Sun Incentive Programs Reinforce Good Behavior

Sun Microsystems Inc. is hoping to help customers help themselves.

Sun Microsystems Inc. is hoping to help customers help themselves and at the same time improve system and network performance through a series of incentive programs tied to product and services pricing.

As part of the price of some products, the Santa Clara, Calif., company will include credits for training and other services and will likely offer price discounts on services to organizations that follow best practices, according to Vivek Joshi, vice president of Sun Services Strategy.

Best practices include such behaviors as deploying products in line with Suns prescribed architecture, keeping up-to-date with patches and getting Sun certification for engineers who use the products.

"Anecdotally, if we work with customers upfront [in their Sun deployments], they get better performance," Joshi said. "We have data that shows that customers with Sun competency on staff [as demonstrated by Sun certifications] ... can get a double-digit improvement."

An important incentive for customers is to save money by simply running systems more efficiently, Joshi said. But Sun will also offer upfront savings with a reduction in maintenance fees for customers that meet as-yet-to-be-defined standards. The size of such reductions has not been calculated, but it could be "in the 10 percent range," said Joshi.

Other incentives could include free assessments of how an organizations data center could be overhauled and credits toward Sun certification training.

Sun has not set a firm date for broadly offering the incentive program, but it is pilot testing the concept with a number of companies. Joshi said he expects the as-yet-unnamed program to be announced in December or next March.

The move comes as Sun tries to transition its services unit from an organization that offers traditional break-fix maintenance for Sun equipment to one that offers life-cycle services in multivendor data centers. The company will deliver these broader services with a strong reliance on systems integration and VAR partners, Joshi said.

"After a couple fits and starts, Sun has finally started to think about services seriously," said John Madden, an analyst at Summit Strategies Inc., in Boston. "It realizes that services has to be part of the package; its not just pushing another Solaris box out the door."

Sun lacks the in-house expertise to pull off a big services push without the help of third parties, Madden said.