Sun Microsystems' new servers based on AMD's Opteron platform and its push to move its Java Enterprise System to Windows and non-Sun Unix platforms show the company is serious about growing its share of the entry-level market, and the company is already seeing success, solution providers said.
"They've taken their approach to hardware engineering to their low-end server designs around AMD [Opteron]," said Mark Teter, CTO of Advanced Systems Group, a Denver-based Sun solution provider. "Who else can provide a low-end server with the reliability of Sun? ... Customers had the right of first refusal. But they are doing Sun because of the support they get."
That response is starting to pay off. According to a preliminary report on second-quarter 2004 server sales released by research firm Gartner Dataquest and cited by Sun officials, Sun is the only vendor in the top five that had double-digit growth in server volume on both a year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter basis.
>> A one-way Opteron-based Sun Java Workstation
W1100z starts at $1,995, while the two-way W2100z starts at $4,695.
>> The Sun Fire 20z with one Opteron processor, 2 Gbytes of memory and a 73-Gbyte hard drive lists for $1,495. A two-way version lists for $4,995
Contributing to the fast server growth is that Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun is developing entry-level servers aimed at markets normally targeted by Dell, instead of only targeting its usual stomping grounds, said John Fowler, executive vice president of Sun's Network Systems Group.
In addition to the new four-way Opteron servers and lower pricing on its two-way models, Sun is offering a subscription service under which the total cost of the server hardware plus three years of Solaris and services is 40 percent lower than the cost of a similarly configured Dell server, Fowler said.
"Since we own Solaris and can price it at whatever we want, we are able to offer it 40 percent cheaper than a comparable Dell server with Red Hat Linux," he said.
Sun's Opteron-based servers can also be purchased with SUSE or Red Hat Linux and with a standard service contract for customers looking for a low-cost 64-bit option to Dell and other vendors' products, Fowler said. The servers are also qualified for use with Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003.
Sun plans to ship a version of its Java Enterprise System on HP-UX as well as on x86-based hardware compatible with Windows starting next year.
The company also recently introduced a promotion around JES that includes a host of Java software, a free server and technical support for customers, as part of Sun's continued push to distribute its software stack.
Under the new promotion, which runs through Dec. 31, customers with more than 100 employees that buy JES also will receive a Sun Fire V20z Opteron server, Solaris 9 and one year of SunSpectrum Silver support, all bundled into the regular $100 per-employee, per-year price.
Sun also is stepping up its efforts against volume-systems vendors such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell with a new Wall Street Technologies Initiative. Headed by Sun Senior Vice President Stuart Wells, the plan is designed to demonstrate to customers in the financial services market how using Sun software in combination with some of Sun's low-end servers, particularly those in the AMD Opteron line, can provide more value to customers than running Linux on competitive low-end servers. Sun currently has seven customer pilots running in the initiative and has already closed some deals, Wells said.