Has Dell Been Blinded by Sun?

Dell is spreading itself thin and jumping into areas it doesn't really know about.

Dell has become the darling of the industry, taking commodity products, spitting them out on an efficient computer manufacturing machine and backing them up with adequate support.

But Dell is lately spreading itself thin and jumping into areas it doesnt really know about. Its turned from a manufacturing machine to a marketing machine.

Dell is like Wal-Mart. It moves into a territory with an incomplete distribution model, drops prices and knocks off competition. But Wal-Mart is a disaster when it tries to service anything that is not a commodity. High-end computing is not yet a commodity.

At the OracleWorld keynote two weeks ago, Michael Dell launched into a scathing attack on Sun and the Unix platform in general. Unfortunately, he was wrong in two areas. Dell said that Linux is the new Unix. Hes only partly correct. Linux is in many ways a better Unix than Unix, since its less expensive, has broader support and runs many of the same applications. Companies such as Sun have worked to give Linux broader international capabilities and to make it binary-compatible.

On the other hand, Linux still does not scale on SMP machines as well as Solaris. Oracle and others say that this simply doesnt matter, since the applications will handle scaling and fault tolerance for Linux, but thats not a complete answer. Scaling should be done at the core level of the system.

Stealing a page from those who capitalized on the weaknesses of the Transaction Processing Performance Council, Dell then lambasted Sun for being high-priced and slow. He tossed up slides to prove his point. He didnt mention that the Sun machine he compared his current Dell servers with was 2 years old and a previous-generation product with 14 processors (and therefore expensive) and was made to handle a different workload than running TPC numbers.

He also didnt mention that Sun also has $1,000 SPARC servers, that the price of Suns LX-50 is in the same ballpark as Dell servers or that systems in Suns Netra line are available for less than $3,000.

Dell simply transferred his manufacturing machine to a new marketing machine. It may work, but dont count out true systems companies yet.

Can Dell do PDAs and printers without sacrificing support on servers? Write to john_taschek@ziffdavis.com.