MS, Unisys Roll Out Joint Ads

Mainframe giant Unisys and Microsoft Corp. are debuting the first co-branded campaign supporting their joint ES7000 server solution.

The yearlong “Way Out” effort, which begins with print ads on Friday, paints the ES7000 offering — combining high-end Unisys hardware with Microsoft’s Windows Datacenter — as a cost-saving alternative to UNIX-based systems.

Targeting customers of Sun Microsystems , Hewlett-Packard and IBM , initial trade print ads in the campaign describe the Intel-based ES7000 as the solution for customers feeling trapped by complex, proprietary Unix systems.

Copy in the pieces read: “No wonder Unix makes you feel boxed in. It ties you to an inflexible system. It requires you to pay for expensive experts. It makes you struggle daily with a server environment that’s more complex than ever. Now for the good news. Microsoft and Unisys have joined together to offer you a Unix alternative.”

The ads show a room in which someone has literally painted themselves into a corner. (The paint in the ad, not surprisingly, is a purple shade reminiscent of the color of Sun’s servers.)

In addition to print ads, the two companies also launched, which houses case studies, planning guides and an Unisys user group. Traffic will be driven to the site through an online advertising component, and through direct mail and e-mail.

Future ads could focus on cost savings resulting from being able to leverage existing Wintel skill sets, “extending from your handhelds to your desktops to your low-level servers to your data center,” said Mark Feverston, vice president of marketing for enterprise servers at Unisys. Other ads could also concentrate on savings resulting from consolidating existing servers on the ES7000, which boasts a maximum of 32 partitionable Intel processors.

Later in the year, Blue Bell, Penn.-based Unisys said it would consider television spots as well. All told, Unisys said it expects to reach an estimated 27,000 IT professionals at the top 4,000 companies worldwide.

“Customer experience and market research have proven that the Unisys/Microsoft solution can support a large database at half the cost of what Sun charges,” said Unisys’ Pete Samson, who was recently named senior executive in charge of the Microsoft alliance. “The facts are, customers are being forced to do more with less. Enter Unisys and Microsoft, who have all but eliminated Unix vendors’ historic technical advantages while maintaining the widely acknowledged advantage of far lower cost and complexity. We are confident this campaign will tap a vast reservoir of pent-up demand for customers ready to jump to servers supporting industry standard technology. Mainstream adoption of the Unisys/Microsoft solution is at hand, and we believe the next 18 months will bear that out.”

The ads are the first co-branded advertising done by longtime partners Microsoft and Unisys, who signed a development and sales agreement for the ES7000 in December after months of selling the solution individually. Unisys said it had committed $25 million to the campaign, which was designed by Boede and Partners; Microsoft did not disclose its spending.

“We’re moving toward being the Unix alternative, and this campaign is all about telling the marketplace that we’ve had tremendous success in the ES7000,” Feverston said. “We’ve penetrated the market and we’re now going to tell people we have a lot of experience under our belt, a lot of successes under out belt, and there’s now no reason not to consider Windows and Intel in the enterprise space.”

After more than a year of individually selling the ES7000/Datacenter combo, “I think we’re ready,” he added. “Microsoft and Unisys have done our missionary work over last couple of years, taking Datacenter and large Intel boxes into the marketplace, and we’ve had successes — we’re pushing into an area where no one’s been before in the Wintel environment, and we can provide a significant alternative to Unix.”

The campaign comes just a month after IBM debuted its own ads promoting its Unix-based, low-end z800 mainframe. Like the Unisys/Microsoft “Way Out” campaign, the IBM effort focused on cost savings by consolidating a server farm on one or more z800s. The campaign also comes just a week after Sun announced its new line of midrange Sun Fire servers, which have the capacity for up to 24 processors.

Ironically, supporters of Unix-based systems have long advocated the flexibility of their products in comparison to Microsoft’s server software.

In addition to new products and similar claims by rivals, Unisys and Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft have also faced their fair share of trouble in simply finding distributors for the ES7000. Last May, for instance, Compaq said it would abandon selling the ES7000 in favor of cheaper systems with fewer processors, in response to client demand. Dell followed suit earlier this month.

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