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HP World Sun Microsystems has started Phase III of its HP Away program for shifting customers off the Tru64 and HP-UX operating systems and onto Solaris.

This time round Sun has centered its attack on a new fleet of Opteron servers, which were finally delivered in July, instead of its traditional UltraSPARC-based gear. As in the past, Sun offers up free consulting services to HP customers to demonstrate how much a move from Tru64 or HP-UX will cost and how well applications will perform on Solaris. Over the past year, Sun has pulled 150 customers from HP, resulting in close to $200m in revenue.

"We were focused on moving customers from RISC to RISC before, but now that we have these Opteron systems, we decided to offer a move from HP RISC platforms to x86 as well," said Larry Singer, Sun's head of global market strategies.

One positive with the new Opteron program is that HP customers are being given a path from traditionally more expensive Alpha- and PA-RISC-based servers to lower-cost x86 gear. Sun offers workstations, a two processor box and a four processor box based on AMD's x86-64-bit Opteron chip. Sun is familiar with this shift from RISC to x86, as it has seen a number of its key customers, particularly those in the financial services markets, move from Solaris/SPARC kit to Linux on Intel.

These days, however, Sun's renewed interest in Solaris x86 has it asking HP's customer base to make an easier Unix to Unix shift and just replace the processor underneath the OS. But with only up to a four-processor Opteron system available, Sun won't be able to tempt HP's higher-end Unix customers to make this move. In addition, Sun has yet to complete a 64-bit version of Solaris for Opteron. HP customers would need to be running 32-bit software or wait until December to get the 64-bit OS.

Sun, of course, started this HP Away program to attract Alpha and PA-RISC customers that are being forced to move onto Intel's 64-bit Itanium processor, as HP pulls out of the processor-making game.

"We think IBM and Sun are duking it out for the cadaver of HP's business," Singer said.

Sun has promoted its Opteron line as an option for HP customers in the past. Earlier this year, Sun said its two-processor V20z server was a valid choice for the HP Away program. Now, however, that Sun has fleshed out its Opteron line, it is making a bigger deal of the kit. The HP World conference being held here this week also clearly played a role in the timing of Sun's latest HP Away announcement.

Still, Sun only expects about one-third of the HP customers to pick Opteron over UltraSPARC, as the RISC to RISC move is a more natural choice.

Sun last year started Phase I of the program focusing on Compaq's Tru64 customers only and then later targeted HP-UX customers in Phase II.

At the HP World event yesterday, an HP Unix executive was heard in the press room describing Sun's promotion of Solaris x86 as "bullshit" and later "crap". The exec insisted that Solaris x86 would only have a future if it was ported to Itanium in which case it would have to be Solaris EPIC, it seems. He also suggested that customers no longer trust Sun with the Solaris x86 support after it flip-flopped on support and development of the product a couple years back, which is certainly true to some degree. That said, it seems doubtful that Sun's Unix future will be governed by Itanic, since Sun currently moves more UltraSPARC-based systems in a couple of weeks than all of the Itanium servers HP ships in a year. ®

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