Stratus Computer Systems made a subtle name change today--to Stratus Technologies Inc. that marks a dramatic strategy shift for the privately held company. Stratus has started licensing its industry-leading, fault-tolerant technology for system architecture to other vendors, starting with NEC in Japan.
Stratus president and CEO Stephen C. Kiely says NEC is just the beginning. He expects to bag Compaq, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, or IBM as an additional licensing partner by year's end. Aberdeen Group analyst Tom Manter says Kiely isn't just bragging. "All four of the big four are watching closely, very concerned that a competitor will sign with Stratus first," says Manter.
The vendors' interest is understandable. Stratus worked behind the scenes for more than a year, holding regular meetings with both Intel and Microsoft, to bring its proprietary but continuously available technology down to the Wintel platform from the HP-UX operating system. Stratus is the only vendor delivering 99.999% availability to Windows NT systems without a complex server cluster.
To Kiely, the licensing strategy was simple. "The time it would take us to build a distribution channel like the big four would have been like fighting a land war in Asia," he says. "This licensing strategy gets us a footprint on the industry before we emerge as a standard."
This comes from a vendor that has had to reinvent itself after a series of ownership changes that took it from a publicly traded company to its current position. Its work with ASP customer CUE Datawest shows how Stratus' remote-services model allows it to compete with larger players.
Keith Austin at CUE Datawest doesn't care about the licensing because he's running on HP-UX, and he chose Stratus four months ago over NCR and Sun. But he does illustrate how Stratus could be a force on two fronts. "Stratus provides us with a robust, fault-tolerant operating platform enabling us to provide to our clients optimum service levels for the transactions," says Austin, electronic funds transfer product manager at CUE Datawest in Vancouver, British Columbia. The company provides banking and credit-union services to more than 100 institutions. From the woods of Massachusetts to the West Coast of Canada, Stratus' support has stepped up for Datawest. "They've lived up to every thing they promised," says Austin. "I look forward to a long-term relationship."