San Francisco, CA — Network computer maker Sun Microsystems Inc. (SUNW.O) introduced easy-to-use lower-end servers, aiming to capture an emerging market for plug-and-play machines supporting Internet services. The Cobalt line, developed by a company Sun acquired and including some products costing less than $1,000, will pit Sun against personal computer makers who have concentrated on more commodity-like machines such as Compaq Computer Corp. (CPQ.N) and Dell Computer Corp.(DELL.O)
“I think you have to look at Cobalt as a destructive technology,” John McFarlane, executive vice president for Sun’s Network Service Provider group, told a presentation Wednesday. “We are going to aggressively attack the PC server market.”
The technology hardware market has begun to fragment from huge systems meant to handle every need to machines that perform one task well and can be linked as demand rises, the so-called appliance approach to systems. A booming new market for service providers such as telephone companies and Web hosting companies is eager to buy such server appliances and could form an $11.4 billion market by 2004, according to International Data Corp.
Sun’s Cobalt line runs the open Linux operating system, a departure from its emphasis on a proprietary flavor of Unix known as Solaris, but officials said the operating system was irrelevant to users that did not intend to modify it.
Sun also introduced a low-end Solaris machine in the Netra line, also starting at less than $1,000. Critics like competitor International Business Machines Corp. (IBM.N) say the move to Linux could undermine Solaris. But Sun officials said the appliance market would not cannibalize its base of high end users, even though some of the demand would come from large companies adding appliance servers for ease of use.