Sun Makes Cloudy Data Center Play

Struggling Sun pushes new subscription model for data center services, in an attempt to compete with IBM and HP

June 2, 2004

2 Min Read
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Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) is pushing a new subscription model and utility computing for the data center in an attempt to revive its flagging fortunes.

Today the big iron vendor said it will start selling 100 services offered within its Sun Preventive Services strategy on a subscription basis. The company aims to avoid downtime by monitoring data center performance across areas such as systems analysis and software upgrades. Also, it saves users from having to pay for services separately.

Sun is offering a 20 percent discount to users whose data centers reach a set performance level for three months across five key metrics.

Sun has good reason to make its data center play at the moment. The company posted heavy losses for this quarter, and it's feeling the heat from rival vendors such as IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) and Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) in the hardware and services space (see Is Sun Setting?).

However, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company was unable to provide a specific figure for how much the subscription model will cost users. It depends on the density of the equipment, on their environment, and the types of system that they have," says Trisha Bright, director of services marketing at Sun.Nonetheless, Sun users have given a initial thumbs-up to the strategy. Dave Shearer, chairman of the U.K. Sun User Group, says, “We are still waiting to see the details of this, but it sounds like it could give users more choice.”

Like IBM and HP, Sun is also keen to promote on-demand, or utility, computing, which enables users to pay only for the computing resources they use at any given time, as opposed to paying for the overall cost of the hardware. As part of today’s announcement, Sun unveiled a new offering for the StorEdge 9980 array. Pricing for this model starts at 2 cents per megabyte per month.

Shearer feels that this is also a step in the right direction. “As far as the user is concerned, it goes back to the utility model,” he says. "It has been popular elsewhere in the market place, so paying for resources as you need them makes sense."

Utility computing also enables users to develop their data center infrastructure in stages, according to Cindy Borovick, IDC's program director of data center networks: “Customers, when they think about utility computing, really want the ability to buy incrementally -- so this could be Sun’s way of hitting that key target.”

— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-gen Data Center Forum0

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