Unisys gives virtualization jolt to its data center strategy

Company hopes less hardware-centric approach will turn financial troubles around

Beset by financial problems, Unisys announced a strategy that shifts its servers and storage business from a hardware-centric tack to a more holistic approach emphasizing a combination of hardware, software and services, including virtualization offerings.

Unisys is upgrading its Intel-based server line by adding quad-core processors to its ES3000 servers and releasing an ES5000 series of blade servers.

But instead of focusing primarily on hardware, Unisys says it has formed two new software partnerships and is boosting the services around its servers and storage business. The goal is to target a growing market for "real-time infrastructure," an industry buzz-phrase that describes components such as servers and storage as being dynamically linked to business requirements. Part of that is helping customers implement virtual servers with tools such as those made by VMware, Unisys officials say.

"Our approach with this specific initiative is vendor agnostic," says Colin Lacey, vice president of systems and storage at Unisys. "If we have a customer running on someone else's platform or a mix of platforms, we support a heterogeneous platform mix."

Unisys is targeting large enterprise customers. Service engagements related to this initiative would take weeks or months, depending on the extent of discovery, modeling and blueprint services needed by each customer, company officials say.

Unisys is in the midst of a "multi-year repositioning program" spurred by poor financial results, the company said in a recent SEC filing. Unisys posted an operating income of US$85.9 million in 2007, but a net loss of US$79.1 million when factoring in costs for workforce reductions, facility consolidations and retirement expenses. Company employees have suffered several rounds of layoffs in the past few years.

The data center initiative rolled out this week is an attempt to improve revenue by targeting new parts of the marketplace with faster growth rates, Lacey says.

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