Sun fires up enterprise server market

The recently released Sun Fire 12K from Sun Microsystems Inc. is a general-purpose server that essentially employs the same technology and high-end functionality as its popular 15K server, the company said. But the new Sun Fire 12K features a significant difference – the 12K is predicated on the Santa Clara, Calif.-based firm’s assumption that low-cost, high-performance servers are something companies are clamouring for.

The main contrast between the Sun Fire 12K and last year’s 15K is that the 15K ships with more expansion technology. “That’s where we come out with a different price point,” said Chris Kruell, San Diego-based group marketing manager of enterprise systems products at Sun.

Kruell said the 12K’s binary compatibility and an on-the-fly, hot upgrade to the 15K provides application and hardware investment protection. “We see (companies) turning to the 12K for the same purpose…it’s going to be a popular system for people who have somewhere in the neighbourhood of US$500,000 to US$1 million to spend on a server.”

Combined with its high-end mainframe-type features (built-in hardware redundancy, interchangeable Uniboard CPU/memory boards for dynamic resource provisioning, up to 288GB of memory with end-to-end data integrity), Sun claimed the 12K has appeal for many industries, including telecommunications, finance, health care, government and manufacturing. “Server consolidation is a hot topic regardless of where you turn,” Kruell said of the Canadian and U.S. enterprise markets, adding that the Sun Fire is designed to ease consolidation and mainframe hosting.

Currently running two Sun Fire 15K servers, Ocwen Technology Exchange (OTX), a West Palm Beach, Fla.-based e-commerce provider for the mortgage and real estate industries, has incorporated Sun Fire technology with the SolarisT 8 Operating Environment.

OTX CIO Mark Dangelo noted that the Sun Fire’s scalability, support tools, and reliability have resulted in cost savings and the 12K definitely fits into future plans.

“If we had an opportunity to actually look at that unit back in December or November it probably would have appealed to us just as the 15K did,” Dangelo said. “It gives us a nice different opportunity and price point for clients that don’t need that type of multiple domain (capabilities) and failovers.”

Companies are becoming more conscious of containing or reducing IT infrastructure costs – the Sun Fire 12K server’s price point and concurrent serviceability addresses that, said enterprise systems analyst Rich Partridge of the Port Chester, N.Y.-based market research firm D.H. Brown Associates Inc.

Partridge noted Sun is venturing into a previously untapped market segment: “The scalability of the Sun Fire 12K…offers substantial performance headroom with investment protection.”

These days, enterprises are definitely looking at return on investment and midrange servers such as the 12K represent a strong emerging market, noted servers and storage Research Manager Alan Freedman, of IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto.

“It’s not about just getting the best speeds and feeds, it’s more about getting the one that suits your requirements and suits your business more than anything else,” Freedman said.

For more information about the 12K, visit