||Editor's Comments (unless indicated
delighted with this recognition of the Tadpole brand and the company's
relationship with Sun Microsystems' and its technologies," says Graham
Brown, president of Tadpole's portable UNIX and server businesses. "Tadpole
is focused on extending the enterprise applications of UltraSPARC and Solaris
technologies as complementary solutions to those of Sun Microsystems', and in
applying its expertise developed over many years to increasingly complex and
challenging applications of the SPARC business-critical platform."
If you look at Tadpole today, knowing nothing about its history, you may be
tempted to think it's a shiny new company which just got lucky. But luck had
nothing to do with top billing in our reader interest rated feature.
smiths of old knew that to make a sword of iron which would both keep its blade
sharp, but would not be easily broken in battle, it would have to be forged
first in a red hot fire and beaten with a hammer. Then while the metal was
still glowing it should be quenched in cold water. Analysts who've followed
Tadpole would probably say they've been through that process, and that's why
they look so good today.
I first came across Tadpole as a user in the
1980's when they made a VMEbus card for one of the first RISC chips, the
from Inmos. They reappeared in my radar in the 1992 edition of the SPARC Product
Directory, with their SPARCbook, the world's first SPARC portable.
for several years the company seemed to go through a difficult period, first
seeing off Sun's own unsuccessful foray into SPARC portables, and then having to
meet with competition from another SPARC portable maker called RDI Computer. In
the mid 1990's Tadpole diversified its portable family into other architectures
including HP's PA RISC and then Intel. That's when the company got roasted and I
wondered if it would survive. They looked like a classical technology company
which was weak in marketing. They were stretched too thin in markets which
looked similar from the technology point of view, but which had non overlapping
VAR channels and customers.
There were a lot of changes in the
company's marketing personnel at that time. Quickly the company dropped its
Intel notebooks, and admitted that the Sun market was where it had to be
successful. Competition for SPARC portables came from many sources. In addition
to RDI's SPARC challenge, there were VARs selling preloaded Solaris X86
portables which nibbled away at some low end applications Also the early
generations of Sun's SPARCstations like the IPX were physically as small as a
portable and could be used as low cost luggables. Was the market really big
enough to support all these ways of solving the same problem? The answer at the
time was no. But then Tadpole seemed to change and start talking more about
marketing. Sun's workstations got faster and bigger, and could no longer be used
as luggables. That still left RDI...
In October, 1998 Tadpole acquired
RDI and the best products from each company were retained. But was that really a
big enough market? In November 2000 Tadpole acquired Cycle Computer, the leading
supplier of motherboard upgrades for SPARC workstations, and an emerging
supplier of rackmount SPARC systems. I thought that was very significant and
wrote an article
about it at the time.
The portable computer market for all
architectures grew last year (both Wintel and SPARC). More recently Sun's
announcement that it was dumping Solaris X86 may have driven a few more
customers in the direction of SPARC notebooks, because the cheaper alternatives
were now a dead end. Also the rackmount segment showed 50% growth rates all
through the recession of 2001, unlike the traditional server segments which were
flat or declined. The thermal packaging technology which can pack a workstation
into a notebook, also works well in the
a market which is currently growing. The same goes for appliances. So Tadpole's
hardware business is engaged in several high growth, high margin market
segments. That's why they're #1.
business model is leveraging our IT knowledge and best of breed vendors to
devise optimal UltraSPARC solutions. Many of our solutions have been deployed in
various industries including medical, government, military and advanced
manufacturing. The typical deployment ranges from high performance digital
imaging, high-density appliances and compute-intensive network communications,"
states Frederick Darter, President/CEO for Rave Computer, "Our success has
been founded on our ability to provide solutions, customer service and long term
Editor:- Founded in 1988 Rave Computer began by refurbishing and
reselling computer systems. Shortly thereafter, Rave became closely aligned
with Sun Microsystems and other strategic partners to provide system solutions
to solve specific needs that the standard OEM products cannot fulfill. In the
1990's Rave made and marketed its own brand of SPARC workstations and deskside
Within the SPARC market today Rave operates both as a
distributor of products from companies like Naturetech and also an integrator of
rackmount SPARC systems using Sun technology for markets which need different
packaging and customisation than offered by Sun's own servers.
