Canadian market ideal for midframes

The mainframe market will have some competition from a new corner – the midframe. Sun Microsystems Inc. is hoping to continue to build its strength in the server market and leave Big Blue and HP in its dust.

Sun chairman and CEO Scott McNealy actually turned over a mock IBM mainframe as part of the launch for the Sun Fire servers. McNealy was quick to note that Sun has become the biggest server supplier in the U.S.

These servers are set to replace the traditional mainframe for small-to-medium companies looking for traditional mainframe technology, but at a lower cost.

“The mainframes are very expensive to buy, very expensive to maintain,” McNealy said. “We thought, is there a way we can provide this capability in the Unix environment? Do it with Sun?”

He noted this is when Sun came up with the midframe server. “In this day and age when money will be tight, people are not going to want to go for an old mainframe.”

He said that anybody who had bet against the network or bandwidth had been wrong and is still wrong. People are spending more time on the Internet, and more people are doing things on the Internet. He said people can do more from their browsers everyday.

“The fundamental answer is we are still going to need an immense amount of server power and the data centre has to be made dot-com.”

McNealy noted that the mainframe has a lot of features that businesses like, but it also takes a lot to store and run it. He predicted Sun will ship more Sun Fire servers in one week than HP will ship Superdomes in the same time. “And they announced that product five months ago.”

The Sun Fires come with Sun Fireplace interconnect, which allows users to partition up to four separate servers within one box.

The Sun Fire servers are based on the UltraSPARC III architecture and run on Solaris 8. They enable users to do fast CPU upgrades and fault-isolated Dynamic System Domains.

John Shoemaker, executive vice-president of system products, said Sun has already shipped several Sun Fires, and there are purchase orders for Canadian companies, noticeably in the financial services industry.

“The small-to-medium market is a good place for these servers. It will allow companies to have the functionality of a mainframe without spending huge amounts of money,” he said.

There are four servers included in the Sun Fire series. The 3800, which has 64GB memory and eight CPUs, starts at $123,995. The 4800 features up to 12 CPUs and 96GB of memory. The 4800 starts at $220,215, and a rack-mountable version, the 4810, is also available. The 6800, featuring 192GB memory and up to 24 CPUs, is $424,185.