Sun Takes ‘Smarter Enterprise’ to Washington

Sun Microsystems is announcing new hardware, software and services as part of its push for new government contracts.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company is hoping to build its
portfolio in D.C. after a visit
to Wall Street
late last year spurred sales of its x86 Solaris-based systems.

During a press event in Washington Tuesday, Sun CEO Scott McNealy and executives are expected to lay out Sun’s approach to government contracts with what it calls a “Smarter Enterprise.”

“The message is relatively broad-based,” Anil Gadre, Sun’s Chief
Marketing Officer, told “We’re telling
customers, ‘If you are not thinking about a Web services-based platform, you should be. If you are thinking about security, we are already there.’ We don’t think that anybody has encapsulated it the way that we have. We are the infrastructure people.

“We also want to be clear to our partners that we can be more
preferential than IBM or HP mostly because we don’t compete with our
partners,” he said.

The company is well aware of forecasts issued by IT research and analyst group IDC last month that show the U.S. government’s technology spending will continue to show steady growth, increasing from about $43 billion in 2004 to nearly $52 billion by 2007.

But analysts suggest Sun’s other motivation is that it is losing some of its government accounts to IT managers who have turned to Linux on cheap x86 servers over the last few years.

During Sun’s last financial quarterly earnings conference call,
financial analysts dinged Sun for losing government contracts in the
last few months.

“We are reminded that Sun missed its December quarter in part due to a sharp falloff in federal business,” Mark Stahlman, a technology strategist and an equity analyst at investment bank Caris & Company, said in a newsletter to investors. “[This is] largely tied to temporary reallocations in defense
spending and the steady poaching of its Federal Systems sales team by
Juniper and others.”

Gary Hein, a vice president and analyst with Burton Group, told that Sun’s saving grace may be its Solaris 10
operating system, which costs about a third less
than similar licenses with Red Hat or Novell’s SUSE . Hein also said Solaris also has some free support options like security updates and quarterly package updates that its rivals do not such as DTrace or Solaris Zones that are currently available as a paid feature with third-party software vendors like VMware.

“I really think Sun is trying to kick the legs out from the Linux
vendors, and that competition is good for customers,” Hein said. “I’m
advising our clients to take a closer look at Solaris 10 if they’re
considering Linux as an OS for open source workloads.”

Hein said the best thing Sun could do is to cater to the
concerns of customers who may have been dissatisfied with Sun’s past
hardware prices or for pulling support for x86 architectures.

“The announcements all sound very good but there is a show-me aspect and skepticism with Sun,” Hein said.

The other obstacle Sun may face is the slow wheel of procurement in Washington. Hein said he interviewed one government contractor for the
U.S. Department of Defense that said they were interested in Solaris 10
but that the purchase cycle moves very slowly

Products Focus on Smarter Enterprise and Economies of Scale

Sun is expected to announce the following products and services during Tuesday’s event:

  • Sun Connection service – Based on its Sun Grid model, the
    company is debuting the service with an update feature that applies all
    the latest fixes and features for Sun software through a utility model.

  • Java StorEdge System and Managed Storage Services – A new
    storage subscription offering based on its Java Enterprise per-employee
    model> Designed for heterogeneous environments, Sun said it would offer
    discounts if it manages the assets.

  • Sun N1 System Manager – An upcoming hardware-based tool for
    managing large banks of Sun systems. The company said it will adapt its
    “Lights Out” technology to servers made by its competitors but is
    beginning initially with its Sun Fire V40z and V20z servers.

  • Sun N1 Service Provisioning System – The latest version of the
    Sun N1 Service adds the ability to track changes throughout process,
    including an audit trail to help customers meet regulatory compliance.

  • Sun Grid Rack System – The previously released pay-per-use compute utility is now available
    for $1 per CPU per hour.

  • Sun Grid Solution – Piggybacking off of its Sun Grid focus, the
    company is offering a batch of tailored services to help manage a grid
    solution using Sun technology.

  • Sun Operations Management Solution – A new data center-focused
    product that aligns with the ITIL Service Support model and utilizes
    Sun’s data center expertise and best operational practices to reduce
    costs and improve overall effectiveness of IT operations to meet
    business needs.

  • Sun Business Intelligence Network Computing Solution – Sun is
    aligning its closest partners with its services and infrastructure to
    offer customers a business intelligence product that can be changed or
    customized to suit a company’s needs.

In the hardware space, Sun reiterated that it will ship dual-core for
its entire x64 product line starting with its 2-way V20z and 4-way V40z
servers. The company is expected to augment its AMD products with Sun
co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim’s upcoming servers code-named Galaxy. Sun
is also expected to tout its StorEdge 6920 system as an easy dovetail
into Sun’s new update and grid services.

Sun is also expected to outline its ‘4X4’ approach to how it can help
customers get their systems up faster. The strategy is based on four
design principles and four key architectural concepts including Service
Oriented Architecture (SOA) for business processes, Secure Network
Access Platform (SNAP) for secure access, Information Lifecycle
Management (ILM) for managing data as a service, and Service Optimized
Data Center platform (SODC) for streamlining a company’s IT
infrastructure for service delivery.

Sun executives said its four principles of design include building IT
infrastructure that is focused on competitive differentiation; demanding
open, interoperable infrastructure; standardizing and automating to
maximize service levels; and making security part of the core
architecture design.

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