In a move that Sun Microsystems Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy deemed an "acceleration" of a 22-year partnership, Sun and Fujitsu earlier this month entered a joint development pact that will see the vendors merge their Solaris and SPARC-based server product lines by mid-2006.
The new hardware portfolio, code-named Advanced Product Line (APL), will replace Sun's Sun Fire and Fujitsu's PrimePower server lines. During the transition period leading to the APL rollout, the two companies will jointly distribute each other's SPARC/Solaris product lines. Once APL is available, both companies and their channels will sell the new servers.
McNealy said the deal greatly increases sales opportunities for SPARC/Solaris servers. "It significantly improves and drives the number of people on the street selling Sun Fire and PrimePower computers [as well as providing] services and support [from] many, many tens of thousands of people around the world," he said.
Perhaps more important, the partnership also will shave R&D costs from Sun's microprocessor business. The APL project, which will make use of Fujitsu's next-generation SPARC IX chip technology, will replace UltraSPARC microprocessor development at Sun. UltraSPARC plans have been in limbo since April, when Sun killed its UltraSPARC V and Gemini next-generation UltraSPARC projects. Sun, however, said it will continue to develop its new throughput computing microprocessor lines, code-named Niagara and Rock. Throughput computing, also called chip multithreading, allows processor cores in chips to run more than one series of application instructions, or threads, simultaneously.
The Sun-Fujitsu deal is also aimed squarely at IBM, McNealy said. But while the APL line will focus on combatting IBM's mainframe systems, it also will include low-end servers, he said.
Solution providers applauded the move, saying they hoped Sun's trimmed R&D costs would help speed the vendor's return to profitability. Sun has had 12 straight quarters of year-over-year revenue decline.
"If it's going to help Sun cut costs and get profitable, it's a good thing for me," said Marc Maselli, president of solution provider Back Bay Technologies, Needham, Mass. Customers are increasingly concerned because Sun's business has yet to reflect the recovering U.S. economy and IT market, he said.
BARBARA DARROW contributed to this story.