Sun's Ray Of Hope For The Server Market

For years, Sun Microsystems Inc. has led the market for powerful engineering workstations. But its focus on being the most aggressive supplier of desktop models has left a conspicuous hole in its product line: Its servers--computers that coordinate networks and store large data bases--have fallen behind the competition in speed and information-handling abilities. The server market is one that Sun can't afford to lose: Dataquest Inc. estimates sales will soar from $1.3 billion this year to $3.4 billion in 1995. More important, servers are key to Sun's attempt to grab mainstream business customers, those outside engineering and programming departments.

On Sept. 30, Sun hopes to get back in the race with a new line of servers that can use up to four of its Sparc micro-processors at once. Priced from $45,000 to $105,000, Sun's "multiprocessing" machines are more than four times faster than its current top-of-the-line server. But Sun has a battle ahead of it. The machines are a year late and may still not be as powerful as some competing models. Moreover, special performance-boosting software that evenly parcels out jobs to each processor won't be ready until next year.