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Sun to offer free trials of Galaxy servers

Sixty-day trials will begin Friday for AMD Opteron-based servers as Sun seeks x86 attention.

Sun Microsystems plans to begin a second phase of its "try and buy" promotion Friday, offering customers a free 60-day trial of its AMD Opteron-based servers, the company confirmed Thursday.

Sun launched the first phase earlier this year to get customers to try servers with the company's unusual 32-thread UltraSparc T1 processor. By extending the promotion to the X4100 and X4200 "Galaxy" servers launched last year, Sun is hoping to kick-start sales and attract more new customers to Sun.

"It's going to help accelerate the ramp of the Galaxy product line," said Pradeep Pramar, product marketing manager for Sun's Network Systems Group, founded two years ago to sell servers based on x86 chips such as Intel's Xeon or Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron. "We're going to go live tomorrow."

Sun's move to x86 servers was years later than rivals' and initially somewhat unenthusiastic, but promotions such as Friday's signal the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company's attempts to make up for lost time. President Jonathan Schwartz has said one of the company's biggest x86 challenges has been just informing potential customers that Sun sells them and not just Sparc-based systems.

The company currently ranks sixth in x86 server market share but hopes to reach the No. 4 spot by the end of 2006, lead engineer Andy Bechtolsheim said when the Galaxy systems were launched in 2005. Finding new customers is key to growth; about a third of current Galaxy customers are new to Sun, Pramar said.

Under the promotion, which will be available in 15 countries, Sun will let customers try the servers for 60 days. After that, they can either buy them or send them back to Sun, which pays the return postage. If they don't send them back by 90 days, Sun sends an invoice, Pramar said.

Sun will offer X4100 and X4200 models with 8GB of memory and two hard drives. Both systems will be available with either two single-core Opteron 254 processors or two dual-core Opteron 280 processors.

Those models range in price from $2,145 to $7,295, Sun said. "We want to put our best stuff in front of customers," Pramar said.