Sun to detail mid-range Unix server

Countering this week's march on Sun's mid-range Unix market by rival IBM, Sun on Tuesday will unleash a half-pint version of its high-end Starcat Unix server that company officials have dubbed "Starkitty," according to sources familiar with the company's plans.

Part of Sun's strategy with Starkitty is to get its claws into the market for Unix servers costing between $500,000 and $1 million, giving customers an alternative to the costly price tag of Sun's Enterprise 15000, affectionately referred to as Starcat, industry experts said.

Starkitty is approximately half of everything the larger, older Starcat server is, packing half the memory, half the CPU power, and half the I/O bandwidth of Starcat, sources said.

With advanced virtual partitioning functionality previously found only in Sun's high-end Unix servers, Starkitty will bring Sun's tier-one server technology within reach of companies with more conservative IT budgets. Starkitty also fills a void in Sun's Unix server menu for systems running between 24 processors and 64 processors, sources said.

Similarly, IBM on Monday launched a mid-sized version of its high-end Unix server, the IBM p670, which Big Blue officials said was aimed right at Sun's mid-range Unix server market.

Vendor consolidation in the Unix server market has whittled the competition down to only a handful of players, but Sun, the overall Unix leader, holds only a 22 percent share of the mid-range Unix server market, according to Ashok Kumar, an industry analyst at U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, in Menlo Park, Calif.

"The Unix server market is fully consolidated with the top four vendors [Sun, IBM, Compaq, and Hewlett-Packard] controlling an 85 percent of share versus 75 percent two years ago," Kumar said. "Sun is the leading supplier of Unix-based servers with about 22 percent share of the mid-range -- $100,000 to $1 million -- server market."

Starkitty sets Sun in position to grow its share of the mid-range server market, said Brad Day, a senior analyst at Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Mass. Day said that a mid-range Unix server the likes of Starkitty "puts Sun in a server price band area that they really haven't been in before."

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