also manufactures and distributes storage products such as Qualstar
tape libraries, Nexsan
disk to disk backup,
Dataram. Rave's ARES brand of fault tolerant backup and recovery system
incorporates an embedded server using Sun's UltraSPARC processor and Solaris
operating environment. Rave also makes
SAN products. (However,
within the scope of this top 10 SPARC listing, we have disregarded pageviews for
storage entries which appear on our sister publication
Wuhrer, Product Marketing Manager at Force Computers said "The SPARC
products from Force Computers provide state-of-the-art processors in a flexible
form factor to reduce time-to-market and shave development costs. Our SBCs are
based on UltraSPARC-IIe technology and provide PICMG 2.16 compliance as well as
PICMG2.9. The successful UltraSPARC-based single-board computers from Force
Computers are excellent solutions for customer's demanding applications by
providing high performance and reliability at atractive price."
Editor:- Force Computers is the world's largest supplier of
compactPCI cards and is a leading supplier of high availability SPARC servers
and cards to the telecoms and military industries. Its Centellis brand of high
availability rackmount SPARC servers provides "5 nines" reliability
and NEBs compliance in form factors starting from 3U upwards.
- 1990 - an agreement with Sun Microsystems leads to Force becoming an
alternative source for Sun's SPARCengine-1E, a 6U VME SPARC SBC, marketed as
the Force CPU-1. Force later went on to develop many generations of SPARC SBCs
on VME which included expansion via SBus slots and later, PMC.
- 1997 - Force ships the industry's first SPARC SBC in compactPCI
In the early 1990's before the web, it was difficult
for systems integrators and end users of embedded systems to locate reliable
information about add in cards for SPARC systems. During that time Force
Computers actively promoted this directory to its customer base, and Force still
does so today, which is very helpful in getting a wider readership within the
embedded SPARC market.
- January 2002 - Dy 4 Systems, a leader in ruggedized embedded computing
products for the defense and aerospace markets, becomes a business unit of
Microsystems was the first independent company to announce add-in SBus cards for
Sun's SPARCstation 1 (in December 1989). That set off a wave of (eventually)
more than 150 other SBus manufacturers entering the market. That wave also
triggered the founding of this publisher,
ACSL, and the
first edition of the SBus Product Directory in 1992, later renamed to the SPARC
Product Directory in 1996, when PCI cards started to find their way into SPARC
systems. Antares took out an ad on the front cover of the 1996 editions which
ran in parallel with the SPARC
directory web site.
During most of the 1990's there were dozens of
companies which entered the market for Sun compatible add-in cards such as
network interfaces, serial I/O, graphics etc and it was a confusing market. Few
companies stayed the distance. Antares was one of those, and in recent years the
company has branched out to support other server flavors in the Linux, AIX and
Microsoft OS markets.
In Q1 2001, Antares was acquired by a consumer
storage enclosure manufacturer and distributor called InClose Design. That got
wide publicity. ...What is less well known, is that because the markets serviced
by the two companies were so different, they amicably agreed to demerge not long
In Q2 2002, Antares started laying the foundations for its
growth as an independent company again. As part of that process it appointed
TidalWire Inc to be the exclusive distributor handling hundreds of Antares VARs
in the US.
Future product plans from the company include products in
the TCP/IP acceleration area based on Antares patent pending technology. When
used with on board Compression/Decompression and Encryption capabilities these
products will likely make a big contribution to Sun server performance in the
iSCSI and FCIP
was consistently the #1 ranked company in our web logfiles from 1996 through to
the year 2000. But June 2001 was the last time that happened.
pivotal change in June 2001? There are many possible reasons.
