Sun Promises "Toe-to-Toe" Pricing on Linux Servers

by Don Marti

Sun promised aggressive pricing on single- and dual-processor x86 Linux servers at a media event held this past Monday in San Francisco. On pricing, "we will absolutely go toe-to-toe with Dell and with a better product", said Stephen DeWitt, Vice President and General Manager of Content Delivery and Edge Computing and former CEO of Cobalt. On February 7th, Sun announced a line of general-purpose Linux servers and its own Linux distribution to run on them. Systems are scheduled to be available early in the second half of 2002.

But as for what hardware is going to be in the box, we're in suspense. DeWitt dismissed the actual hardware design as a small matter of shopping and testing, where Sun's Cobalt team will be on familiar ground. (The Qube 3 uses the AMD K6.) The first generation of the new general-purpose box might use AMD and future ones might use Intel, or vice versa, DeWitt said.

As might be expected, Sun executives said that the new Linux servers are absolutely not going to cannibalize existing Solaris sales, since they will be sold at only the low end of the market, where x86 is already strong. "Edge markets are real and it's where the dollars and cents are being spent on Linux today", DeWitt said.

In the short term, customers aren't demanding much Linux for midrange and big iron servers, he said. Anil Gadre, vice president and general manager for Solaris, dismissed rumors of a transition away from Solaris and said that Sun's sales force has been enthusiastic about having another product to sell. Workstations will continue to be SPARC/Solaris-based.

Although the new servers will use a new Sun distribution and not one of the existing contenders, DeWitt said, "we don't want to put developers down some esoteric rathole". Vivek Mehra, Vice President and General Manager for Sun Cobalt Server Appliances, said that the new distribution will be LSB-compliant and will support .lsb (essentially RPM v3) packages, as well as the Cobalt RPM-based .pkg packages. The Cobalt packages are essentially shell scripts wrapped around RPMs to make sure that they are installed in the proper order, without creating midinstall conflicts.

Sun may support other Linux distributions on its hardware for large customers, but it will not offer its distribution for non-Sun hardware, Mehra said.

Other software to be preloaded on Sun Linux systems will include Java, ChiliSoft ASP, SNMP, Apache (with the Tomcat JSP environment) and software for management by the Sun Cobalt Control Station. "We absolutely intend to have world-class Java on the Linux platform", Gadre said.

Dell's web site is currently offering 1U rackmount servers starting at $849. "Toe-to-toe" pricing for a box with everything Sun proposes to offer will be quite an accomplishment.


Sun Broadens Support for Linux,

Don Marti is Technical Editor of Linux Journal.

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