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Sun cuts midrange server price

Three months after introducing the V1280, Sun Microsystems lops tens of thousands of dollars off the price of the 12-processor Unix server. IBM and HP, meanwhile, aren't holding back.

SAN FRANCISCO--Three months after introducing the midrange V1280, Sun Microsystems has lopped tens of thousands of dollars off the price of the 12-processor Unix server that's at the forefront of the company's effort to fend off rivals.

"I want to get much more aggressive with the machine," Clark Masters, executive vice president of Sun's high-end server line, said in an interview Thursday. Cutting the price so soon after launch was made possible by savings that came with higher-volume production, he added.

Sun's biggest competitors, IBM and Hewlett-Packard, aren't holding back in their efforts to reclaim the leading position in the Unix server market from Sun. HP lowered its midrange Unix server prices in April; IBM cut its prices in the same month on high-end servers to make way for new top-end models.

Sun's V1280, released in February, is something of a hybrid in Sun's product line. It was developed by the lower-end server group and is an offshoot of the eight-processor V880 that group sells. But Sun's high-end server group sells the V1280, using it to try to undermine sales of systems such as IBM's p650 and HP's rp8400.

Unix servers occupy a lucrative middle ground in the market--being more mainstream than mainframes but more powerful than Intel servers. But Sun must fend off not only increasingly powerful Intel servers but also a reinvigorated mainframe push from IBM.

Sun cut the price of a four-processor V1280 with 8GB of memory by 25 percent, from about $80,000 to $60,000. The cost of a higher-end model with 12 processors and 24GB of memory was cut from $175,000 to $142,000.

The V1280 uses 900MHz UltraSparc III processors. The cuts aren't related to any plans for faster processors such as the 1.2GHz chips that come in higher-end systems, a Sun representative said.