Sun works to increase relevance amid Sparc to Intel migrations

Sun Microsystems' president and chief operating officer Jonathan Schwartz will visit Australia next month to talk about his vision for the company. His visit comes at a time when many local enterprises - including high-profile names like Centrelink and Telstra - have opted for commodity Intel machines in favour of the more traditional Solaris on Sparc to run key parts their infrastructure.

Other organizations that have migrated to Intel include the University of Technology Sydney, TransACT, and Tourism Victoria.

Tourism Victoria's online manager Paul Baron willingly admits that the cost savings associated with migrating the department's three Sun servers to Windows on Intel was far too compelling to ignore.

"Our Sun servers performed flawlessly but when we reviewed our hardware having a herd of Intel boxes seemed more sensible," Baron said. "There is a broad range of people who are comfortable with Intel hardware, the performance is excellent, and they are scalable - we can just add another box."

"We have more than 10 Intel servers and two or three could go down without any impact," he said. "And you can easily shift vendors with Intel."

Baron admits he was a happy Sun customer and describes the vendor as a 'quality organization' which highlights the predicament Schwartz faces when he arrives on October 12.

Regarding industry talk that Linux is to blame for Sun to Intel migrations, Baron - for whom Linux wasn't an option - said this is blown out of proportion.

"The operating system is not necessarily the issue as Linux is only one of many factors and the software licence - Linux or Windows - is small," he said. "If Sun can produce cheaper, higher-quality hardware than the rest, then great, but it's a really competitive area."

One of Australia's largest private building companies, BGC, based in WA, is a Sun customer with 14 servers and 100 SunRay thin clients.

BGC's IT director, Andrew Buckeridge, said that although the company has seen success with Sun, it is keeping its options open.

"We have an investment in SunRay and have an interest in its long-term survival [but] we have lessdisks (a Linux-based diskless terminal project) in early planning in case SunRay should fail," Buckeridge said.

When asked why he thinks organizations are migrating systems from Sun to Intel, Buckeridge said Linux does the same as Sun Solaris, "but only better".

Buckeridge expressed confusion as to why Sun picked AMD which, he said, is really a direct competitor, and labelled the move "a bit of a mystery".

"Sparc is an excellent platform for Linux and can run 32-bit apps in 64-bit virtual memory, so this is a bit of an overlap," he said, adding that Sun only has itself to blame for its woes and not Microsoft, Linux, Oracle, or Dell.

Sun Microsystem's national product manager for enterprise systems Robert Becker, said that although the company has not provided its customers with a choice of x86-based systems until recently, server shipments have grown 36 percent which is above the industry rate.

Becker said other moves by the company to broaden its customer base include Solaris, Linux and Windows support on all x86 systems, Red Hat and SuSE support for its thin client architecture, and a server and desktop software portfolio that is "powering ahead".

Have your say

During his visit to Australia, Sun president Jonathan Schwartz will hold an exclusive briefing with Computerworld journalists.

The briefing is an opportunity for readers to have their say by forwarding any topics they would like raised with Schwartz to Computerworld.

It will be held on Tuesday, October 12 and a report will be published on Computerworld's Web site later in the day.

E-mail technology issues or customer concerns to Rodney_Gedda@idg.com.au

Responses and detailed coverage of the briefing will be published in the October 18, 2004 issue of Computerworld.

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