Update: Sun adds AMD Opteron option to its HP Away program

Sun Microsystems Inc. is employing another tactic in its attempts to lure Hewlett-Packard Co. customers away from their RISC-based HP-UX servers.

As part of Sun’s HP Away program, users running HP RISC Unix boxes can migrate over to Sun’s Solaris on AMD Inc.’s 64-bit Opteron platform with Sun’s assistance. HP Away has been running since July 15, 2003 and started out as a program designed to help HP-UX RISC users to migrate to Sun Solaris on Sparc. Sparc is a Sun-specific microprocessor based on RISC technology.

Sun has claimed that HP’s “neglect” of its RISC-based chip platforms, including Alpha RISC and PA-RISC is the reason it is targeting HP customers specifically.

However, Steve Shaw, business critical systems product manager at HP Canada in Mississauga, Ont. said even though HP’s long-term strategy for 64-bit platforms is focused around Intel Corp.’s Itanium chip, this doesn’t mean HP is abandoning its Alpha-RISC and PA-RISC boxes. Additionally he said there have been misconceptions in the industry about HP’s plans for its RISC platforms.

To clarify, HP is planning to continue support for both the OpenVMS and Tru64 Unix operating systems on its Alpha-RISC boxes but will not be porting Tru64 Unix over to Intel’s Itanium. He said OpenVMS has already been ported to Itanium; the developer’s version is currently available while the production version will be ready to ship by the end of 2004.

On Monday HP released the latest version of its Alpha RISC chip, the EV-7z.

“We’ll continue to sell Alpha systems until the end of 2006 with upgrades through to 2008 and then support of all those systems and older systems through at least 2011 and potentially longer,” Shaw said.

As for Tru64, Shaw said HP is not porting it to Itanium because the company wants to focus on HP-UX as its primary enterprise platform. HP will be taking key parts of Tru64 including its clustering capability, single system image (SSI) and advanced file system and porting those features to HP-UX. This will make it easier for Tru64 users to migrate to HP-UX, Shaw noted. Tru64 users are one of the main target groups of the HP Away program.

Additionally, HP plans to release its next version of PA-RISC in early 2005, and continue production and support until at least 2013, likely longer, Shaw noted.

But in keeping with its Intel Itanium goals, HP released HP-UX 11i v2, a common Unix platform for its PA-RISC-based 9000 Servers and its Itanium-based Integrity servers, Shaw said. HP said this will make it easier for its customers to migrate from the HP 9000 servers over to Integrity.

This is the main reason Sun is specifically targeting HP clients — Sun is still a big player in the Unix RISC segment with its Sparc offerings. However, Greg Ambrose, research analyst at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, said Sun is not just targeting HP-UX users but customers using IBM AIX RISC-based machines as well. IBM’s proprietary POWER processors are based on RISC technology.

“Right now there’s not a lot of new growth happening in the Unix server market,” he explained. As a result all players in this market are going after each other’s customers and trying to gain an edge wherever they can, he added.

In Canada, the UNIX RISC market garnered approximately $425 million in 2003, with HP snapping up 37 per cent of the revenue, followed by Sun at 34 per cent and Big Blue at 27 per cent, Ambrose said.

The units sold tell a different story, he noted. Of the 15,000 RISC Unix boxes sold in Canada in 2003, a whopping 10,500 came from Sun, simply because it sells mainly low-end RISC servers in comparison with its competitors HP and IBM. The vendors play in the high end and sold about 2,000 each. The remaining 500 were sold by other vendors.

“Sun, more than IBM or HP, is primarily a RISC-Unix player,” Ambrose said. “It has introduced some of the Intel stuff recently but 98 per cent of its business is still RISC Unix, whereas HP and IBM are providing a broader platform choice to their customers. They both have Intel platforms, they’re both bringing in Itanium whereas Sun is more focused on this competitive space.”

Even though Sun is making more of an effort in the x86 area and now in the 64-bit space with its new Opteron addition, Ambrose doesn’t think this will have much impact in the short-term.

“I don’t really know how much interest this going to generate from its customer base or from the customers [Sun] is trying to win,” he said. “Opteron is a new technology and we’re seeing some penetration in the Canadian market but it’s still a long way away from being an established, business-critical server platform.”

The HP Away program essentially offers migration assistance to users of HP-UX RISC users. Keith Veira, project manager, client services at Sun Microsystems Canada Inc. in Markham, Ont., said Sun will help users who qualify for the program devise a migration plan, which includes a free two-day workshop to help customers examine the technical requirements and cost involved to migrate to Solaris on Sparc.

Additionally, customers that meet Sun’s requirements to participate in HP Away also get a two-week Tru64 or HP-UX to Solaris migration assessment service. If users decide to go ahead with the migration, they have to pay Sun’s professional services group, which will help them with application porting to the new platform. If a user decides not to go ahead, Sun pays for the assessment.

Sun also offers financing and trade-in programs on HP’s RISC UX servers, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company said.

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