Sun offers server customers a pay-for-use option

Sun Microsystems is following the lead of mainframe vendors in offering a new pricing option that lets users quickly add capacity with minimal disruption.

The company is all set to launch a new "capacity on demand" server option that will let customers buy large Sun servers up-front, but only pay for the portion they are actually using.

The idea is to let users lock in additional capacity at little extra cost when they are not sure initially just how much capacity they are going to need to handle fast-growing applications - such as Web serving and enterprise resource planning.

The option is only available on Sun's highest-end E10000 server and will be formally launched on November 15.

Here's an example of how it would work: Users who estimate they will need an eight-processor system to run a particular application can buy or lease a 20-processor E10000 Unix server from Sun but only pay hardware and software fees for the eight processors actually being used.

At $US400,000 for an eight-processor license, for instance, users will get a 20-way system for substantially less than the $1 million plus it would have cost them otherwise, said Shahin Khan, a Sun marketing director for high-end servers.

When the need for more capacity arises, an electronic key supplied by Sun allows users to switch on additional processors and pay for them at that time. Under the new option, processors nine to 20 will cost users $66,500 per additional processor - or slightly more than it would have cost them otherwise. Each additional processor beyond 20 will cost $27,500 or the same as without the option, Kahn said.

The Sun option is similar to those already being offered by IBM and Amdahl for their mainframes. Both these companies, for instance, have options that lets customers buy fully configured systems that can be incrementally expanded as the need arises.

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