The first half of 2004 has been busy for Sun Microsystems. The last time our Server Snapshot captured the vendor, we predicted 2004 would be a turning point: Sun’s attempts to regroup from tough Unix battlefield losses would either be successful enough to stave off disaster and it would arise from the ashes to profitability, or it would crash and burn. More than seven months later, the regrouping continues and the future remains unclear.
Recent Server Snapshots
Will 2004 be the decisive year for Sun? We look at what the vendor’s been up to since we last profiled it to determine whether the future merits sun screen or a slicker.
This much is for certain, however: The battle remains a steeply uphill one. First-quarter 2004 statistics from IDC show Sun’s revenue 12.5 percent lower than it was in the first quarter of 2003. At the same time, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, and IBM gained firmer footholds, and the overall server market grew 7.3 percent. Sun’s current share of 10.2 percent brings it neck and neck with Dell, whose sweet spot holds a very different customer. For fiscal third quarter 2004, Sun posted a $760 million loss. A of press time, Sun’s fourth financial quarter earnings are awaiting release.
As Sun regroups, belts have been tightened and favors called in. In June, Sun closed its Newark, Calif. manufacturing plant. Two plants remain, one in Hillsboro, Ore., another in Linlithgow, Scotland. In April, Sun quietly laid off thousands of employees in what has become an annual norm since 2001. It also put a fire under its management, appointing Jonathan Schwartz the new chief operating officer and reorganizing its hardware groups into two divisions, Throughput Systems (SPARC) and Network Systems (x86). In April, Sun reached a settlement with Microsoft from which it will receive more than $1.95 billion. The vendors also agreed to collaborate on technology.
But surreal wheeling and dealings aside, Sun has been burning rubber on the hardware development front. In February, the vendor more firmly redirected its approach to x86, adding the dual-Opteron Fire V20z rack server and dual Low Voltage Xeon B200x blades to the family.
At the same time, Sun fueled its Sun Fire servers with the explosive Chip Multithreading (CMT) capable Solaris 10-ready UltraSPARC IV, adding the E2900, E4900, and E6900 in the midrange, and the E20K and E25K to the high end. Sun also stoked its NEBS-Certified offerings, replacing the Netra t1400/1405 with the UltraSPARC IIIi-based Netra 440.
The following chart is an overview of Sun’s server offerings. New additions are noted in bold; newly retired servers are italicized.
|Entry-Level Servers||Midframe and Midrange
|High-End Servers||Blade Servers||NEBS-Certified Servers|
|Target Deployments||Web, file, print, ERP, database, and Security/VPN||Server consolidation, data warehousing, data mining, OLTP, large DBs, and ERP||Server consolidation, mainframe rehosting, high performance computing, decision support, and data warehousing||Web services, data analysis, and straight-through processing||Ruggedized environments|
|Processor Type||UltraSPARC IIi, III
& IIIi, Opteron, Xeon
|UltraSPARC III, IV||UltraSPARC III, IV||UltraSPARC IIi (B100s), Mobile Athlon (100x), Low Voltage Xeon||UltraSPARC IIi, III, IIIi|
|Processor Range||1 to 8 (SPARC),
1 to 2 (Xeon)
|1 to 24||Up to 106 (III),
Up to 72 (IV)
|1 (SPARC, Athlon),
2 (L.V. Xeon)
|1 to 12|
|Operating System||SPARC: Solaris 8/9
(Red Hat/SUSE Enterprise)
|Solaris 8/9||Solaris 8/9||SPARC: Solaris 8/9
x86: Linux, Solaris 9
|Servers||Sun Fire (SPARC):
Sun Fire (x86):
|Price Range||$995 (V100) to $124,995 (V880z)||$59,995 (V1280) to $1,121,295 (E6900)||$354,530 (12K) to $3,196,985 (25K)||B1600 Chassis: $4,795
Eight B100 blades with a B1600 Chassis: $23,399
to $32,995 (CT820)
1 From Sun’s now otherwise defunct line of server appliances.