Sun/IBM face-off may benefit users

By Jaikumar Vijayan, Computerworld |  Operating Systems

The tussle for market share between IBM, which this week introduced new Unix servers, and Sun Microsystems Inc. could mean better deals for customers in the months ahead, analysts said.

But users shouldn't evaluate the two companies based only on the competing price and performance claims being bandied about by the vendors, analysts added.

IBM officials last week claimed that its two new midrange Unix servers -- the p620 and the p660 -- offer substantially greater performance at much lower prices than comparable systems from Sun.

The systems are the first midrange IBM servers to feature the company's silicon-on-insulator technology, as well as self-management and mainframe-class error-correction capabilities, which result in a 35% performance boost without additional cost, said Michael Kerr, an IBM vice president.

AIX 5L

In addition to new servers, IBM also announced AIX 5L this week. The Unix software includes the following features:

*Linux affinity: Allows Linux applications to run on AIX with recompile

*Increased scalability: Offers support for up to 32 processors and 256GB of memory

*Better e-business support: Virtual IP addressing helps application availability

*Enhanced system management: Includes an automated system monitoring and resource usage measuring tool

Sun declined to comment on IBM's claims. But Jonathan Eunice, an analyst at Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H., said that while IBM's new boxes may have the same raw performance as comparable Sun servers, they don't have the same redundancy or built-in scalability.

Meanwhile, as previously planned, Sun last week cut prices on several of its server configurations to make way for its new UltraSPARC III-based systems, which are due to start shipping in volume later this year.

Prices for the Sun's UltraSPARC II-processor-based Sun Enterprise 3500 to 6500 servers were reduced by as much as 16%. For example, the price of a Sun Enterprise 6500 system with 24 processors and 48GB of memory was cut from $874,000 to $775,000, or by 11.3%. Sun also dropped prices on its Enterprise 10000 server by as much as 16%.

While Sun's price cuts are related to its UltraSPARC III systems, they're also part of the company's increasingly bitter turf war with IBM, according to Eunice.

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