Sun Microsystems on Tuesday unveiled its latest blade server based on a four-way AMD Opteron configuration, along with a new service that automatically provides customers with upgrades to their blade servers.
The Sun Refresh Service is a subscription-based service that includes the installation of the Sun Blade 8000 modular system with the server blades plus three refreshes of the blades over a 42-month period, said Mike McNerny, director of Sun's blade server product line.
McNerny said the new Sun service will bring customers the latest blade server technology as it becomes available for about half the cost of buying the new servers.
"This lets customers sustain server performance over time," he said. "They can maximize the performance and capacity of their servers with a subscription to automatically upgrade the infrastructure as new products become available."
For instance, the new Sun Blade X8420, a four-socket, dual-core AMD Opteron 8000-based blade server, has a list price of between $11,000 and $33,000, depending on processor speed and memory, McNerny said.
A subscription under the Sun Refresh Service, which includes the chassis, 10 top-of-the-line X8420 blade servers and services related to automatically replacing the blade servers with more advanced models three times, costs about $23,000 per month for 42 months, he said.
"We can't guarantee what the boost in performance will be [with the automatic upgrade]," McNerny said. "But historically, performance increases 20 percent to 40 percent with a server refresh."
In a break from normal Sun practice, which is to have a new Sun product available to the channel on the day it starts shipping, the Sun Refresh Service initially will be sold only through Sun's direct-sales organization when it becomes available later this month, McNerny said. It is slated for availability through channel partners next quarter, he said.
Mike Thompson, president of Groupware Technology and Computing, a Campbell, Calif.-based Sun solution provider, said the move to take the service direct for the first couple months goes against everything Sun has told its channel partners.
However, McNerny said, the reason for the delay in getting the product to the channel is because of the complexity of the program. "The flow of dollars leads to a complex process, both on the direct and the channel side," he said.
For instance, McNerny said at this point Sun isn't sure if the vendor or the solution provider would do the server upgrade work. "We're still working on it," he said. "From the channel perspective, it looks like a lease. We want to move partners from one-time box sales to working with customers on generating revenue over time."
Thompson said he understands how the complexity of the new service could push Sun to delay its availability through the channel. "I can see that point if additional resources need to be trained," he said. "But it would be nice if Sun trained us earlier."
In any event, the new blade server refresh service is a good idea, Thompson added. "It could be a great annuity stream, and it gives us more account control," he said. "But there will be a lot more work up front to sell the idea to customers."