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NEC plans server strategy changes

A new executive at the company is pushing to rev up sales of the crash-resistant servers it sells in the United States.

NEW YORK--A new executive at NEC has plans to overhaul the company's sales strategy to improve the success of crash-resistant servers it sells in the United States.

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NEC sells an "ft" line of fault-tolerant servers that use redundant hardware components and carefully tested software to protect against many crashes. But soon those systems could be getting a new description, Larry Sheffield, senior vice president of marketing for NEC Solutions America, said at the CeBit America trade show here.

"In the U.S., I'd like to re-brand it," Sheffield said.

He said the new name likely will focus on "high availability," a server buzzword that refers to grouping servers so one system can take over if another fails. NEC's strategy accomplishes much the same idea, only with backup components such as spare processors taking over. For many customers, the "fault tolerant" concept has carried negative connotations of expense and complexity.

In addition, the company will move from a direct sales strategy to one relying on a channel of indirect sales partners, Sheffield said. Those companies typically add software and services to make hardware more useful to their customers; NEC expects many of those partners to focus on servers for hosting Microsoft Exchange, file and print software.

Sheffield also hopes to get more mileage out of existing relationships with Microsoft and Intel. And the company will try to encourage storage specialist Network Appliance, which buys fault-tolerant hardware from NEC for some products, to try to sell the NEC products alongside its own products.

NEC plans to begin selling its high-end Itanium servers by October, said Rosie Dalomba, an NEC marketing manager. Fault-tolerant Itanium servers are scheduled to arrive in 2004, she said.

Sheffield previously sold servers for SGI after a 28-year stint selling services and hard drives for IBM.