Sun Targets Mainframes with Blue Away Initiative

Competitive Upgrades

Sun Microsystems Inc. and IBM Corp. are famous rivals and the announcement last week of Sun’s “Blue Away” project extended that rivalry. The project gives customers an incentive to trade their mainframes for Unix servers and highlights what Sun sees as the advantages of its Solaris platform.

Sun now offers a ten percent credit for customers who trade in their mainframes for a Sun enterprise server. Chris Kruell, group marketing manager for enterprise systems products at Sun, says Sun then resells the mainframes or otherwise disposes of the hardware.

“Sun is the best alternative to the mainframe for the average customer,” Kruell says, noting that users can experience better total cost of ownership (TCO) using a Sun enterprise server such as StarCat or StarKitty.

Three main factors contribute to lower Solaris TCO, according to Kruell. First, he says that “Licensing costs on the mainframe are exorbitant,” while Solaris costs are relatively small. IBM charges annual fees to use zOS, while Solaris carries a one-time cost like shrink-wrap software.

Second, Kruell says applications for Solaris are much cheaper than mainframe applications. He believes the lack of competitive pressure on IBM and its partner ISVs allow them to charge whatever they like for applications. In contrast Sun competes with other open systems vendors, and a variety of application vendors for Solaris exist. Some observers have noted, however, that IBM has worked hard to reduce the acquisition cost of the mainframe by driving software costs down.

Finally, Kruell believes that the installed base of mainframes is steady or shrinking, leading to a shortage of people with mainframe skills, increasing staffing costs. IBM has suggested that mainframe sales are on the rise – although this may not mean the installed base is growing – and that there’s a pool of unemployed mainframe administrators.

About the Author

Chris McConnell is Product and Technology Editor for Enterprise Systems.