Sun Microsystems: big fish, shrinking pond

HP Away

Sun Microsystems has launched a new migration plan to steal away users of Hewlett-Packard's Tru64 Unix AlphaServer systems. Sun is trying to win over customers that HP acquired along with Compaq, many of whom Compaq originally inherited from Digital Equipment Corporation in 1998.

Sun has been planning its move on HP for some time, but delayed its HP Away program (which seeks to entice AlphaServer users to Sun's Sparc-based servers running Solaris) after SCO Group's termination of IBM's Unix license gave it an easier target to aim at.

Having bought Compaq in 2002, HP is now attempting to move Tru64 AlphaServer users to Intel Itanium 2 based servers running HP-UX. The current Alpha EV7 based Marvel servers are the penultimate in the AlphaServer line, to be followed by EV79 speed-enhanced servers next year.

HP expects the performance of Itanium 2 servers to match and begin to beat that of RISC machines sometime in the next two years. Nevertheless, the company has stated it will sell EV79s through 2006, and support their users through 2011.

That leaves AlphaServer users with plenty of time to select a replacement technology, raising questions as to how many customers will feel the need to make an early move to Sun's platform.

While Sun is much more publicly committed to the future of its Sparc processor and Solaris operating system, a decline in sales of new Unix servers has left many wondering whether Sun's dedication to Sparc and Solaris will guarantee the company's long-term survival. It could be that Sun needs HP's Unix customers more than HP's Unix customers need Sun.

Sun remains the market leader for Unix on RISC, but with the growth of Intel and Linux this is an increasingly small pond in which to be a big fish. Sun needs to grow its Unix revenue and market share in order to convince many that the Unix/RISC waters are deep enough to keep it alive.

Source: Computerwire/Datamonitor

Recommended research: Reuters Business Insight, "The Linux and Open SourceOutlook: Making Linux a strategic fit" (RBTC0064)

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