Building on its successful replacement program for IBM's abandoned NUMA-Q users, Sun Microsystems Project "Blue Away" is now targeting IBM's midrange capacity mainframe customers. The mid-market mainframe represents a potential $1 billion opportunity that Sun intends to lead with its Sun Fire Midframe server family.

"The benefits of a mainframe must be justified in terms of its costs," said Mike Kahn, chairman of The Clipper Group, Inc., technology acquisition consultants in Wellesley, MA. "Enterprises that use a smaller mainframe have higher operating costs per unit of processing, primarily because they pay more for operating software, than do enterprises with very large mainframes, or those that are running similar workloads on UNIX servers. In many cases, Sun's mainframe migration program will offer them significant life cycle cost savings."

As part of the "Blue Away" initiative, customers can take advantage of Sun's Upgrade Allowance Program and receive 10 percent credit when they trade-in their mainframe system toward the purchase of any Sun Fire midframe or high-end system. "Last quarter, Sun shipped over four times more MIPS than IBM," said Shahin Khan, chief competitive officer, Sun Microsystems. "Since IBM is the only vendor of mainframes, they have been raising prices on captive mainframe customers and paying less attention to customers with small or mid-size mainframes.” Through this Blue Away initiative, Sun is offering an alternative solution.

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