Sun To Launch Solaris 9, Refreshes 'Blue Away'

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Sun Microsystems Thursday redoubled its efforts to beat rival IBM at its own server game. Hoping to keep its anti-IBM momentum going, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based networking giant is looking for a TKO when it comes to midframe server TCO.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based networking giant said its recently launched Project "Blue Away" is now targeting IBM's midrange capacity mainframe customers. The mid-market mainframe sector represents a potential billion opportunity that Sun intends to lead with its Sun Fire Midframe server family.

The company also announced it would launch its Solaris 9 Operating Environment at a special event at its Menlo Park, Calif. campus. Solaris 9 is expected to boost clustering capabilities and is the foundation of the Sun Open Net Environment (Sun ONE).

As part of the "Blue Away" initiative, customers can take advantage of Sun's Upgrade Allowance Program and receive 10 percent credit when they trade-in their Mainframe system towards the purchase of any Sun Fire Midframe or high-end system.

"Blue Away" is Sun's "competitive replacement program" strategy aimed at picking up IBM customers, which Sun said have been neglected by IBM's discontinuation of its NUMA-Q platform. Used by IBM to power its xSeries servers, NUMA-Q was an entry level, Intel-based platform geared for e-business that IBM absorbed when it bought Sequent Computer Systems in July 1999 for 10 million. Sun's aim is to move those disenfranchised users to its own Solaris Operating Environment on Sun servers.

"Last quarter, Sun shipped over four times more MIPS than IBM," said Shahin Khan, chief competitive officer, Sun Microsystems. "Since IBM is the only vendor of mainframes, they have been raising prices on captive mainframe customers and paying less attention to customers with small or mid-size mainframes. Through this 'Blue Away' initiative, Sun is offering a tried, tested and more cost-effective solution."

You can't blame Sun for trying every trick in the book even though the server numbers still seem to favor IBM. Gartner Dataquest's most recent set of stats put IBM on top with a 29.3 percent share in revenue, while Sun followed closely behind with 23.6 percent, up 2.2 points from last year. Not bad in a first quarter that saw the overall U.S. server market dip 8.7 percent to .92 billion from .29 billion.

Sun said its Sun Fire 3800-6800 Midframe servers are specifically designed to offer the availability and resource management capabilities of mainframe computing at a fraction of the cost. According to its own benchmark results, Sun claims its Midframe Servers offer over four times the price performance advantage of an IBM Mainframe.

"The benefits of a mainframe must be justified in terms of its costs," said Mike Kahn, Chairman of The Clipper Group, Inc., technology acquisition consultants in Wellesley, MA. "Enterprises that use a smaller mainframe have higher operating costs per unit of processing, primarily because they pay more for operating software, than do enterprises with very large mainframes, or those that are running similar workloads on UNIX servers. In many cases, Sun's mainframe migration program will offer them significant life-cycle cost savings."

IBM has yet to chime in on the revived Sun offer. But knowing Big Blue's past history on the subject, it won't be long before they come back with something.

This article was originally published on May 16, 2002
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