Unisys Expands Hardware, But Leads with Solutions Now
Published: March 18, 2008
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Last summer, server maker Unisys, which is perhaps best known for its ClearPath mainframe line but also as the first credible vendor of high-end gear for running Windows 2000 Server, hired a former top executive who cut his teeth at Digital Equipment and then moved on to Compaq and Hewlett-Packard to run their big iron product lines. That executive, Rich Marcello, was brought in by Unisys from HP to shake things up a bit.
The first big change that Marcello is making at Unisys is to get the company from thinking of itself as a hardware company that also pushes services and sometimes software. Which is probably a bit strange for sales reps at Unisys, not to mention its customers and partners. Of the $1.2 billion in sales that Marcello has control over at Unisys as president of its System and Technology Group, the pie is split up pretty evenly between hardware, software, and services. And Unisys, with $5.6 billion in sales in 2007, has an even larger services business, including a lot of outsourcing, outside of its system group.
"The business I am in to run eight months ago was pretty hardware centric," says Marcello. "We were not focused on solutions. But people are building a financial services system, or a fingerprinting system, or some other kind of system, and they are usually not thinking about the infrastructure underlying that system. As a services company, being hardware centric was probably not the best way to approach the IT market." That may sound a bit like heresy for a long-time systems guy, but the problem that Marcello is facing is a big one for a company that is still thought of as a systems company, even though it gets most of its money from services.
To that end, Marcello is moving Unisys away from focusing on its own ES7000 and ClearPath iron and homogenous solutions for its customers toward a world where Unisys has many more strategic partnerships, sells and supports its own iron as well as that of other server makers, and focuses more on the final result of the project. The resulting software product stack that Unisys is putting together to run this heterogeneous environment will be called the Infrastructure Management Suite, and it will include code developed by Unisys for its own ES7000 and ClearPath products as well as third party and open source tools to cover everything from provisioning, to patching, test and development, infrastructure automation and virtualization, and utility computing.
As part of the reconfiguration of the System and Technology Group this month, Marcello has inked a deal with another, unnamed blade server maker to allow Unisys to resell its gear. (Marcello will not say who the deal is with, but did confirm that it is not HP. My guess it is Dell, which has had partnerships off and on with Unisys over the years.) Anyway, the ES5000 blade server family will begin shipping in March, and will have a total of 16 half-height blades in the chassis. The feeds and speeds of the blades will not be announced until later this month, when they begin shipping, but Marcello says that a base configuration with a single blade and LAN and SAN switches inside the box will run $17,500.
Unisys has also refreshed its ES3000 rack and tower server lines with Intel's quad-core Xeon processors. The ES3000 line has three existing models and a new one. The line includes the ES3240L, which is a rack-mounted four-socket server in a 4U form factor that uses the "Tigerton" Xeon 7300 processors. The ES3220L is a two-socket, 2U box that runs dual-core and quad-core Xeons, while the ES3220 is a fatter rack or tower box that comes in a 5U form factor and has more room for peripheral expansion. These are the existing machines. The new machine is the ES3215, which is a two-socket, 1U rack server that supports the dual-core and quad-core Xeon chips. Unisys is supporting Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 and 5, and Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 on these boxes.
Marcello did not want to talk to much about the forthcoming product line that is being created by Unisys and NEC engineers, but did say that the product line, which will very likely use the ES7000 label at Unisys, was on track for launch later this year. That server line will support both Itanium and Xeon processors and will run both Windows and Linux operating systems--just like Unisys boxes do today, including the ClearPath mainframes, which have Xeon and Itanium co-processors.
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