RealTime IT News

Sun Execs Rip Rivals on Server Push

NEW YORK -- Sun Microsystems went on the offensive in the market for servers based on standards, training its marketing firepower on Dell during a news event here Monday.

Officials later defended the company from analysts' questions about how the company's new innovations will help boost its financial performance.

Sun was in the Big Apple for the day to tout its new line of Galaxy X64 servers, small but powerful machines based on AMD's 64-bit Opteron chips. The servers are dual-core capable, meaning each processor contains two chip sockets for a performance boost.

The rub of the event: Sun showed how its servers are faster, smaller, less expensive and consume less power.

More broadly, Sun is aiming to prove that the combination of Galaxy servers with Sun's Solaris 10 operating system will help the Santa Clara, Calif., company blaze a bigger, better trail in the server market. The company intends to capture volume in server market share before focusing on delivering additional value.

Sun officials ticked off a list of comparisons between its x64 line and similarly configured, x64 machines from HP and IBM, but its biggest sword was clearly drawn for Dell, which has carved out its reputation as a so-called industry standard leader.

Sun President and COO Jonathan Schwartz and Executive Vice President John Fowler attacked Dell with a computer demonstration comparing the price/performance ratio of its new two-way X4100 servers to some of Dell's PowerEdge machines.

Fowler controlled Sun's X4100 machines from a GUI on the left, while Schwartz commandeered Dell's PowerEdge machines on the right GUI. Both men began provisioning servers to complete a certain task.

While Fowler quickly provisioned six x4100 machines for a total cost of about $20,000 in terms of energy consumption, Schwartz had to deploy over 10 Dell machines to the tune of $67,000. Each time Schwartz provisioned a Dell server, the ka-ching of a cash register sounded, driving home the cost of deploying Dell machines.

The demonstration was anything but subtle; the commercial that preceded it was deadly.

In a professionally made commercial, an office manager discusses how, using Dell servers, he was able to achieve "good" results for his business. The ensuing action proved otherwise and was a scathing indictment of Dell machines.

At one point, the commercial had a construction worker knocking down the office manager's wall to accommodate more Dell servers. The suggestion was that Dell's machines were too big.

At another point, service workers roasted chicken over a Dell server, insinuating that Dell machines get so hot and consume so much energy. At another turn, Dell machines are used as a mountain climber's footholds, as the climber scaled an indoor practice rock climb.

Schwartz later claimed that Dell's PowerEdge servers were "slow, hot and huge," accusing Dell of focusing more on its flat-screen LCDs for consumers than improving its servers for the enterprise customer.

"Slow, hot and huge is not the value proposition you want to articulate if you want to gain share," Schwartz said. "They're behind. I think they're obviously focused on their supply chain in living rooms and not focused on the data center. We are 1,000 percent focused on the data center."

The commercial and demonstrations induced a great deal of laughter from the audience. But it didn't overshadow some serious questions about the company's ability to gain more overall market share after falling revenues from the last few quarters.

The fact that Sun came from nowhere in the x64 industry standard server market to win new market share with Solaris running on a variety of machines didn't deter analysts from asking how the company intends to boost its financial performance and sub-$4 stock price.

Schwartz admitted that Sun was late to the industry standard server market.

"We're coming off a pretty long tail obviously, and we want to do it by identifying new growth opportunities," Schwartz said. "And it's just not going to come by hoping that the days of large-scale SMP systems are going to recover. Customers are putting the majority of their focus on scaling out large-scale, shared services grids."

The executive promised Sun would work twice as hard, twice as fast and with twice the creativity to catch up.