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Not satisfied with its assault on HP's Tru64 customer base, Sun Microsystems has made a move to go after HP-UX customers as well, offering them a "risk free" move to SPARC-based or Opteron-based hardware.

For several months now, Sun has been trying to convince old DEC and Compaq users to come over to the Solaris camp. The basic premise of the program is that HP customers have to move somewhere as the company kills off its AlphaServer/Tru64 product line. So Sun steps in with some free consulting to show how much a port to Solaris will cost and then it promises to meet certain application performance objectives. There are hardware financing benefits as well.

Now Sun thinks it can extend this program to the HP-UX customer base.

"HP has been exasperating their user base," said Larry Singer, Sun's head of global market strategies. "The reality is that just like with Tru64, there is a huge pent up demand for HP customers wanting to move to another RISC [vendor]."

For the past three years, HP has been calling on its user base to move off of Alpha and PA-RISC-based servers and onto boxes running on Intel's Itanium processor. This shift is especially painful for Tru64 customers with HP axing the OS and delaying the timetable for moving some Tru64 technology into HP-UX, which runs on Itanium.

The plot, however, thickened over the last week as HP announced products using both AMD's Opteron processor and Intel's upcoming Xeon (now enhanced) chips. These processors extend the x86 instruction set into the 64-bit realm, butting heads with Itanium. HP's CEO Carly Fiorina was apparently hiding out in a Moscow bunker for the last couple of years and forgot to tell her customers that this 64-bit extension technology was coming. Right, Carly?

"Nyet!"

Sun wants to tap into any anger caused by HP's moves by offering up Solaris either on SPARC servers or Sun's new Opteron gear. At present, Sun is the only major vendor to bring its version of Unix over to the 64-bit x86 market via Solaris x86.

So far, Sun had managed to get 80 Tru64 customers to change sides. This represents about $200 million in revenue for Sun, once all is said and done.

Not to be outdone by Sun, HP has its own "total eclipse" program. HP had been offering $25,000 worth of services and loaner hardware to customers willing to shift from Solaris onto an HP server running Linux. HP, however, recently upped this total to $50,000 and brought Intel on as a partner to help out. But if you are expecting a $50,000 check, don't hold your breath. That is simply the value HP has placed on its "proof of concept." HP does offer a free software port though.

As of January, HP claimed it had pulled in $75 million in revenue from Sun switchers. Sun, however, denies that HP has had much success at all in moving customers and challenged HP to declare this revenue.

"The numbers they are saying are material to revenue," Singer said. "They have legal obligations to disclose [that]."

Sun hopes to pull another 80 HP customers to its side by year end and insists that HP is the real tit in this tit-for-tat squabble.

"I don't believe you spend your marketing dollars just to irritate the other guy," Singer said. (Not when Scott McNealy is your CEO and does the dirty work for you - Ed.)

"If HP would deliver on their roadmaps, we probably would not have to deliver on this opportunity," Singer said.

The absolute best part of this spat between Sun and HP is that both vendors deny actually competing with each other. Sun insists that it only runs into IBM in bids for corporate business. HP also claims IBM is its real competitor and that Sun will be extinct in a few years. Somehow Dell does not compete with any of these vendors but manages to make billions selling servers. ®

*Here's a reminder for the hardware fans out there to take part in our "help Intel, HP and Sun" contest. Thanks to the hundreds of you who have already participated. Keep em coming!

Related links

HP away
Sun away

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IBM, Sun and HP locked in giant Unix OS spat
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Dell stays strong in Q4

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