Sun Targets Financial-Services Companies With Product Blitz

Systems vendor tries to recapture market share with low-cost servers and an enhanced Solaris operating system.

September 22, 2004

3 Min Read
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It's back to the future for Sun Microsystems as it conducts its quarterly product launch on Wall Street in New York on Tuesday, where the company will pledge to continue its efforts to recapture its one-time dominance among financial-services companies. "We're going back to our roots," says John Loiacono, executive VP of software for Sun. "By taking our eye off the ball and not meeting some of the demand, we let business slip away. Now we're ready to take that business back."

Originally a major supplier of workstations and servers to financial-services companies, Wall Street remains a multibillion dollar market for Sun, Loiacono says. That market could be substantially larger if Sun hadn't made a number of miscalculations in the late '90s that led to an erosion of its position, he says.

Among the missteps was not adequately addressing the price and performance equation with its servers, and discontinuing research and development to make its Solaris operating system easier to use on x86-based systems.

Those are two areas that Sun wants Wall Street to know it's now addressing, Loiacono says. Sun is introducing lower-cost systems based on Opteron processors from Advanced Micro Devices Inc., and will continue expansion of Solaris for use in multiple environments, including a plan to release operating systems to the open-source community later this year.

Gordon Haff, an analyst with research firm Illuminata, says he isn't sure how big an impact that opening up Solaris will make. "It's really a play for the development community," he says. "Sun used to be the most popular Unix development platform, and it's really been upstaged by Linux in particular and open source in general. I'm not sure this makes a practical difference, but it's a mind-share game and potentially puts IBM and HP on the defensive to be more open."By bringing its road show to New York, Sun is clearly trying to make a statement, Haff says. "Sun had fairly loyal customers in the financial-services community that have moved at least part of their operations to Linux and x86 because running on those platforms was cheaper," Haff says. "Solaris x86 gives Sun quite a strong entree back in."

Stephen Borcich, VP of partner and industry marketing for Sun, agrees. "We've made no bones about it that a priority is the rollout of Solaris on Opteron."

Sun plans to introduce a four-way Opteron-based Sun Fire V40z, as well as Sparc-based Sun Fire V490 and V890 four- and eight-way servers. The company also is to talk about software releases scheduled over the next 90 days in support of the Solaris 10 operating system, which is expected to be officially launched in November. Sun will provide details of how Solaris 10 is being optimized to work in Opteron, Xeon, or Sparc environments, Borcich says. "The message will be that Solaris is, by definition, multiplatform, and the hardware we continue to deliver will have multiple operating-system compatibility," he says.

The expansion of the potential user base for Solaris, as well as increased platforms based on Opteron, will help the company drive volume and gain market share currently held by key competitors, Loiacono says. "If you're not on a volume platform, [independent software vendors] lose interest in you," he says. "We're showing that we are in fact dedicated to the low-cost space. Wall Street had lost faith that we could really address the low-cost arena."

The company also will provide details of its Studio 10 software, scheduled to launch in the fourth quarter, which is designed to work with Opteron and Xeon-based systems to run 64-bit applications.Sun also will reveal the StorEdge 6920 system, a mid-range product; the StorEdge 9990, a high-end enterprise platform with virtualization capabilities; and the StorEdge 5210 NAS, with heterogeneous operating system support. The StorEdge 6920 will be available with a utility, pay-for-use option starting at 80 cents per Sun power unit per month, including hardware, software, installation, and support.

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