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Sun unveils low-end servers, alliances with Red Hat, Oracle

Sun announced new low-end x86-based servers that run on both Solaris x86 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux systems.

SAN FRANCISCO -- While extending its partnerships with Oracle Corp. and Red Hat Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc. staked its claim today as the leader in low-cost computing by unveiling two new x86-based servers. The $2,450 Sun Fire V60x and $2,650 V65x servers are priced lower than comparable servers from IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Computer Corp., according to Sun. Both can run either Sun Solaris x86 Platform Edition or Red Hat Linux operating systems.

"Post-bubble, TCO stands for 'take cost out,' " said Sun CEO Scott McNealy during a press conference at San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art. He joked that he'd thought of holding the event at Costco in order to emphasize Sun's position on low-cost, but he said that event co-host Larry Ellison, Oracle's CEO, wouldn't go to that discount warehouse.

Sun's announcements included the new servers, a global partnership with Red Hat, and the growth of its Solaris x86 ISV and third-party software base to 600 and 1,000, respectively.

But it was the Sun-Oracle connection that held the spotlight. Only McNealy and Ellison shared the stage during the main presentation. All that was seen of Red Hat was a prominently displayed Red Hat Linux software package.

Partners for 20 years, Sun and Oracle announced the extension of that alliance, wherein all of Sun's Solaris SPARC, Solaris x86 and Linux systems support Oracle. Sun previously "didn't have an x86 capability or Linux support" for all of Oracle's products, McNealy said. Now, users "have absolute, total choice across our entire product line and Oracle's product line."

In price, product, product capabilities and support, Oracle and Sun couldn't look like they were under the same equity base more than they do, McNealy said.

By partnering on the low end, Sun and Oracle have erased businesses' cost objections to Sun-Oracle adoption, Ellison said. People previously might have said that Sun and Oracle together offered the most secure, scalable and fast solution, but that it only ran on big, expensive computers. Now, "it's faster, it's unbreakable and it costs less," he said.

McNealy credited Ellison and Sun's customers with raising his awareness of the importance of low-cost offerings. McNealy and Ellison collaborated on a low-cost strategy over many dinners. Also, McNealy said, Sun's customers protested when Sun "hinted" that Solaris x86, version 9, wouldn't debut at the same time as Solaris SPARC 9.0.

McNealy admitted that Sun got "over-fired up" about 64-bit computing and, as a result, didn't jump on the 32-bit, low-cost computing bandwagon. "We're jumping on it now," he said.

The new Sun Fire V60x and V65x servers offer 2.8 GHz or 3.06 GHz Intel Xeon processors, six PCI-X slots and support for 12 GB of memory. This is more expandability, Sun claims, than IBM, HP or Dell offer.

To up the ante on low cost, Sun has dropped the price of its other x86-based system, Sun LX50, by 30%. A base configuration of LX50 now starts at $1,995.

As part of its low-cost leadership strategy, Sun has expanded its partnership with Red Hat on several fronts. First of all, Sun will sell and support all three x86 versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. That support will include support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux on third-party, Red Hat-certified hardware.

Support from a major vendor is important to enterprise Linux users, McNealy said. He's all in favor of the use of the well-organized Linux and open-source software community's free online support offerings. But, when problems plague mission-critical systems, enterprises want and should have access to the support of a large, well-trained and accountable support organization, he said.

Red Hat will bundle Sun's Java Virtual Machine with Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Java and Linux together will give customers alternatives to proprietary products from Microsoft, McNealy said.

Sun's inclusion of Linux in its x86 offerings is part of its mission to deliver an integrated, open standards-based software system. "We think open-source is great," McNealy said. He noted that there have been 4.5 million downloads of Sun's StarOffice for Linux office suite. "Everything we do plays with open-source, big-time," he said.

Finally, in a follow-up question-and-answer session, McNealy voiced concerns about SCO Group's lawsuit against IBM. "We believe in copyright and rule of law," he said. That said, he added, "I hope it [the lawsuit] doesn't mess with open-source."

FOR MORE INFORMATION news exclusive: "Red Hat's Tiemann: Architectural vision must be 20/20 news exclusive: "Exec says Sun is a Linux believer"

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