Seeking to address customers demand for easier and faster setup of enterprise systems, Sun Microsystems Inc. said this week that it has greatly expanded its ability to deliver "ready-to-deploy" hardware.
Through its new offering, called Customer Ready Systems, Sun will install software, and pre-configure and integrate hardware—including third-party systems and software—in its own factories so that the systems are immediately available for service once they arrive at the customers doorsteps.
The program is in keeping with a recent trend among major computer makers to expand service offerings as a means of attracting and keeping customers. In particular, Sun, the top seller of Unix systems worldwide, is facing increasing competition from IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co., who already offer such configuration and setup services.
By utilizing the new service, Sun says customers can increase deployment times by up to 90 percent and eliminate potential early-life system issues by having them addressed at Suns factories.
"More and more our customers are saying to us, You know were not getting more money in our budgets, our head counts are down, you guys need to help us in terms of making what we deploy simpler," said Raj Das, director of marketing for Suns Integrated Products Group, in Palo Alto, Calif.
The service is now available worldwide and encompasses all of Suns hardware and software offerings. The program is an expansion of the Floor Tile Ready Program the company launched in October that was previously only available in the United States and covered less than half of Suns product offerings.
The advantages of the program are most pronounced for large-scale customers, said Gary Beck, director of the Integrated Products Group.
"Theres one case where we did this where we reduced the number of boxes shipped to the customer from about 5,100 boxes down to 36 ready-to-deploy racks," Beck said. "If youre talking about opening about 5,000 boxes, cataloging and putting things together, it can be just a nightmare for some of our larger customers."
System managers at the University of Hawaii and Oracle Corp., among the first Sun customers to take advantage of the program, found the service lived up to its promise.
"The Sun CRS program saved us a couple hundred hours of labor," said Michael Hodges, manager of systems services at the University of Hawaii, in Honolulu, which implemented Sun systems in its new student information system. "Id recommend it as a way of alleviating bottlenecks to anyone with serious facility or staffing constraints."
"If wed really had to do the deployment the traditional way, we wouldnt be a third as far along as we are today," said John Pilat, Oracles vice president of software engineering in its Server Technologies unit. "When the systems show up at our door, all we have to do is wheel them into the data center, plug them in, and theyre all ready for integration into our network."
The cost of the service varies based on the type of hardware being configured. For volume servers, such as Suns Netra one- or two-way servers, the price is $195; for higher-end multiprocessor servers, prices start at $595; prices per rack begin at $1,495. Sun charges an additional $295 to add customer-provided software.
"We believe from a long-term standpoint that we can see the day when the only thing they buy are integrated platforms and they are going to move away from piece parts," Das said.