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Sun expands program to lure HP buyers

Sun Microsystems aims its "HP Away" promotion at customers who use HP-UX. HP fires back, saying customers should be leery of Sun's shifting strategies.

Sun Microsystems has expanded its "HP Away" program to target Hewlett-Packard's entire base of Unix server customers.

The HP Away program previously was aimed at customers who use HP's AlphaServer products, which the company is phasing out. AlphaServer, which HP acquired when it merged with Compaq Computer, runs the Tru64 version of Unix.

Now Sun has expanded the program--which offers migration consulting services, financing deals and deferred payments--to customers using HP-UX, HP's other version of Unix. HP-UX runs on PA-RISC processors, which HP is discontinuing production of in favor of Intel's Itanium.

The Unix server market, which today is dominated by systems with higher-end 64-bit processors from HP, Sun and IBM, has been competitive in recent years. But strategies are changing now that Intel and Advanced Micro Devices are adding 64-bit extensions to the widely used "x86" chips such as AMD's Opteron and Intel's Xeon, Sun said.

The 64-bit extensions make it easier to use more than 4GB of memory in a computer. But adding extensions to Xeon blurs the distinction between that and Intel's higher-end 64-bit Itanium processor. HP promotes Itanium as suitable for higher-end systems, typically with four or more processors, and builds the chips into its Integrity server line.

Sun is offering its Solaris version of Unix on Xeon and Opteron, while criticizing HP for offering HP-UX only on Itanium and PA-RISC. Sun also argues that HP's customers were hurt by a one-year delay in bringing high-end Tru64 features to HP-UX.

HP counters that it's a bad idea to ask Unix software companies to add a new version of their software for x86 computers with 64-bit extensions, as Sun is doing.

"We've already worked with the industry and ported, we think, every HP-UX ISV (independent software vendor) to Integrity," said Paul Miller, vice president of industry-standard server marketing for HP. "So asking them to go back and move to an extensions-based architecture doesn't make sense at this time."

And Scott Stallard, senior vice president of HP's Enterprise Storage and Servers group, dinged Sun for not supporting Microsoft Windows on Intel processors and said Sun lacks necessary support from software companies and other necessary industry partners.

"Solaris on Opteron has no ecosystem and will take years to build," Stallard said. "They're not in the ballgame on industry-standard operating systems or on industry-standard hardware."

Sun said earlier this month that it had lured 80 new customers away from HP with its HP Away program for AlphaServer users.