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eBay sticks with Sun servers after outages

Sun Microsystems wards off rivals IBM and Hewlett-Packard to keep its contract for eBay servers, the companies will announce.

Sun Microsystems has warded off rivals IBM and Hewlett-Packard to keep its contract for eBay's servers, the companies will announce today.

Sun's computers were at the heart of the dominant online auction's operations during a series of outages that cost eBay millions of dollars to upgrade equipment and reimburse customers. Though eBay voiced satisfaction with Sun, it also kept its options conspicuously open.

Sun will provide eBay with servers, data storage and professional services, eBay and Sun plan to announce today. Though the details of the new system win haven't been settled yet, the servers likely will be the new "Serengeti" design using Sun's upcoming UltraSparc III "Cheetah" chips, said Sun spokesman Doug van Aman.

The Unix server market is particularly competitive right now as traditional companies and dot-com upstarts move businesses to the Internet. IBM and HP have been angling for Sun's dominant position in the market, and Compaq will announce its own new high-end competitor, Wildfire, today.

Sun and eBay didn't disclose the terms of the deal--either how much the contract is worth or how long it will last. "I can say that we made money on it," van Aman said.

eBay, along with Yahoo, Amazon.com and America Online, is one of the most prominent Internet companies. However, as Internet stocks have been hammered on Wall Street, Sun has been trying to focus attention on its old-economy customers.

"This is not a matter of us distancing ourselves from dot-coms at all. It's reminding people that there's a whole other group of (information technology) executives we're very successful with as well," van Aman said.

The earlier problems at eBay were the result of a complex Web site, he added. "There was no single cause of the outage," he said.

eBay has been making heavy investments to cut back on the outages.

IBM, meanwhile, displaced Sun in a high-profile contract for the Network Solutions computer that houses the central database of all Internet addresses.