Sun Pushes Solaris To Custom System Builders

Several custom system builders that previously had not heard from Sun about loading Solaris on their servers recently have been contacted by Sun about plans and programs that some builders may find tempting, even if they have yet to sign a contract.

Sun's program allows self-certification of new servers, has no minimum shipping requirements.

Bold Data Technology signed with Sun late last year. Andy Kretzer, director of sales and marketing at Bold, said the Fremont, Calif.-based system builder had a meeting with Sun executives, who said they would give Bold a gold disk with the OS from which Bold could download it to x86-based servers, and Bold could set the price. He also said Sun told him that every quarter the system builder could write a check for however many were sold.

"I asked, 'How do you know what we sell?' " Kretzer said. "What if we sell 10,000 units, but tell you 3,000? They said, 'We work on the honor system.' "

Unlike with Microsoft, where a new server using Windows must go through a certification process, custom system builders can self-certify their servers using software from Sun, Kretzer said. "So if I decide to use a new Tyan motherboard, I can certify a new system right away," he said.

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Todd Swank, director of marketing at Northern Computer Technologies, said that while his Burnsville, Minn.-based company is very happy with its Microsoft relationship, it is interesting to look at alternatives, such as a Sun OS with an office suite that sells for $50 compared with $250 for Microsoft software.

However, Sun's message has yet to touch other system builders. Stephen Moll, director of operations at Computer Technology Link, Portland, Ore., said Solaris has been discussed, but his company will pass for now. Solaris "would be cheaper," he said. "But you have to take into account issues with open-sourcing and with who will support it."

Sun has already signed more than 35 tier-two OEM partners for its software, said Jack O'Brien, director of software marketing at the company. "White boxes typically aren't differentiated on the hardware side but are differentiated on price. We let [system builders] get into data centers and mission-critical applications. It's good economics for them."