Sun, which hasnt turned a profit in nearly five years, is in under the gun to get back into the black after making billions in the 1980s and 1990s on its network servers and high-end workstations. Like other high-end computer makers (SGI is a star example), it has been hard-pressed in this decade to deliver profits when other manufacturers can deliver adequate performance on much cheaper platforms. New CEO Jonathan Schwartz, to whom Fowler reports directly, has identified the server, storage and open-source enterprise software businesses as the three main areas Sun needs to lead it back to profitability. Fowlers influence touches all three of those areas.Click here to read more about Intels low-power chips for blades. Finally, businesses of all sizesnot just Fortune 200 companiesare getting more serious about consolidating their IT systems and revamping their data centers. Nonetheless, the time may be just right for the Sun assault into the blade server business. "Were designing these new blades for the data center, not just for the individual chassis," Fowler said. "By designing them with the data center in mind, we can help facilities planners with their long-term blueprints. IT managers can better amortize their systems with units that will last longer; with these plug-and-play servers, which have full I/O out of the box, you dont have to waste a lot of time configuring them. "Have you ever configured an HP server? Thats a good experience I recommend it! With our servers, theres no figuring out power supplies, no bus bars, no calculating anything. Ours works off the shelf. This is a Toyota that comes with one kind of engine. Thats it." Combining two division had been plan all along Fowler is often credited by some analysts with planning and executing Suns highly successful x64 SunFire server line. Fowler said that combining the x64 and SPARC server groups had always been in the companys long-term plan. It was not a reorganization designed by Schwartz, even though it happened only 30 days after he took the CEO job. Fowler said that Sun always intended to put the x64 servers into an independent group to help boost sales, but that the long-term goal had always been to merge them with the SPARC servers. Fowler said that the recent announcement by Sun that it will need to lay off 11 percent to 13 percent of its work force4,000 to 5,000 peopleby the end of the year "will not affect the product road map were on." There had been talk about heavy layoffs in the SPARC systems group and that Sun might have to rely more heavily on its partner, Fujitsu Computer Systems, to handle future SPARC development. There will be no change in any of the product development timetables, Fowler said. Fowler also was asked about Suns new servers being prepared to run on AMD Rev F chips, the development of which has been rumored to be weeks behind schedule. Will this affect Suns new Galaxy servers, due out this fall? "Not at all," Fowler said. "Everything about our new servers is congruent; it really doesnt matter which chips are used. Everything is easily interchangeable." Fowler ended the discussion with a prediction: "Blade servers will end up supplanting rack servers over time, just as rack-mounted servers replaced tower servers. The time factor? Dont know, but this will happen." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.
He has his work cut out for him. Hewlett-Packard is expected to introduce its next-generation modular blades on June 14. IBM may show some new blades this summer. Chip makers such as Intel and Advanced Micro Devices are putting more R&D into blade offerings. AMDs newest processors are much more power-efficient and require less cooling, and Intels newest dual-core Xeon "Woodcrest" processors, due out on June 26, fit this bill exactly.