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Sun fights NT encroachment

Sun Microsystems next week will launch new Unix servers intended to fight off competition from Intel-based servers running Microsoft's Windows NT.

Sun Microsystems (SUNW) will launch a new series of machines next week based on its own technology that will be comparable in cost to those built using hardware from Intel and software from Microsoft.

At an event in New York, Sun, one of Microsoft and Intel's primary foes, will try to stave off encroachment on its market share by server systems running Windows NT by introducing a new line that uses standard technology and Sun's own Solaris operating system, a Unix variant, said sources familiar with Sun's plans.

The new servers, based on Sun's internally developed 250-MHz and 300-MHz UltraSparc processors and PCI (peripheral component interconnect) bus interfaces, are intended to keep the fast-growing Microsoft server operating system out of Sun accounts. Once Windows NT is included in a server network, Sun may worry that the operating system might take an even larger role, according to industry observers.

"In Sun's instance, they may not be introducing these to be the next major cash cow for the company," said Jerry Sheridan, analyst for market researcher Dataquest. "The majority of their near-term revenue will come from their installed base."

"If you're a vendor, you don't want to give your clients an excuse to go off and use some other solution," he said.

The linchpin of Sun's strategy is a revised road map for Solaris, which now includes a prepackaged version for intranets--shipping this month--that is priced competitively vs. Windows NT and offers ease-of-use features that may change the perception that Unix-based software is hard to use. Sun believes competitive software coupled with standards-based server components can offer a compelling answer to the myriad of companies offering Intel-based systems.

Sun officials could not immediately be reached for comment.