With a bit of nifty footwork Sun Microsystems Inc was still able to introduce its shiny new Enterprise 450 workgroup servers with a cheaper tag than the Pro Liant 7000 and 6500 Windows NT servers Compaq Computer Corp wheeled out on Monday (CI No 3,226). Base price for Sun’s PCI bus workgroup UltraSparc RIC quad starts at $14,650, compared with the Pro Liant 7000 at $16,935 and 6500 at $14,735, both of which use up to four of the 1Mb L2 cache Pentium Pro CPUs Intel introduced yesterday. In the event, Compaq used SCO UnixWare to achieve its 10,546 TPC-C ($70.82 per tpmC) performance benchmark, not NT. Enterprise 450 turned in 11,559 TPC-C ($56.60 per tpmC). OK, so Sun has manage to edge Intel- based servers on some raw price/performance comparisons, but wasn’t RISC supposed to trounce CISC? And what happens when Intel does introduce Merced. Moreover, is Sun running the line as a loss leader, and just how does it expect to attract the kind of volumes to make the line? More than one customer of Sun’s higher- end Ultra Enterprise servers bemoaned the fact that for what they pay for a processor upgrade on a 5000 or 6000 server they could get a whole 450 server and still be left with some pocket change. It’s not a loss leader says Sun. The opportunity for a volume Unix/RISC workgroup server is a completely different value proposition to the SparcStation Unix desktops Sun once tried to combat PCs with, chief executive Scott McNealy argues. In the first instance the SparcStation didn’t have [Microsoft] Word.
Unix fear factor
Sun is offering a slew of software on Enterprise 450 that support multiple desktops and makes installation and use of Unix easy. The Syntax Inc TotalNET PC-Unix connectivity software which Sun offers as SunLink (CI No 3,204), enables PCs, Macs, NetWare and thin clients to access and download applications stored on an Enterprise 450, to use multiple email systems, perform SQL and spreadsheet queries and do desktop application programming across distributed, heterogeneous systems seamlessly. There’s no change to the client, Sun says. It also points to new directory services which can look up names and addresses over entire corporate intranets, not just on LANs. Software from ON Technology Inc even enables administrators to install NT on clients from Solaris running on the server. The big question however, and one Sun did not readily address, is how users will overcome deep and well-founded fear of all things Unix and put their hands in their pockets for it, rather than NT. Of course Sun points to easy use and installation tools including WebStart setup, SyMon management and Show Me How video-based instructional guides. But that’s just gloss. That said, Sun’s has managed to eliminate the usual price differential Unix application customers must pay. A bunch of ISVs such as Baan, SAP and PeopleSoft have agreed to price their applications on Sun’s quad the same as they do for the applications running on NT quads. The same goes for Oracle and Sybase workgroup databases. As far as the hardware is concerned we already have the chips, we stole the UPA bus from our other servers, we bash the tin, and hey we even use the same paint, Sun says.
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