10 April 2002 Sun has unveiled “Starkitty”, a 52-processor server designed to fill a gap in its product range that has been ruthlessly exploited by IBM and Hewlett-Packard (HP).
“We’ve never in our history had a product that really fits the half-million to million-dollar price point for the enterprise,” said Sun’s Enterprise system products group general manager, Clark Masters. “It’s a new market for Sun and an incremental business for Sun.”
The Sun Fire 12K, priced at about $750,000 (€850,000), contains up to 52 900MHz UltraSparc III processors and 288 gigabytes of memory. It also uses Sun’s new Uniboard architecture, which is transportable and interchangeable among all Sun Fire systems, so it is possible for a purchaser of the 12K (“Starkitty”) Fire system to upgrade the system to a 15K (“Starcat”) server.
However, performing such an upgrade is not necessarily a straightforward job. “It’s not a ‘golden screwdriver’ situation,” said Masters. “A Sun technician can’t just show up at a customer site, quickly convert a 12K to a 15K through a minor tweak and charge the customers lots of money.”
Sun has been losing market share to IBM recently and is having to fend off competition from HP’s high-end server division and its popular 64-processor Superdome system. According to research by analysts IDC, Sun sold 89 Sun Fire 15K systems in the fourth quarter of 2001 while IBM sold 310 p690 Regattas.
“We think the p690 on a good day is slightly better than a 6800,” conceded Sun’s chief competition officer Shahin Khan. Sun’s Fire 6800 has 24 processors and costs approximately $500,000 (€570,000).