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Sun shooting for double-digit piece of the x86 market

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Sun Microsystems hopes to grab at least 10 percent of the x86 server market by 2007.

The Register obtained this figure when a presentation meant for Sun's partners arrived on our desk. Sun is looking to sell 94,000 x86 servers next year, 200,000 in 2006 and 414,000 in 2007. In the US only market, Sun is looking to sell 40,000 units next year, 84,000 in 2006 and 174,000 in 2007.

Interestingly, Sun has limited what it sees as the available x86 server market. A Sun slide shows the company estimating that 1.6m x86 servers fit into its selling zone in 2005. However, the total number of x86 system sold in 2005 by all vendors should be close to double that figure. The company explained that it used its own formulas to come up with an "addressable opportunity" for its x86 boxes. Sun is looking primarily at the market for Unix/Linux sales with just a bit of Windows sales thrown in. By 2007, Sun estimates that 2.5m x86 servers will be up for grabs in its "addressable opportunity" zone and 174,000 sales would give it 16 percent of that market.

As previously reported, Sun has asked key partners to help it achieve these sales goals by offering them free systems and training. Sun's x86 efforts are centered around its current and upcoming Opteron-based servers. Sun does sell Xeon-powered boxes but rarely mentions the kit and seems to be straying away from the Intel path at pace.

At present, Sun is in a type of server sales holding pattern. Its volume of SPARC-based systems sold has increased recently but revenue has remained very flat. Over the next couple of years, Sun will likely see its Unix sales decline, along with those of IBM and HP, at a slow and steady rate.

Obviously the addition of 100,000 Opteron units to Sun's sales totals in 2005 would be a welcome change to this slow and steady decline. Sun would particularly benefit from any of the Opteron boxes sold with Solaris running on them, as this opens up other software sales.

It's safe to imagine that optimistic minds at Sun are hoping for an even larger share of the x86 market than their partner estimates indicate. Sun has several Opteron systems that it has designed in-house which should roll out the door in early 2005. These boxes are meant to carry Sun's engineering expertise to the x86 market and catch competitors off guard.

Numerous pundits, however, question whether Sun's past magic will work once again, especially in a market not always that dependent on research and development savvy. ®

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