But Wait, There's More
U.S. chip maker Intel and Taiwanese rival VIA Technologies have finally decided to stop fighting in the courts over alleged patent infringements both parties claimed against each other. In September 2001, Intel sued VIA, claiming that its C3 X86-compatible processors violated Intel patents. VIA then countersued, saying Intel's Pentium chips violated patents that VIA gained control over through the acquisition of another chipmaker (Integrated Device Technologies). The two had been battling it out in 11 separate cases in five countries, involving a total of 27 patents. Under the settlement, Intel and VIA have agreed to dismiss all pending legal claims and to pay their own legal fees, and they have inked a 10-year patent cross licensing agreement. VIA has gained the right to sell X86-compatible processors under the agreement, but it cannot make chips that are compatible with the pins or buses of Intel's own chips. In effect, customers will not be able to plug VIA chips into machines that would otherwise run Intel's own Pentium chips. However, in an odd and unexplained maneuver, Intel says that it will not assert its patent rights on VIA's bus- or pin-compatible processors for three years, and has granted VIA a four-year license to design and sell chipsets that are compatible with Intel's buses, and it will not asset its rights on VIA's resellers in this area for five years. VIA will pay Intel some royalties, but neither company would say on what products or how much.
Russell Holt, vice president of enterprise engineering for servers and storage at Dell, said last week that the company was committed to re-entering the Itanium server market later this year, most likely when the "Madison" Itanium 2 chips are announced this summer by Intel, and that it was working with Intel to deliver an improved eight-way box later in 2003, and probably based on the E8870 chipset and the Pentium 4 Xeon MP "Gallatin" processors. Holt was not at liberty to say, but Dell does not venture far from the Intel roadmap. Dell could, of course, ship an E8870-based machine right now--Unisys is selling a 16-way ES7000 Orion server based on the Intel chipset. Clearly, Dell is waiting for something, and it ain't Christmas. It might be larger-cache Gallatin Xeon MP chips.
As general manager of Dell's storage business, Russell Holt is also privy to what Dell is up to in storage, and he says that, as of last week, the company is manufacturing the entry CX200 storage arrays that are the fruit of its partnership with EMC that was forged last year. Dell said that in 12 months time, it has gained 2,500 customers for the CX line of arrays, which include larger models (the CX400 and CX600) than the CX200 that Dell is making. Dell is selling the CX200, announced last October in preconfigurations for attachment to two PowerEdge servers and with three years of support for $19,500.
Appro International, a server maker based in Milpitas, California, which was founded in 1991 and has become a niche player in the market for clustered machines to support high performance computing and large database workloads, is preparing to start selling servers based on the 64-bit "SledgeHammer" Opteron X86-compatible processor from Advanced Micro Devices. Appro plans to sell a mix of rack-mounted thin servers and blade servers based on the Opterons, which will be launched in a few weeks. The HyperBlade B121H server will be a dual-processor blade server supporting one 200 GB ATA disk drive and up to 8 GB of main memory. A total of five chassis, each capable of holding 16 two-way blades, can fit in a standard 42U rack (with a couple of Us left over for other electronics). That works out to 160 processors, 640 GB of main memory, and 16 GB of disk capacity per rack; up to 14.4 TB of external storage can be attached to a rack of blades. However, no one knows how fast the Opterons will be when they come out, so it is hard to figure exactly how much computing capacity this will be running HPC or clustered database workloads. Appro already sells machines based on Intel and AMD 32-bit processors, and sells all of its machines running Red Hat Linux.
Microsoft knows times are tough out there, and like other major IT players with a reseller distribution channel that is mostly comprised of big public companies (whose stock prices live and die based on profits) and smaller private companies (whose owners like to see the profits in their own pockets), it knows that when times are tough, it has to help its partners keep making money. One way to do that is to give them more margin--something IT suppliers rarely do. Much more common is the practice of co-marketing and providing funds to partners to cover their training and technical support costs. This has the effect of steering the reseller channel toward technologies the IT supplier is developing and promoting. This is exactly what Microsoft did this week as it announced the Microsoft Partner Rewards program, which, the company says, gives value-added resellers and systems builders resources to prop up and extend their businesses. This program is like a frequent flyer program from the airlines. Every time resellers push a specific Microsoft license into a customer account, they earn points that can be used to get business development funds, product training, and technical support from Microsoft for their customers through the company's Product Support Services unit.
SSA Global Technologies announced last week that General Atlantic Partners has taken a $75 million stake in the Chicago-based ERP software company, which sells solutions on Windows, OS/400, and Unix platforms. General Atlantic Partners is based Greenwich, Connecticut, private equity investment firm that specializes in late-stage investments in established IT and communications companies. The company usually makes investments between $25 million and $100 million, and does not usually seek control of the companies it invests in. That profile seems to square with the actions taken with SSA GT, which already has solid backing from its primary owners, New York City-based Cerberus Capital Management, and is looking to continue its growth through acquisition. Cerberus still maintains a majority interest in SSA GT, which chief executive Michael Greenough said earlier this year is on track to reach $255 million in revenues. As a result of the $75 million investment, General Atlantic Partners has placed two of its representatives, William Ford and Marc McMorris, on SSA GT's board of directors. In a statement, McMorris said that General Atlantic looks forward to working with SSA GT's management team and to helping it expand its already-growing market position.
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