Sun offers 60-day Niagara server trial

Sun Microsystems Inc. is offering users the chance to try out one of its Sun Fire T2000 “Niagara” servers for 60 days at no cost. The offer is shorter than the 90-day “Try It Before You Buy It” promotion the company originally proposed earlier this month when it launched the servers.

The 60-day offer was announced by Jonathan Schwartz, president and chief operating officer for Sun, on his blog, and information on applying for the limited availability offer is also on Sun’s Web site.

The T2000 was released in early December. At the time of its launch, Anil Gadre, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Sun, told IDG News Service that the company would make both the T2000 and the smaller T1000 servers available to customers and independent software vendor partners in “a very large” 90-day try-and-buy program. Sun also publicly made the same commitment on the day of the launch. While the T2000 is immediately available for purchase, Sun doesn’t expect the T1000 to ship until March.

The reason for the shortening of the promotion period is unclear. However, Sun experienced problems earlier this year in ramping up the volume of another range of new servers — its “Galaxy” servers, which are powered by Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s Opteron chips.

The T2000 server is based on Sun’s multicore, multithreaded UltraSparc T1 processor, previously code-named “Niagara.” The server is a 2U, 24.3-inch deep machine designed to handle application services and Web-tier consolidation.

Sun is offering three configurations as part of the promotion, one a six-core server and the other two are eight-core servers. At the end of the 60-day trial period, users have the option to keep the server. Billing is deferred “after 90 days after your complete satisfaction during the trial period,” according to information about the offer on Sun’s Web site.

The T2000 promotion follows a similar offer the company tried as an experiment around the time it launched its “Galaxy” servers in September, Schwartz wrote in his blog. “We distributed a bunch of free servers to new customers, just to get them exposed to Sun,” he wrote. “It had the desired impact — on average, the ‘return’ on the investment of a free server was an average purchase order of ~15 systems.” Signing up customers who’ve already tried out hardware is a much easier sell than those who haven’t been exposed to the servers, Schwartz noted in his blog.

Sun is very keen to broaden the appeal of the “Niagara” servers to non-Sun customers so the try-and-buy program could prove to be crucial in potentially winning the company new business.

The limited-time T2000 server offer is available to users in nations where Sun has a legal subsidiary with the exception of Chile, South Africa, Greece, Kazakhstan, United Arab Emirates (Dubai), Portugal, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Slovak Republic, according to information on Sun’s Web site. The offer covers a limited number of servers and is available until June 30, 2006, Sun said. The offer is not valid in countries subject to U.S. export laws. U.S. and Canadian customers signing up for the offer should hear back from Sun within 24 hours of applying during regular business hours, according to the company.

Schwartz’s blog can be found at: (China Martens in Boston contributed to this report.)

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