2001, Sun's success story was already rapidly unravelling as discussed in my
Time for changes at
the top in Sun?.
June 2001 was also the month Sun announced their
cost saving shutdown, which might have dented confidence in their wider customer
base (not just our readers). However, that linkage only looks clear now with
the benefit of hindsight. .
Why the seismic downshift from #1 to #5
in the last 12 months?
Our analysis suggests that most SPARC
readers today, are less inclined to view Sun as a technology leader, than they
have been in times past. Possible reasons for this may be:-
- Sun is not perceived as the market leader in many segments within the SPARC
market which are still growing despite the IT recession, such as SPARC
portables, embedded systems, add-in cards, storage etc. Our reader activity is
always higher in growing emerging product segments than in static or declining
ones. Although Sun supplies the raw technology for many of these growth
segments, solutions based on those technologies are more readily accessible to
users via integrators, IHVs and VARs rather than directly from Sun. Sun's
financial results would in fact be much worse if Sun had not set up those long
term relationships and opened up its technical interfaces and product licenses.
I've discussed these problems and possible remedies in many
during the last few years. Sun has been addressing these problems, but it's a
race against time, like always. The twenty year old company like many of us, has
put on weight and can't move quite as fast as it used to.
- Sun's rate of change in introducing new processor technology has slowed
down compared to previous years, and is starting to lag rather than lead
competition from Intel, HP, IBM etc. That public perception means users have
less to lose by not following up on news stories or directory links about Sun,
compared to the time that Sun was setting the pace for the whole computer
||Solar Systems &
Solar based in Preston, Washington, was
incorporated in 1990 and is a reseller of previously owned Sun hardware both
used and unused.
This week the company has completed a major overhaul
of its web site.
Connection of Central New York (CCNY) has been supplying Sun users for nearly
15 years. CCNY was named in VarBusiness Magazine's ranking of the top 500 VARs,
Integrators, and IT Consultants located in North America in 1999 and 2000.
"As the leading provider of high-availability, network-ready compute
platforms for telecom equipment manufacturers, Continuous Computing is delighted
to be in the top 10 list of such an important publication," said Ken Kalb,
CEO, Continuous Computing Corporation.
Editor:- Continuous Computing
Corporation, established in 1998 with headquarters in San Diego, is a leading
provider of high-availability platform solutions for telecom equipment
manufacturers and service providers. Their SPARC products include servers,
modules and uniquely, their upsuite HA middleware, which has been licensed for
use by other HA suppliers including I-Bus/Phoenix in Europe.
February 2002 - Continuous Computing announced the first product in its
SPARCblade processor board family. The SPARCblade IIe-500 processor board
is a hot-swappable, PICMG 2.16-compliant compactPCI single board computer
availability is a fast growing segment for all architectures. But the blade
market also has good prosepcts. In February 2002 a market report from
Dataquest said that
worldwide blade server shipments would grow from 84,810 units in 2002 to more
than 1 million by 2006. They also said that blades which followed open industry
standards (such as cPCI) would have a better adoption rate in the market than
blade products which used new or proprietary form factors and interfaces.
defined a blade as follows. "A blade server is a server contained on a
card. Rather than installing servers one chassis at a time into a rack cabinet
as is most common today, with blade servers, network administrators can install
a server card (or blade) into a chassis that has multiple slots to hold these
based Naturetech was founded in 1998 and manufactures the Ultra-NoteStation
777S, a Solaris Compatible notebook based on Sun's UltraSPARC IIe
The company has been very fast at setting up
distribution channels for these SPARC portables both in the US (where Rave
Computer is one of about four US distributors) and in Europe. In liitle over a
year since shipping their first SPARC product it's amazing that Naturetech has
already made an impact on user awareness and leapt straight into this top 10
list. The market for SPARC portables in 2002/3 is much bigger than it was a
decade ago, and shows indications that it will keep growing.
||Data Storage Depot|
Storage Depot based in Bethel, Connecticut is a leading supplier of new Disk,
Memory, RAID, NAS and Tape products for Sun workstations and servers. The
company was incorporated April 1991 and was originally named Dynamic Computer
Products. It's a Master Reseller for Dataram.
