Sun Microsystems Inc is lining up a raft of new announcements for the first quarter of 2003 to update its volume server line, with the introduction of its first blade server systems, the much-anticipated launch of its Enchilada server, and additions to the Linux server line.
First up from the Palo Alto, California-based company will be the delivery of its blade server strategy. The company is keeping technical details of its first blade servers close to its chest but Paul Leonard, Sun’s product marketing manager for volume servers, promised that they will be right up there with the best of the best of the opposition, which to us means Hewlett-Packard Co’s ProLiant BL blades.
One significant differentiator for Sun is that it will be introducing Sparc processor-based Solaris blades as well as Intel Corp processor-based Solaris and Linux blades, which will all be supported in the same box, giving customers choice and flexibility. The blades will be aimed at the tier-one application space, said Leonard, meaning the web, domain name and firewall server markets.
Another differentiator for the company, said Leonard, will be the inclusion of blade-management and monitoring software that will offer provisioning, deployment and patch-management capablities, as well as the ability to link into Sun’s Management Center, HP’s OpenView, and Computer Associates Inc’s Unicenter management software.
By introducing Sparc blades alongside the Intel blades, Sun is opening up the opportunities for server consolidation across a blade server farm and is providing increased processing power. According to Leonard, the Sparc blade servers will provide up to 50% power consumption savings against Intel blades due to the intrinsic design of the Sparc chip. The Sparc blades are also due to be similarly priced to the Intel blades, he said.
Driving the cost of the Sparc server line down is also a feature of the introduction of the one- and two-way Enchilada entry-level server line. Due for release alongside the blade servers early in the next quarter, the Enchilada servers are expected to contain Sun’s Jalapeno UltraSparc-IIIi processors, which were first revealed by ComputerWire in June 2001, and will replace the existing Sun Fire V120R and V280R servers.
As well as the latest processors, the Enchilada servers are due to be highly integrated, according to Leonard, with the addition of popular plug-in cards, and will ship with comparable pricing to Sun’s LX50 Intel-based server. Customers are not going to pay a penalty for choosing Sparc, said Leonard. Driving down its pricing on the volume products has enabled Sun to be more competitive with Intel-based server vendors, but both competitors and analysts have doubted Sun’s long-term ability to compete on price with commodity Intel-based vendors.
Leonard dismissed these doubts. If we couldn’t afford to do it, it wouldn’t happen, he said. We’ve doubled our unit volumes in the last 12 months. The key for Sun is to keep that level of investment in research and development to provide competitive advantage and grow market share. People thought we’d under-priced the V880, but it increased unit volumes and broadened acceptance.
By lowering the prices of its Sparc line and introducing Linux/Intel servers Sun now has a two-pronged attack on the competition. Many have seen the introduction of Sun Lintel products as a threat to its own volume Sparc business, however. Leonard admitted that by 2006 50% of Sun’s volume market is expected to be Linux-based, but said the company has more to gain than it has to lose from adopting Linux.
Sun is also expected to launch additions to its LX50 Intel server line before the end of its financial year (June 30), including more Linux-based appliance servers. Leonard said the company plans to introduce more Linux-based server appliances to drive the acceptance of Linux as an enterprise platform with bundled applications, following its recent deal with Check Point Software Technologies Ltd to develop the Sun LX50 VPN/Firewall appliance.
Potential bundles include further security applications, a desktop server stack, and vertically targeted applications, such as financial services. Leonard said that there is also the possibility of a larger role for Sun’s Cobalt Control Station appliance management product for the management and monitoring of general-purpose Linux servers.