Sun Seeks to Lure Alpha Users

Sun hopes to lure users of HP's Alpha server technology with an incentive program that includes no-risk assessments of migrating to the SPARC/Solaris platform.

Sun Microsystems Inc. is hoping to lure users of Hewlett-Packard Co.s Alpha server technology with an incentive program that includes no-risk assessments of migrating to the SPARC/Solaris platform.

Sun, of Santa Clara, Calif., on July 21 will begin its HP Away program, which also will include financing, trade-in offers and application porting services. HP last year announced that it was consolidating all of its high-end servers onto Intel Corp.s Itanium processor, and that while support for their other chips will run through the decade, upgrades of those chips will end within a couple of years. The Palo Alto, Calif., company has laid out migration plans for those customers impacted.

Larry Singer, vice president of Suns global information systems strategy office, said the company initially will target users of HPs 64-bit Tru64/Alpha platform. HP, which acquired the technology with its purchase last year of Compaq Computer Corp., has said it will introduce the last Alpha upgrade next year.

"Very rarely does a competitor swing their doors wide open and say, Why dont you take a run at these guys?" Singer said. "This is really a growth opportunity for Sun."

He said that sales of Intels Itanium chips—which HP helped develop—have been poor, which will feed into the fears of Alpha server users who may not want to migrate off a Unix platform. Singer estimated that about 200,000 businesses run about 400,000 Alpha servers.

With the HP Away program—a play off the longtime name of HPs corporate culture, which employees called The HP Way—Sun will give customers a free two-day assessment to determine the costs and technology required to migrate to the SPARC/Solaris platform.

After that, there is a more in-depth two-week assessment that Sun will pay for if the user decides not to migrate to Suns platform. Sun also will defer the cost of the migration until the 90-day process is completed, and will offer financing and trade-in deals. Sun, through its professional services group, also will help with porting applications from the Tru64/Alpha platform.

Singer said that down the road, Sun plans to target other HP users impacted by the companys standardization on Itanium, including customers using HPs PA-RISC processor technology.

For their part, HP officials say they are unfazed by Suns plans.

"HP does have comprehensive and coordinated company-wide programs in place to aggressively pursue and migrate customers from Sun and IBM systems to HP systems, and we have been very successful in doing so," Mark Hudson, vice president of marketing for HPs Enterprise Storage and Servers unit, said in a statement. "However, we are not actively publicizing these as marketing programs, as our focus continues to remain on execution."