HP Partners with Microsoft, Novell, Red Hat in Courting Sun Users

HP, which has been aggressive in enticing Sun customers, is partnering with operating systems makers Microsoft, Novell and Red Hat in its efforts. The partnerships are part of HP's overall Sun Complete Care program, a collection of products, services, support and financial incentives designed to lure customers worried about Sun's future over to HP. Over the past year, about 350 Sun customers have made the move, according to HP.

Hewlett-Packard is calling in Microsoft, Red Hat and Novell to help it cherry-pick customers from Sun Microsystems.

HP officials said Dec. 15 that the operating system vendors are bringing service offerings, incentives and training programs designed to make it easier for Sun customers to migrate to HP.

The partnerships are the latest steps by HP to grab customers from Sun, which has been struggling for years and currently is the target of a buyout by Oracle. The uncertainty surrounding Oracle's proposed $7.4 billion acquisition-the companies currently are awaiting the OK from European regulators to go through with the deal, and some Sun customers are unsure of the future of Sun's hardware once it gets absorbed by Oracle-is making HP an even more attractive alternative, according to officials there.

Bob Gill, managing director of server research for TheInfoPro, said that Sun customers seem to fall into two different camps. Half of them are happy about the Oracle relationship, believing that the software giant will give their SPARC/Solaris deployments the support they need.

"The other half are aghast," worried that the investments they've made in their environments are on the way out, Gill said in an interview.

HP introduced its Sun Complete Care program on July 16, the same day that Sun shareholders voted to approve the Oracle acquisition. The program is a collection of products, services, support plans and financial incentives designed to make it easier for Sun customers to migrate to HP's ProLiant, BladeSystem or Itanium-based Integrity servers.

Those servers can run a variety of operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Red Hat Enterprise Linux or HP's own HP-UX 11i Unix OS. They also can run Sun's Solaris operating system.

Over the 12 months that ended Oct. 31, more than 350 Sun customers have shifted to HP, thanks in large part of the Complete Care program, according to company officials.

The Complete Care program includes everything from proof-of-concepts to initial assessments and application migration services. Through the new partnerships, HP can now offer Sun customers a 50 percent discount on SUSE Linux Enterprise Fundamentals on-demand training, up to 25 percent off Red Hat Global training, and support from Microsoft's Migration Competency Center in France, which offers assessment and proof-of-concept services for Sun customers.

HP is not the only OEM looking to lure away Sun customers. IBM in November sharply cut memory prices on their Power servers, trying to give customers of both Sun and HP another reason to make the jump to Big Blue. IBM officials not only spoke about the uncertainty surrounding Sun's future, but also the delays that have haunted Intel's high-end Itanium chip, which is primarily found in HP's Integrity servers.

Sun saw significant growth in the 1990s as the Internet came into play, but its fortunes turned after the dot-com bust earlier this decade.

However, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has been vocal about his intentions of not only keeping Sun's hardware business-including Sun's SPARC processor-but increasing investments in it. Ellison has taken to tweaking IBM about the upcoming competition a combined Oracle and Sun will pose to Big Blue.