The IT recession meant
that 2001 was a bad year for all memory manufacturers, but not necessarily so
for memory resellers. That's because when IT budgets are squeezed, end users are
more likely to look at alternative suppliers for memory. Low cost suppliers
benefit when users switch away from buying technically identical products at a
higher price from server OEMs like Sun. If the reseller offers good service,
then the user won't switch back to paying twice as much when their budgets come
Memory market analyst
Semico Research Corp
believes that a recovery in DRAM ASPs and revenues has already begun and in
April forecasted that 2002 will be a strong year for DRAM. In fact, Semico
forecasts a 43% growth in DRAM revenues in 2002.
(in Europe) is a specialist manufacturer and integrator of enclosures and high
tech rack mounted servers for embedded applications in utilities,
telecommunications, broadcast, medical equipment industrial automation,
packaging and transportation. The company builds high availability SPARC based
platforms using Sun boards and licensing HA middleware from Continuous
In June 2002 reorganized their European operations improve
service and delivery to customers. To achieve this, the UK company relocated
to larger purpose built premises in Tangmere, West Sussex. As the new European
headquarters, this serves the French, German and Scandinavian offices with
centralised facilities for integration, warehousing, distribution, technical
support and QA backup for all major products lines.
In July 2002
I-Bus/Phoenix launched the nFUZION-8U/CHS a high density compactPCI Ultra SPARC
IIe NEBS platform for computer farms. The new system can incorporate upto 16
SPARC servers in as little as 8U of rack space.
|Footnote:- why 11
companies, and not just 10? Well you already guessed that Sun was going to be
one of the top 10, and I like to pack in as much useful information as I can.
which designs and manufactures its own SPARC chips, doesn't appear in the top 10
list. Fujitsu is ranked #36.
Unfortunately the company, which is
widely acknowledged as a supplier of technically excellent products, is weak
Within the SPARC systems segment alone the company has
created and then killed or stealth marketed brands more often that Buffy the
vampire slayer has saved the world from armaggedon. Fujitsu's SPARC systems
companies and brands have included:- HAL Computer, turboSPARC, ICL, Amdahl,
Fujitsu Siemens (in Europe), Fujitsu Technology Solutions (in the US) etc.
managers who have worked in the company or closely in partnership with their
marketing department privately admit that Fujitsu's marketing is stellar in its
blandness, poor targeting and failure to effectively compete with its more
adroit SPARC technology partner and competitor Sun. As a result, Fujitsu, whose
high end servers did not suffer from Sun's
cache memory problems in 2001, failed to capitalise on this. Instead of
winning market share from Sun, the company left it to others to point out that
there might be some advantages in switching to their servers. In the meantime
IBM sold more mainframes to nervous Sun customers, and Sun patched up the
problem. Given that background, being #36 isn't too bad. In fact being ranked in
the top 50 is an improvement for Fujitsu compared with previous years.
||Where's Your Own Company?|
you work in sales or marketing and your own company is a manufacturer, VAR or
other hardware technology supplier related to the SPARC systems market in the US
or Europe, then you may be interested to know where you rank on a scale which
stretches from 12 to about 700.
Send me an email, and I'll look up the
results and get back to you with an answer. I get thousands of emails every week
and prioritise those related to news and other content. But I will reply to at
least one request from any company which has a genuine interest in this subject.
It may take anything from a few days to a few weeks. But it may give you a
clearer idea of what you can do to increase your visibility in this important
For example you may not want the world to know that
you're currently losted 293. And I'm not going to publish that information to
embarrass you. But if you think you should be nearer 75, say, then the feedback
I give you will help you realise there's a gap between where you would like to
be, and where the market actually views your company. Then it's up to you to do
something about it, or not.