Sun Microsystems Inc. is hoping the xSeries servers it released this week—the first in the line code-named Galaxy—will compel leery enterprise customers to consider its servers for their transition from 32-bit to 64-bit computing.
Since placing Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s Opteron chip at the center of its low-end server strategy last year, Sun has taken strides to advance its x86 strategy, including reviving Solaris for the x86 instruction set.
However, it remains to be seen whether Suns efforts will be enough to persuade IT managers to purchase the companys Opteron-based servers.
Some IT managers, such as Kevin Young, systems architect at Currenex Inc., in Redwood City, Calif., say that while they are encouraged by Suns recent moves, they remain wary. Eighteen months ago, Currenex, an online currency trading company, moved from a Sun SPARC computing infrastructure to Hewlett-Packard Co. servers running Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES 3.0.
Young said that hed like to see Solaris features such as Containers (which allow sites to run beta and production code in parallel) and DTrace debugging tools in action on x86 hardware, but he said he has no plans to purchase Sun Opteron servers.
"We like Solaris quite a bit but are a little leery of the x86 version," said Young. "Sun neglected it for so many years that its hard to swallow [the companys] pitch that its more mature than Linux."
James Dobson, a systems architect at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H., agreed that Sun must further reinforce its commitment to x86. "There is a market perception that [Sun is] relatively inexperienced in the x86 space," said Dobson.
Dobson runs a mixed-computing environment with Solaris on SPARC, Solaris 10 for x86 and Linux. Because he already purchases Sun workstations, Dobson said it would be nice if he could purchase all his servers and workstations from the same vendor in the future.
"What Ive always liked about Sun was the well-integrated system and the management software," Dobson said. "It will be very interesting to see what Sun can leverage to differentiate its hardware from other Opteron products."
Sun is hoping that the expertise and influence of Sun co-founder Andreas Bechtolsheim, who returned to Sun to design the Galaxy server family, will give it a distinct advantage over its competitors.
"More than anything, having [Bechtolsheim] come back to design a line of servers sends a message to the customer that Sun is putting engineering and R&D efforts [into] differentiating themselves in the x86 market," Dobson said. "It makes it look like theyre invested in the market and are doing something innovative. Im pretty excited."