Sun today introduced new rack-mounted servers. Nothing new here, except that they use Intel Pentium chips and run Linux (you can also get them with Solaris x86).
A Slashdot reader made this comment, which I think sums up one possible interpretation very well:
I hope Sun notices the smoldering carcass of Silicon Graphics on the side of the road they are now traveling down.
Personally, I’m willing to give Sun the benefit of the doubt. SGI had managed to lose the high-end graphics/server market, had let the performance of their MIPS chips lag, and they were not only switching to x86 but trying break into a new market. Also, they got into bed with Microsoft, which in retrospect was a very bad idea. If Sun starts shipping Windows 2003 Server with these new Sun Fires instead of Linux, we’ll know it’s time to start selling Sun stock.
I suspect Sun’s motivation here is to keep their existing customers from buying cheaper Linux/x86 servers from Dell or IBM. By letting them purchase those same cheap x86 servers from Sun, they keep those customers from looking elsewhere when they need to buy the big, expensive, big iron servers that Sun’s real profit margin comes from. If that’s what Sun’s aiming at, I think it makes sense. On the other hand, if Sun sees Dell, et al, making piles of money selling cheap rack-mounted x86 hardware and wants a piece of it, they’re doomed.
I’ve been remembering lately something Brian said about five years ago: that within five years, all of the commercial Unix vendors would be shipping Linux instead of their proprietary operating systems, with the possible exception of Sun and Solaris. At the time, I thought he was nuts. I mean, sure, Linux was making some inroads with beige-box PC hardware, but I couldn’t imagine any of the big workstation and server companies giving up their proprietary OSes. But have you seen many new systems running HP-UX recently? IRIX? AIX? Tru64? UnixWare? BSD/OS? I didn’t think so.