Sun builds on financial solutions, revised pricing

NEW YORK CITY — Sun Microsystems Inc. is trying to “”take back Wall Street”” — including its Canadian counterpart Bay Street — by launching what it describes as its widest set of solutions for financial services companies in the firm’s history.


Santa Clara, Calif.-based company said at its quarterly Network Computer ’04 event in New York that it will revolutionize Wall Street with the debut later this year of Solaris 10, as well as next-generation storage and professional services.

Sun said its Solaris x86 operating system has grown to support more than 1,100 solutions available from more than 700 of Sun’s application software partners, a jump of 17 per cent in the last six months. Sun has also added 15 new financial services application software partners.

Wall Street is “”the spawning ground for Sun,”” and therefore the place to which it must return to build the next generation of technology, said president and chief operating officer, Jonathan Schwartz. He said the A100, built with off-the-shelf parts and an open-source operating system, was the first workstation Sun ever delivered to Wall Street 20 years ago. The move began Sun’s server business.

The message from customers has been: “”‘You’ve got to get back to your roots. Come back and prove you can continue innovating,'”” Schwartz explained. He said users had told him in 2001 they wanted a multi-platform Solaris system, greater choice and interoperability, and innovation to give better price and performance.

Back then, however, “”our shelves, in all honesty, were empty,”” because the company was focused on growth, said Schwartz.

As part of its new range of services, Sun is also offering what it describes as a first-of-its-kind, pay-per-use pricing model starting at US$1 per processor, per hour (the same price is available in Canada). Sun said the move, which targets customers and developers needing fast, flexible access to resources to test and develop a range of applications, will to a large part reflect the way people purchase telephone services, power or water.

“”We will use our pricing to open the market,”” said Schwartz. Though he doesn’t expect anybody “”to fall in line,”” he believes it’s inevitable Sun’s pricing model will prompt customers to question other vendors about their pricing model.

This business model also extends to storage. Beginning at US$0.80 per Sun power unit, per month, the strategy is being touted as a way to cut capital costs, improve the use of assets, build storage needs and tailor storage costs to business activity.

All of these efforts underlie Sun’s aim to be known as “”the systems company,”” bringing together storage, networking and hardware, said Schwartz. He said even though the Solaris operating system is important to Sun, the evolution of Solaris is not enough to ensure Sun’s success in the market.

“”My view is if you aren’t on the low end, you aren’t on the high end,”” he said, referring to Sun’s rationale to develop several areas in computing.

Translating Sun’s American-crafted initiative to Bay Street is a bit tricky, said Catherine Whitelaw, director of financial markets for Sun Microsystems in Canada, who works with all the major banks in the country. “”You’ve got to be very careful. You don’t necessarily expect that it will be a cookie-cutter approach.””

That said, the same issues on the minds of CIOs at financial services firms resonate north and south of the border, including tight budgets, resource use and compliance problems, Whitelaw said. Canadian financial firms, however, don’t have to “”buy technology on as grand a scale,”” she said.

In Canada, Whitelaw said, her team spends a lot of time cultivating partnerships with customers, part of Sun’s cultural shift from being a straight vendor to a company that understands the problems organizations face, such as compliance to legislation requiring data storage.

One partner, AMD in Austin, Tex., believes Sun’s announcements indicate “”an extremely wide range of choices now for the customer, not only from a hardware perspective, when you look at Sun’s SPARC, but also in the volume space with the Opteron as well,”” according to director of server workstation marketing for AMD-Opteron, Pat Patla. He said the same offering applies to partners.

But AMD, which has been involved with Sun for about a year, does not fall into the camp of Sun customers that are evolving into partners, said Patla. “”This is truly a partnership that we built early on, saw where we both brought value to the table in the choice of different architectural benefits. And then for AMD, (there were) different software benefits and the operating systems.””

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