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Buy Some Software, Get A Free Server

Sun is offering free servers to subscribers of its new software service, likening the offering to the free phones given away with purchased cellular-phone services.
For Sun Microsystems, it's come to this: The proud progenitor of the Sparc chip is launching a family of x86-based servers--and is giving them away to developers who subscribe to its new software service.

The dual-processor servers use Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s Opteron chip and start at $2,795. The product launch Tuesday results from an announcement Sun made of a strategic alliance with AMD last November.

The new Sun software service is sold as a three-year subscription at $1,499 a year and, in addition to the Opteron server, gives a developer the latest in Sun's integrated-development environment tools, such as Sun Java Studio Enterprise for building networked applications. Java Studio works with the Java Enterprise System, a software stack that includes a directory server, application, and Web server.

"This is the first time a free server has been offered as part of a developer subscription program," says Jonathan Schwartz, executive VP for software at Sun. He drew an analogy between Sun's offer and a telecommunications company's offer of a free mobile phone in exchange for a consumer's two-year subscription for cellular service.

After Sun was founded in 1982, developers snatched up its workstations for Unix software development, giving Sun the customer base and volume to move into the server market with its proprietary Sparc hardware. Sun has suffered during its last 11 fiscal quarters as revenue has declined and Unix server competitors IBM and Hewlett-Packard have invaded its server-market share. On Jan. 15, Sun posted a smaller loss than expected. Its second-quarter revenue of $2.89 billion was at the high end of what analysts were expecting.

The low end of Sun's new Opteron family is the Sun Fire V20z, capable of running both 32- and 64-bit applications. Developers using the server will run Sun's version of its Solaris operating system for Intel architecture or Linux.

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