Hardware Today: Unisys Server Snapshot
September 13, 2004
The previous Unisys Server Snapshot commented on Unisys' reluctance to prioritize Linux operating system support (at the time it was quietly supporting SUSE). Feverston describes the recent addition of support for Red Hat as pushing Linux into unproven scale-up territory. "Our goal is to be able to show people that we can scale Linux also," Feverston said, "we've proven that it's doable with Microsoft over the last three or four years." Unisys is now targeting databases on RISC platforms for migration to Linux, a move that will put it IBM POWER and HP-UX.
Sageza Research Director Joyce Becknell sees Linux support as a new jewel for Unisys' services chest. "This is in keeping with their master strategy. If they're going to continue to hold these big partnerships and help people migrate, shift, remanage, refocus, and organize their IT, they have to have the Linux skills. Even if people don't buy them right off, they want to know that they're using a services partner who has those capabilities."
Becknell noted that Unisys doesn't stand to lose much by downplaying its Windows-based offerings. "Unisys does not have the kind of relationship with Microsoft that HP or Dell has," she said, implying HP and Dell have much to lose, were they to downplay their Windows offerings, because of their distribution deals with Microsoft.
Unisys' Itanium-2 focus may be a harder sell. "I can't speak to Itanium in the low echelons; in the DP [dual processor] space, those who are moving enterprise or mission-critical applications, especially databases, are choosing Itanium," Feverston noted, adding, "It's not a volume market, but it is an important market."
Becknell likens Unisys' somewhat tepid server sales, particularly of Itanium-2 based servers, to Costco's decision to sell coffins for a reduced wholesale rate at its stores. Costco, she said, "hasn't really done a lot of business because most people are really uncomfortable with the idea," just as enterprises may uncomfortable purchasing Itanium-2 servers, for example.
"Does that hurt Costco? Does it improve their image? Well, it depends on the group they're talking to," Becknell joked. "It's the same thing with Unisys, I think. They've got one foot in there; I certainly don't think anyone loses sleep over them as a [server sales] competitor," she concluded.
At the end of the day, Unisys' services are its chief selling point. Enterprises that like the service offerings will likely find the servers to be the perfect complement. "We offer the Unix customer an alternative with no compromises, and they have their choice of huge amounts of software applications utilities," Feverston said, "and more importantly, they have a very large pool of ready made skills in the marketplace, to manage a standards-based data center or infrastructure." This, in turn, fuels what he describes as a "growing customer base."
Becknell likens Unisys' service to a good pizza. "The really hard part for most people isn't assembling the collection of tools, it's actually doing something with them, actually buying all of the pieces, putting it all together. Just because you buy all the ingredients of a pizza doesn't mean you're going to make a good pizza," she said. Unisys' service and support is akin to pizza-making skill.
"It's one thing to sell them hardware, it's another thing for them to invite you back in to work side-by-side with them and make their implementation function properly," Feverston trumpeted, singing the tune of Unisys' true strength.