Fujitsu Makes Server Moves on Sun

With PrimePower 2000, vendor offers Sun customers a less expensive Solaris-based system

While IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun Microsystems Inc. have long waged a battle for the high end of the Unix server market, these companies no longer boast the biggest box on the block.

Fujitsu Technology Solutions Inc. recently announced the availability of the first 128-processor, Solaris-based server, the PrimePower 2000.

The announcement comes just as Sun, of Palo Alto, Calif., plans to release its own more robust server in the next couple of months.

Fujitsus system, released last month, again raises the bar for already hulking Unix servers, offering double the processors currently found in Suns most powerful E10000 and HPs top-of-the-line Superdome and more than five times more chips than IBMs most powerful 24-way p680 eServer.

The new system—expected to sell for about $8 million when fully configured—features Fujitsus 563MHz SPARC64 GP processors, enabling it to run the Solaris 8 operating system and utilize the 12,000 or so applications tied to it, both key selling points Sun touts to differentiate itself from HP and IBM.

While multiprocessors dont necessarily translate into more computing power, such systems are well- suited to handling vast amounts of data simultaneously, a feature that has drawn increasing attention in recent years as data centers have been inundated by Internet-related transactions.

Fujitsu Technology Solutions, of Sunnyvale, Calif., was formed in November by Tokyo computing company Fujitsu Ltd. and highlights the latters efforts to boost its presence in the U.S. server and storage market. Currently, the parent company enjoys its strongest sales in Asia and Europe.

Fujitsu appears to be targeting Sun customers by offering comparable and relatively less expensive Solaris-based systems. The companys efforts have met with some success, with Sun client Blue Cross Blue Shield Association slated to be the first U.S. customer to receive the 128-way server, industry sources said.

But some system managers say they would be reluctant to buy Solaris-based hardware from anyone but Sun. "We normally dont look at third parties unless there is some tremendous value-add," said Tom Miller, an eWeek Corporate Partner who oversees a Sun E10000 as senior director of corporate IS at Affymetrix Inc., in Santa Clara, Calif. "Companies considering niche players are usually mostly interested in cost. But if youre a good-size customer, you can negotiate hard with the major vendors and eliminate much of that cost differential."

As Fujitsu seeks to muscle in on its turf, Sun in the next two months will release a more robust server known as the StarCat, the successor to the E10000, which will reportedly be capable of handling up to 108 processors.

In addition, Sun is integrating faster UltraSPARC III processors into its product lines to boost performance. But the migration has been slowed by low chip yields and product glitches.

Last month, Sun announced the availability of enhanced E10000 servers. The systems now come equipped with 466MHz UltraSPARC II chips, resulting in a 16 percent performance increase over the 400MHz processors used previously, Sun officials said.