Sun Microsystems introduced a new high-end server, claiming the Sun Fire 15K will supplant IBM mainframes in corporate data centers.
The new product is a 16- to 106-processor server, whose processors can be subdivided or "partitioned" into 18 submachines. The Sun Fire comes with 576 gigabytes of memory, "unprecedented in a single system," said Shahin Kahn, Sun Fire product marketing director.
While Sun executives focused on their competition with IBM, Big Blue is, in fact, a distant No. 3 in Unix server market revenue, with Hewlett-Packard in second place. IDCs figures for worldwide Unix server revenue indicate that Sun led the field last year with 35.4 percent, followed by HP at 23.2 percent and IBM at 18.6 percent.
All three companies are vying for more of the high-end market — systems with prices starting at $1 million, with lucrative follow-on software, storage and service sales, according to Jean Bozman, IDCs Unix market analyst.
Paul Nussbaum, vice president of Ford Financial who attended last weeks Sun event, said his company was saving "$200 million a year" by moving applications off IBM mainframes and onto Sun servers.
Suns announcement of the server had been scheduled for New York, then changed to San Francisco and was finally held in New York after the company heeded Mayor Rudolph Guilianis call for companies to come to his stricken city. But the announcement was not business as usual, as Sun CEO Scott McNealy paused to remember Sun executive Phil Rosenzweig, who was killed Sept. 11 when the plane he was on crashed into the World Trade Center. McNealy, usually at no loss for words, choked up and exited the stage, turning over the product announcement to Sun President Ed Zander.
The "humongous capacity" of the Sun Fire 15Ks larger configuration can supply two-and-half times the performance of IBMs largest mainframes, Suns Kahn said. With a helper, Kahn illustrated how a motherboard with memory and central processing units can be pulled out and another plugged in while the system is running, unlike an IBM z900.
Asked why Sun was ignoring HP, IDCs Bozman noted: "Amdahl and Hitachi have exited the IBM-compatible mainframe business. Sun sees an opening there."
The Star Fire 15K is available this quarter at prices ranging from $1.3 million to $10 million, depending on configuration.