Sun bags first server-database appliance customer

Philippine telco Smart Communications will use the Sun Fire X4500 with Greenplum's database to extract customer information in real time.
Written by Aaron Tan, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Sun Microsystems has signed up the first customer for its data warehousing appliance that integrates Greenplum's massively parallel processing database.

In an interview with ZDNet Asia, Scott Yara, president and co-founder of Greenplum, said Philippine telco Smart Communications bought Sun's "Thumper" server-storage hybrid appliance called the Sun Fire X4500, to power its call center. Founded in 2003, Greenplum provides open source databases for business intelligence and data warehousing applications.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Specifically, Yara said the Sun appliances will allow Smart to make customer call records available to call center operators in real time. The hybrids are powered by the Solaris 10 operating system and Greenplum's modified version of the open source PostgreSQL database, complete with parallel processing and business intelligence capabilities.

"There is a huge lag time between the time a telecom company stores call details and [makes the data] available to customers," he explained. "So, they're using our software to get real-time, detailed call record information to the call center [to provide] better customer service."

According to a Gartner research note last July, Sun's data warehousing appliance is priced well below competing offerings, giving it the potential to act as a disruptive force within the data warehousing market. It also allows Sun to compete effectively against rivals such as DATAllegro, IBM, Netezza, Oracle and Teradata.

The appliance is configured based on usable terabytes of storage and will be priced as at less than US$20,000 per terabyte, or US$2 million for a 100-terabyte system.

Lionel Lim, president of Sun Microsystems in Asia South, said: "If Smart were to go to a competitor, it would probably have to spend about US$3 million to US$4 million easily."

In its research paper, Gartner also noted that with this appliance, Sun is attempting to strengthen its presence in the software market segments while increasing the sales of its X4500 system.

"However, Sun has much work ahead of it before it can build a data warehousing professional services organization capable of supporting the large potential customer base for this new offering, which is currently a mainstay of NCR Teradata, a leader in the market," the analyst house added.

Sun engineers will support the Greenplum database used by Sun Fire X4500 customers in the Asia-Pacific region.

According to Gartner, Greenplum's database, which has been shipping since February 2006, has more than 10 customers on other hardware platforms including Dell. Yara noted, however, that the database has been optimized for better performance on the Sun Fire X4500.

Bigwig storage vendors including Sun, Hewlett-Packard and IBM, have been touting the server-storage hybrid approach in data center design.

Sun's Lim said: "[Keeping] the storage and server architecture [separate] is a thing of the past; it is now the data-server architecture, and what we've done is to commercialize it."

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