January 25, 2006 4:00 AM PST
Newsmaker: Sun's x86 strategist steers straight aheadSee all Newsmakers
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As executive vice president of the Network Systems Group, one of two server groups at the company, he leads Sun's belated but now vital push to sell servers using x86 processors. Only a small fraction of Sun's revenue comes from x86 servers, but the overall market has been growing consistently for years--and Sun craves revenue growth.
Sun's mainstay business, servers using the company's own UltraSparc processors, has been hit hard by IBM's charge into the market and the arrival of Linux. Now x86 servers are key to Sun's attempt to outflank its rivals. Sun has made some gains, ranking sixth in the x86 server market. The goal is to be No. 4 by the end of this year.
Sun's x86 push began in 2002 with undistinguished Intel-based machines running the Linux operating system. It picked up some steam in 2004 when Sun released its first servers based on Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron. But the systems were designed outside of Sun and lacked certain features, such as redundant power supplies, that were demanded by businesses. In October, Sun began selling its own Opteron servers designs, code named Galaxy and designed by Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim.
Fowler, 45, is a somewhat unlikely pick for a hardware executive. His background is in software, including two years as
Fowler discussed a range of subjects with CNET News.com, including his belief that Opteron will lead Xeon for years.
Q: How is 2006 going to be different than last year for Sun?
Fowler: I won't be explaining AMD anymore. We spent a lot of energy in 2005 explaining what it was about. In the enterprise part of the customer base, they've gotten that message. The second thing I won't be doing is answering the question, "You guys are in the x86 business?" Or, "Are you serious?" Customers have gotten their hands around the idea that this is something we're really doing.
But only a few months ago (Sun President) Jonathan Schwartz and others were saying customers still didn't know about your x86 servers.
Fowler: The Galaxy launch was huge. We measure penetration into customer accounts and awareness factors. We're getting there. In SMB (small and medium businesses), in particular, we're not well known. That's part of a longer-term thing to work on. But in core Fortune 200 we're known.
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