Services Sprout From Hardware

Small players' wares stand up to giants'.

Systems makers are continuing to build off their hardware expertise to grow their comparatively small services businesses that, while nowhere near the size of those from IBM, Hewlett-Packard or Electronic Data Systems, still give their customers much-needed help and options.

At its Stratus World show in Las Vegas March 26-28, Stratus Technologies announced its Solution Services Group, a business unit that focuses on the companys experience building highly available, fault-tolerant servers. The unit will work with customers and partners to design, implement and manage infrastructures that need continuous availability, said Dave Femia, business manager for the new group.

The services unit builds off of Stratus Continuous Availability Framework, which the Maynard, Mass., company first unveiled in April 2005. The framework calls for assessing and creating an environment that supports continuous availability, remotely managing the environment through services and dashboards, and monitoring and evaluating the infrastructure.

Hotel Booking Solutions, an Atlanta-based online reservation company, opted for Stratus when looking for a managed services partner for its new data center in Ashburn, Va. Hotel Booking Solutions already had success using Stratus fault-tolerant servers at an older center in Dallas, said Greg Berman, vice president of engineering at Hotel Booking Solutions. That experience helped the company choose Stratus.

Stratus officials said they expect their services unit to generate 10 to 20 percent of the companys revenues by 2010. The goal now is to just keep the unit moving forward. "Any time were talking with a [prospective customer], were asking procedural questions," Femia said.

Stratus is focusing on its key customer segments, including manufacturing, life sciences, retail and e-commerce.

In mid- to late summer, Stratus will expand its services platform to include aspects such as business process rules, trending and capacity-related capabilities, Femia said. The goal is to offer not only corrective actions but also additional proactive ones, he said.

For its part, Sun Microsystems over the next four months will grow the offerings under its Customer Networked Services business.

Sun now offers Sun Update Connection, which gives customers using Solaris 10 patch management and update services. In the second quarter of this year, Sun will upgrade that offering, said Mike Harding, vice president of the companys Customer Networked Services unit, in Santa Clara, Calif. Through its acquisition of Aduva, a Linux and Solaris patch management software company, Suns capabilities also will cover Solaris 8 and 9, as well as all distributions of Linux. After that, Sun will roll out new predictive services for its networked offerings around areas such as asset management, power management and security.