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Commentary: Lower costs alone won't push Intel servers past Sun

Since today's e-business systems require both scaling up and scaling out, PC servers may satisfy one dimension but not another.

    By George Weiss, Gartner Analyst

    Since today's e-business systems require both scaling up and scaling out, PC servers may satisfy one dimension but not another. Moreover, Intel chairman Andrew Grove's suggestion that cost drives server selection is, in Gartner's view, myopic.

    Grove's comment bears on the competitive

    See news story:
    Intel chairman: Net companies must become self-sufficient
    positions of Sun Microsystems' high-end servers and Intel-based servers. Sun came out with a 64-processor partitionable system based on 64-bit microprocessors well ahead of Intel and manufacturing partners. At a time when Intel had no competitive response, Sun was able to capture a segment of the market in which consolidation and vertical performance were critical decision factors.

    If Intel's 64-bit architecture, IA-64, (including the availability of Windows 2000 Data Center Edition) had appeared concurrently with Sun's high-end road map, Intel may have been able to secure the high end. Intel might have driven more downstream server sales by giving customers the secure knowledge that they had a smooth upgrade transition through all Intel processor families.

    As it is, IA-64 will make its initial appearance only late in 2000 and will likely require a test and validation period of 18 to 24 months to establish its credibility against enterprises' greater experience with RISC. IA-64 is a disruptive technology--its technology progenitor does not predict future performance. Disruptive technologies take longer for market acceptance and must prove dramatic benefits, or enterprises will choose the path of least resistance (higher IA-32 scaling and RISC systems).

    RISC system vendors have well-planned road maps and continue to add functions and capacity-on-demand upgrades, which tend to lock in customers. It will take more than a pure price play in critical e-business applications to persuade enterprises to abandon a known system product with an excellent track record.

    (For related commentary on Windows 2000 Data Center Edition, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

    Entire contents, Copyright © 2000 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.