New Game Plans

HP and Sun are trying to revive their standings in the IT industry with waves of new products. Will they convince customers they're still leaders?
But Charlie Troxel, chief technology officer of Chicago Mercantile Exchange, says the days of homogeneous environments based on Sun or any other single supplier are unlikely to return. A 100% Sun company just three years ago, Chicago Mercantile migrated about 70% of its infrastructure to non-Sun x86-based platforms during the past two years as it used more Linux.

Sun fell behind in performance with its Sparc-based hardware and Solaris operating system, Troxel says. Solaris 10 answered the operating-system problems, he says, but Sun's short track record in x86-based servers leaves him unconvinced. He'll give the Galaxy platform a look. A bad sign for Sun is that Chicago Mercantile increasingly is moving to blade servers. Troxel is evaluating HP and IBM platforms, leaving Sun, which has no blade offering, out of that mix. "We're going to match machines to desired characteristics," he says. "There's no one platform that does it all."

The Philadelphia Stock Exchange is close to that--its entire mission-critical trading system is based on either Sparc or x86-based Sun servers, all of which run Solaris. The exchange in July went live with a new options-trading platform running on x86-based Sun servers, and CIO Bill Morgan plans to evaluate the Galaxy systems as well as new Sparc systems next year. "I'm in a business where we handle 120,000 messages a second now, and it's going to be over 200,000 next year," Morgan says. "Whenever I hear a vendor is striving to upgrade capacity, that's music to my ears."

Sun has much to prove. "We have shipped more than 10 million x86 servers, and Sun has shipped a little over 100,000. I think Sun is kidding themselves and the industry to say they have caught up overnight," says Mark Hudson, VP of marketing at HP's enterprise storage and server group.

HP's move to create a more-manageable virtualized infrastructure (see story below) will provide it with an edge over competitors like Dell, which isn't likely to develop management platforms similar to those of its competitors, Hudson says.

American Healthways Inc., a provider of health-care services to more than a million patients and physicians, is using virtualization with its two HP Superdome and Integrity rx7620 servers. It has created three partitions to run its data warehouse, major applications, and development and test activities. Currently, the company manually shifts processors between the partitions. Mike Chester, senior manager for database administration, says the new HP technologies should let him create rules to automatically move workloads between processors.

For Sun and HP, the products being introduced this week put a spotlight on the direction each is moving. HP is making it easier for customers to manage and get more bang out of existing systems. Sun is showing that it can offer competitively priced systems that also provide premium performance. These moves will keep both of them in the race, but they'll need to do more to gain the lead.

Continue to the sidebar: HP's Virtual World: Making Workload Shifts Easier