will team up on a series of server and mainframe projects that may help NEC build a brand in the U.S. market while boosting Microsoft's Windows NT efforts in Japan.
As part of the alliance, the companies have agreed to jointly develop
technologies and/or support each other's independent server products in
virtually every segment of the business computing market.
The two companies, for example, will jointly develop 8- and 16-way
symmetric multiprocessing technology that will be incorporated into NEC's
as-yet unreleased Express Server for Enterprise. They will also work together on
technology for 64-node clustering.
Symmetric multiprocessing involves stringing together two or more
processors in the same box to improve overall productivity. Currently,
Windows NT can take advantage of standard servers with four-way, or four-processor, symmetric multiprocessing. Clustering allows corporations to
build in fail-safe backup systems. Corporations have been steadily
clamoring for improvements in both areas.
While Express Server for Enterprise is aimed at larger organizations, NEC
will also release the Express Network Server, a hardware and software
server bundle targeted at small- and medium-sized businesses that want to
run business functions on the Internet.
Both servers are slated to come out in the third quarter of 1998, and will appear first in Japan.
Another key part of the alliance will be developing technology that will
more seamlessly integrate NT and BackOffice, Microsoft's server application
suite, into NEC mainframe environments. In addition, the two companies will
attempt to create service and support programs around the technologies to
smooth the path toward adoption.
The deal is similar to other alliances Microsoft has struck with hardware
vendors to promote NT as a corporate computing platform, according to John
Oltsik, a senior analyst at Forrester
Research, and on that score it's actually a bit late. Still, NEC's presence in
the Japanese corporate arena, which U.S. vendors have strained in vain to
crack, could boost NT's presence in that market. NEC and Microsoft have
enjoyed a cozy relationship for years in Japan, the world's second-largest computer market, with regard to desktops.
"Microsoft is already working on high-end servers with Compaq, Digital, you name it. NEC is coming to
the party late," he said. "But I don't think NT is doing particularly well
in Japan and this could help them."
The deal could likewise give a similar boost to NEC in the U.S. Although a
recognized brand, NEC is not one of bread-and-butter names for servers in
corporate America. As an example, Eric Castillo, a vice president at IKON/Waldec, an
integrator in Tampa, Florida, reports that NEC ranks 11th
in brands of servers his company sells.
Interestingly, the decision of NEC Computer Systems, the U.S. subsidiary of
the Tokyo-based NEC, to sell computers directly to customers could undercut
the server effort. The direct effort has raised the ire of computer
resellers because it takes away from their revenue stream. Unfortunately
for NEC, resellers often advise corporate customers on their server
and enterprise computing plans, and many have dropped any loyalty to the brand.
"NEC made a huge mistake with their distribution strategy," said Steve
Cohan, president of Entre Computer Center. "I think this server thing could
fall on its face."
Oltsik concurred that NEC will need to build relationships with this group
to succeed. "The easy part is making servers. The hard part is coming up
with a channel partner and it's going to take a significant loss in the
short term to get a channel," he said. "They are going to have to give
marketing dollars, discounts. [Resellers] already have relationships with
Compaq and Hewlett-Packard."