Dell deal boosts Sun growth in mainland

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2007, 12:00am

A new alliance between United States-based computer makers Dell and Sun Microsystems is expected to significantly boost both their positions in the mainland's fast-growing server market, according to experts.

Dell, currently one of the top suppliers of Intel x86 processor-based server computers in the mainland, last week entered into a multi-year distribution agreement with Sun, in which the Solaris operating system and support services from Sun will be made available to select Dell PowerEdge server models.

The deal marked another tactical ceasefire forged by Sun with a global server competitor. In August this year, it sealed a similar original equipment manufacturing agreement with IBM - which closely follows Dell in server sales on the mainland - to distribute Solaris and its support services in select models of IBM's System x and BladeCenter servers.

'With Dell joining key partners that include Intel, Microsoft, Google and IBM, Sun is well positioned for growth in Greater China,' said Lionel Lim, president of Sun Microsystems Greater China. 'This partnership will allow Sun to expand the reach of Solaris and give us greater access to channels and customers across the volume server market.'

Mr Lim said Solaris - Sun's version of the Unix operating system but whose source code has increasingly been made part of the free open-source software community - could provide an alternative computing platform for the growing number of independent software vendors and enterprise applications developers in the mainland.

Sun claims it is the No2 vendor of Unix-based servers in the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Technology consultancy Analysys International in Beijing estimated total server shipments in the mainland reached 156,000 units in the second quarter this year, up 27.9 per cent from the previous quarter and 10.8 per cent year-on-year. It said Dell led server sales in the second quarter with a market share of 22.4 per cent, followed by IBM and Hewlett-Packard with 22 per cent and 21.5 per cent, respectively.

But research firm International Data Corp (IDC) said Dell, which led all x86 server sales in the mainland last year, had been overtaken by HP during the first half of the year.

'There is nothing but positive impact for Dell [with the Sun OEM alliance] in the mainland,' said Avneesh Saxena, IDC Asia-Pacific group vice-president for systems, storage and software research.

Mr Saxena saw the Solaris operating system gaining renewed relevance in a market where Windows and free Linux-based servers are much more in demand, as Sun and partners Dell and IBM swayed new users to the Unix platform on x86 processor-based servers.

He said opportunities for Solaris on Dell included areas where high-performance computing is a staple, such as video games development and academic research projects. Other users could be found in the public sector, manufacturing and the financial services sector - areas where many organisations are now trying to consolidate their server facilities.

'The Solaris OS delivers to Dell customers in the mainland the choice and value for applications that demand reliability, security, scalability, performance and integrated virtualisation,' said Kevin Kettler, chief technology officer at Dell.

Although it held the No4 position in the global server market in the second quarter this year, Dell experienced the most robust growth of any leading vendor as it posted a revenue increase of 20.2 per cent year-on-year, according to IDC.