Sun led fed RISC market in FY '95

Sun Microsystems Inc. dominated the federal market for reduced instruction-set computing (RISC) workstations and servers in fiscal 1995, according to a new report, but the landscape could change dramatically given the recent spate of multiple-award hardware contracts.

Sun topped Silicon Graphics Inc. in the RISC workstations segment and IBM Corp. in the RISC server market, according to the report published by IDC Government Market Services, Falls Church, Va. IDC did not list beyond the top two vendors in either category. All together, RISC vendors shipped about 43,000 workstations and 9,450 servers, according to IDC.

In contrast to the PC market, the workstation sector is shaped largely by indefinite-delivery,

indefinite-quantity contracts rather than by the General Services Administration schedule, said Jan Morgan, a research analyst with IDC GMS. "Sun has more [IDIQ] contracts than anyone else," she said. In workstations, Sun's shipments "are almost double [those of] the next closest competitor."

Sun expects its lead in the market to continue. "We have had a steady stream of wins every year," said John Marselle, president of Sun Microsystems Federal Inc., Vienna, Va. "You have to have a steady stream of wins because of the nature of the [federal] business.

Sun's major vehicles include the Air Force Workstations pact, the Army's Common Hardware and Software II, the Defense Intelligence Agency's Integration for Command, Control, Communications and Computers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Scientific Workstations II contract.

Silicon Graphics Inc., however, earned the No. 2 slot among workstation vendors without the benefit of a large IDIQ pact, Morgan said. In contrast with the other major vendors, SGI sold its high-performance workstations through a number of channels, including the GSA schedule, Government Technology Services Inc. and a number of other partners. GTSI carried SGI products for part of fiscal 1995 but no longer resells the company's equipment.

SGI has gained a lot of ground by pushing its reach down into the lower-end workstation market while keeping its edge for 3-D graphics and high throughput, Morgan said.

"The real mainstays of our product line [are] the midrange Indigo 2 Impact [graphics] machines and the Onyx machines, for multiprocessing," said Gary Havenstein, technical workstation manager for SGI federal business development.

Although SGI does not have many contracts, "when you have good things, people come and get it," Havenstein said.

On the server side, second-ranked IBM benefited from the ramping up of several major client/server-oriented programs, such as the Forest Service's Proj-ect 615 and the Interior Department's Automated Land and Mineral Record System, for which IBM is a subcontractor to Computer Sciences Corp.

IBM also did a lot of business through the National Security Agency's High Performance Workstation 2 (HPW2) contract and at the Federal Aviation Administration through systems integrator Lockheed Martin Corp., said Mladen Karcic, RISC System/6000 brand manager for IBM Government System's federal organization.

Hewlett-Packard Co., which did not rank in either the workstation or server categories, "was a little surprised by the results of the survey," said Charlie Trentacosti, marketing manager for HP's federal government business unit. "I think we are doing better in the federal government than the survey indicated."

HP has been selling workstations and servers off the Navy's Tactical Advanced Computer-4 as a prime and off Supermini, through PRC Inc., as well as through NASA's Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement, Trentacosti said.

Competition for Sun

While Sun dominates for now, the major RISC vendors - Digital Equipment Corp., HP, IBM, SGI and Sun - will be jockeying for position during the next two years based upon a string of recent and upcoming multiple-award contracts.

Since the advent of acquisition reform, most computer buys involve two awards - such as the recently awarded Air Force and Army workstation programs - while others have even more suppliers.

The next two years will give HP and Digital a lot of room to work, Morgan said. For example, NOAA recently awarded its Scientific Workstations II contracts to three vendors to offer workstations and other products. Later this year, NASA will award contracts to as many as a dozen vendors under the Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement II, a large governmentwide contract.

Digital has the most immediate opportunity to gain ground, having recently won slots on the Air Force and Army workstation buys as well as a contract line item on the Air Force's Desktop V.

Those contracts give Digital its first major opportunity in the federal market to build a large customer base, said James R. O'Neill, vice president and general manager of Digital's Federal Government Region. "Now we have the vehicles, where before we really didn't."

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