Sun Microsystems has expanded its presence on online auctioneer eBay's website with new auctions for servers and workstations based on Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron processor.
The new auctions are for one day only, and give customers the chance to bid on the Sun Fire V20z server, the Sun Fire V40z server, and the W1100z and W2100z workstations, as well as software licences for the Solaris operating system and support packages. The auctions start at one cent, but that price will not last very long.
The auctions ending Wednesday (4 August) afternoon were resulting in bargains for bidders. The Sun Fire V40z server, with two Opteron 844 processors, has a list price of $9,995 (£5,500) but sold for only $4,429 in one auction.
Sun is not using eBay's reserve price option in these auctions, a Sun spokeswoman said. EBay sellers can choose to set a reserve price that must be exceeded to sell the item, otherwise the sale is cancelled. Sun is allowing customers to use eBay's "Buy it Now" feature to purchase items at list price, but that is probably not a good idea given the outcome of the auctions on Wednesday.
Sun has been selling products on eBay for over a year and a half and Opteron servers since the JavaOne conference in June, the Sun spokeswoman said. But the company is relatively new to Opteron and the x86 server market in general.
Over the past few years, Sun held onto its large, expensive servers based on Risc (reduced instruction set computing) processors while rival server suppliers IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Dell embraced low-cost servers built with processors from Intel.
Sun is trying to break into that market now with the most diverse set of servers based on the Opteron processor, but the other companies have an advantage among the large enterprise accounts that are looking for cheap Intel-based servers. HP and IBM also sell Opteron servers, while Dell has so far declined to release an Opteron product.
"Sun's trying a lot of things out right now," said Gordon Haff, principal analyst with Illuminata. Selling products through eBay is not all that different from selling products directly through Sun's website, except for the way bids are placed, he said.
Many IT managers at smaller organisations might be put off by the reputation Sun has as a high-priced supplier, although that reputation is not necessarily deserved when it comes to the Opteron servers, Haff said. Those budget-conscious shoppers might come to eBay looking for a second-tier or third-tier Opteron supplier, and be surprised to find they could afford a Sun product, he said.
Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service