Doing battle in a $9 billion Unix server market in seemingly permanent decline is not for the timid. Designing a competitive microprocessor is very costly, so the easy path for smaller vendors is to simply drop out.
Nonetheless, one of those smaller vendors, Fujitsu, says it's in the Unix market for the long haul. The company is committed to developing its Sparc64 chip for Unix servers in an effort to, among other things, keep IBM from monopolizing the business, says Noriyuki Toyoki, corporate senior vice president and the head of Fujitsu's server division.
IBM already has one giant cash cow thanks to its dominance of the mainframe market, and if it came to dominate Unix in the same way -- and it already owns more than half the market, according to IDC -- the industry and corporate users would lose, according to Toyoki. "Customers need alternatives to get the best value," he said in an interview.
Fujitsu and partner Oracle each develop a version of the Sparc chip. They jointly design Sparc systems and resell each other's products.
Though Oracle has been expanding the role of its own Sparc designs, Toyoki said the future of Fujitsu's own Sparc64 chip is secure. The Unix market may be shrinking, he said, but it is still large enough to support multiple RISC architectures.
"Frankly, we would not use Oracle's Sparc chips in our servers," Toyoki said. He acknowledged that the Oracle chips "are very efficient, especially for throughput operations," but added that Fujitsu's customers need what he called RAS: the reliability, availability and serviceability capabilities that bleed into Sparc64 from its mainframe systems.
Also, he said, Fujitsu is "the last Japanese company doing processor development. We'd like to keep doing it."
Fujitsu is usually listed in the top five Unix vendors, but trails far behind IBM, Oracle and Hewlett-Packard.
This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com.