Sun Microsystems partnership with Fujitsu to jointly develop SPARC/Solaris-based systems gives the company—and its customers—much-needed breathing room.
With sales of Unix-based servers flagging, the deal will leave Sun with enough resources to continue enhancing its RISC-based processor while simultaneously growing a line of x86 systems and following through on its throughput computing strategy.
The Santa Clara, Calif., company last week announced that it will share the cost of research and development of future SPARC chips with Tokyo-based Fujitsu Ltd.
The deal will result in a new line of SPARC-based systems—called Advanced Product Line, or APL—by mid-2006. Eventually, the APL will replace Suns Sun Fire systems and Fujitsus PrimePower line.
Scott McNealy, Sun Microsystems Inc. chairman and CEO, said during a news conference that the partnership will broaden the choices for customers and enable the two companies to offer a competitive array of products that will compete with IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co.
"It just stands to reason that Sun and Fujitsu standing against IBM and a checked-out HP offers a pretty interesting alternative to the customer," McNealy said. "This is all about choice."
Fujitsus SPARC64 chip, which is based on Suns SPARC core, will be the processor for most of the initial APL systems. Both companies will manufacture the servers, with Fujitsu focusing on some midrange and high-end systems and Sun on midrange and low-end servers, Fujitsu officials said.
McNealy said he envisioned an array of servers that could scale from one to 128 processors and run Solaris, the Java Enterprise System middleware stack and most enterprise applications.
The Unix space has contracted as more enterprises grow comfortable with Intel Corp.-based systems running Windows or Linux. But Unix servers still accounted for more than a third of the $11.5 billion in server sales in the first quarter, according to IDC.
The Sun-Fujitsu deal has given SPARC users, such as Michael Hodges, confidence that the technology will continue to be enhanced.
"Ive long been worried about Sun following in the footsteps of my last favorite engineering company, Digital Equipment Corp.," said Hodges, manager of system services at the University of Hawaii, in Honolulu.
"Sun has leveraged Java to broaden its base, but that hasnt helped with profitability. Combining efforts with Fujitsu should help Sun with the costs of R&D while also helping to open additional markets."