Sun touts low-end hardware efforts

Sun Microsystems Inc. wants everyone to know that it is a player in the low-cost server arena, with both hardware and software for this market.

The company on Monday is forming an advisory group to boost its application offerings for the Intel version of the Solaris operating system. Sun also will list recent customers it says are benefiting from Sun's low-cost hardware.

"The advisory group that we formed here is really to add momentum for our x86 product line," said Laura Finkelstein, group marketing manager for low-end server products at Sun.

The x86 ISV Advisory Board is an expansion of the Sun Linux ISV Advisory Board Sun formed in January. Members -- names of which were not yet revealed by Sun -- will include ISVs, Sun officials, and potentially hardware makers. Finkelstein said the number of Solaris x86 applications is about one-fifth of what is available on the Sparc version of Solaris, but she did not have precise numbers of applications.

Among systems in Sun's lower end server arsenal are its Sun Fire V65x systems, which run Intel Pentium processors. A V65x 2U rack-optimized server with a single 2.8GHz processor costs US$2,550. The V65x with dual 3.06GHz processors is priced at US$3,995. An Intel-based LX50 system from Sun costs US$1,995 at the entry level. Sun also offers Sparc-based blade servers and Netra Sparc servers as part of its lower cost offerings.

Sun's list of several customer wins stemming from its lower cost offerings include BestBuy Canada, University of Southern California, Southwest Airlines Co. and GetThere LP, an ASP that offers customized online Web sites for clients such as United Airlines Inc.

GetThere recently replaced larger Sun E 420R Sparc servers with Sun blade servers. "I'm always looking at ways to either reduce the footprint in my data center or just the total cost of ownership and these blades really achieved both results," said Keith Dale, vice president of global operations at GetThere, in Irving, Texas.

Customer wins to be detailed by Sun all have occurred since the launch of Sun's Network Computing 2003 strategy in February. Other customers involved in the announcement include Dartmouth College, General Dynamics Corp., Land Rover, Northeastern University, Notre Dame, Telus, West McLaren Mercedes, and Veteran Affairs.

Sun's recent embracing of the pervasive Intel architecture does not spell any kind of death knell for Sun's use of the Sparc architecture, Sun's Finkelstein said. "I've never heard that from any of our upper management," she said.

"We are fully committed and fully invested in continuing to enhance the Sparc Solaris line," she said.

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