers run Solaris 9; the x86 lines offer support for various stripes of Windows 2003, NT, and 2000, as well as Red Hat and SUSE Linux and Novell NetWare.

Since committing to open operating systems, Fujitsu ceased selling its Millenium and Omniflex System/390 servers. Existing customers continue to receive support and can buy upgrades or replacements. However, as they are legacy products, we will not factor them into our 1,000-foot overview of FCS' server listings, which details the vendor's two main lines:



FCS Servers: A 1,000-Foot Overview

Server Line
Description
Processor Types
Processor Range
Operating Systems
Servers
Pricing
Primergy1 Fujitsu's Intel-based rack, tower, and blade servers are mainly built on Xeon technology and typically in the 1 to 16 processor range. Although strong on a worldwide basis, they are not as strong in the United States as Fujitsu's SPARC-based Primepower line. Low voltage. Pentium III, Pentium 4, Xeon DP, Xeon MP, Itanium-2 1 Pentium III or Pentium 4,
1 to 2 Xeon DP,
4 to 16 Xeon MP,
1 to 4 Itanium-2
Windows, NetWare, SUSE Linux, Red Hat Linux Rack (RX)
RX100,
RX200,
RX300,
RX600,
RX800,
RXI600
From $1,000 (for the RX100) to $140,000 (for the RX800)
Tower (TX)
TX150,
TX200,
TX300,
TX600
Blade
BX300,
BX600,
Primepower Fujitsu's SPARC Solaris servers are based on Fujitsu's SPARC 64 V or SPARC 64 GP error correcting chipsets. They are architected for mission-critical applications2. Many of the Workgroup and Midrange SPARC servers are rack friendly; all allow the usual pedestal/floormount. SPARC64 V, GP 1 to 128 GP or V
Solaris


Workgroup
200,
250,
400,
450
$7,500 (for the 250) to more than $1 million (for any of the Enterprise systems)
Midrange 650,
800,
850,
Enterprise
900,
1000,
1500,
2000,
2500
1When comparing offerings within the line, note that servers with the same numbers in different categories have similar architectures.
2The more challenging the mission for which the server is intended, the higher the model number (and price tag).

FCS, together with its European counterpart, Fujitsu Siemens, ranked fifth in total worldwide server sales, based on IDC's most current data, third-quarter 2003. (IDC has yet to release fourth-quarter 2003 numbers but plans to do so shortly.)

For the past three and a half years, FCS has been working to turn this global success into a berth within the North American enterprise, targeting the Fortune 2000 in varied vertical markets under the its label. Cracking the U.S. market has been an uphill fight. "It's been a challenge to compete against well-established, entrenched competition," says McCormack. Fujitsu packs a solid punch though: It brings strong global credentials to the Unix and x86 markets. In worldwide sales, Gartner Dataquest ranked the vendor fourth in IA-32 and 64-bit server sales for third-quarter 2003.

And Fujitsu has made other inroads. Gartner Dataquest notes Fujitsu leveraged its global support infrastructure into a fifth-place showing in the U.S. 64-bit computing market. To improve matters, FCS' 64-bit market share has grown significantly since 2002. "This year is our best year to date," says McCormack, "In Q2 of this year [Fujitsu's fiscal year] FCS sold more systems than in the first two years combined." A large percentage of business is repeat sales, says McCormack.

In terms of U.S. x86 sales, Fujitsu still as a long row to hoe. Despite the vendor's fourth place finish in worldwide x86 sales for 2003, it was still lumped into Gartner's "Other" category for fourth quarter 2003 U.S. x86 sales. In that quarter, Fujitsu shipped only 134 x86 servers, total. In comparison, Dell (the top seller that quarter) shipped 172,850 units.

As is often the case, the hardware sales picture is just one layer of what Fujitsu offers. "Besides turning to Fujitsu for hardware needs, customers also look to Fujitsu to provide managed services and mobile solutions," McCormack says. Through its service offerings, the company leverages its expertise in OS/390 and Unix environments into IT operational support and enhancements of products from the larger players in the United states -- namely Sun, IBM, HP, and Dell.

Back on the U.S. hardware sales front, Fujitsu has achieved success in the realms in which it has opted to innovate, for example the SPARC 64 V chip. Should Fujitsu wish to remain on the Intel playing field, a more aggressive push into the blade space coupled with a successful adaptation to Intel's move to 32-bit/64-bit architecture may be in order. "This will be a natural progression for our PRIMERGY Xeon-based product line," says McCormack, who also notes Fujitsu has no official Opteron plans at present. The route taken by the 32-bit/64-bit market may also help to determine the staying power of Solaris systems, which still offer unparalleled scalability.

Unix units may not drive server sales volume indefinitely, but they've certainly helped Fujitsu to date. According to the IDC, Fujitsu's worldwide net factory revenue of $684 million for third-quarter 2003 marked a 2.5 percent decrease overall from third-quarter 2002. With Unix sales once again declining overall, the slight decrease could be viewed optimistically, given Fujitsu's Unix strength and that Unix server sales slowed in their decline that quarter, based on, among other factors, competitive pricing. Given the environment and the circumstances, Fujitsu fared fairly well.

A strong Unix distro has helped plant Fujitsu's foot firmly in the U.S. server market doorway. Turning that into a full-fledged, multi-platform success story will require creativity on the x86 front as well.

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