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SmugMug is a Sun Customer!

February 8, 2007

Matthew passed on this interesting blog entry by SmugMug’s CEO on how Sun won their business. It sounds like a fair and honest assessment… of how Sun kicked the competition’s collective butts! This is great stuff to see validated by true customers, and validates most of the claims I’ve been making to folks who ask me which servers to run.

I’d like to address his two dings on us, FWIW.

1. The sales process sucks.
I’ll admit this is a known concern here- and we are actively working on it. I was the lead architect for Phase I of our online store launched last quarter (here’s the x2200 the SmugMug folks were interested in), and my friends and colleagues are carrying on the effort as I write this, including the B2B space. I wish we had it in time to help the SmugMug guys, but its a really complicated problem. (Not making excuses, but its the most complicated one I’ve ever been exposed to in business.) Keep your eyes on this space, changes are happening.

2. Their up-front prices are higher than Rackable’s.
I’m not familiar with Rackable hardware, but the blog goes on to say they are cheap. In every sense of the word. That pretty much covers that. I see Sun’s servers as many consumers see Apple’s laptops: slight price premium, but way better build quality. And IMHO, that build quality (both hardware and software) reflects itself as lower TCO. My boss’s team is also responsible for running our own servers in a datacenter, over 200 of ’em. So I see stuff when it breaks- and it pretty much never does. (Sure, disks fail, but multiply the MTBF by ~1000 disks, and you’re sure to see that. That’s what ZFS is for. ;)) I’d honestly be shocked if the TCO is not less…

Anyway, just a FWIW. Hopefully it didn’t come across as too rah-rah. And SmugMug, if you’re listening, I like the new UI. More of that please. 😉

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From → Misc

3 Comments
  1. We’re listening. 🙂
    Glad you like the new UI. Just wait till you see what’s next…
    Re: cheaper Rackable prices

    Rackable’s hardware was very reliable and seemed to be of fairly high quality for years. They had “low” prices (where “low” = “lower than Sun’s but higher than a whitebox shop”) then, too. But in 2006, something changed. Their quality and everything else dropped. It closely matches their stock price diving into the toilet, too.

    So there are two interesting points here, and maybe this deserves another blog post, but here they are:

    – Their prices were cheap, while their quality wasn’t, for quite awhile. So it is possible to do – probably just difficult.

    – Sun’s list prices are much higher than Rackables. In some cases, enough so that you could buy two Rackables for each Sun, which overcomes much of the reliability if you’re cool with redundancy and failure, which we usually are.

    No-one pays list, though, I’m sure, so this isn’t a fair comparison. Though it does beg the question of why Sun’s list prices are so high – plenty of people will probably not even ask for a quote simply because the sticker shock is so large. I fell into this camp for years.

    And, finally, we pushed hard and Sun had to get aggressive internally to even come close to Rackable’s pricing. Again, I’m fine paying a premium, but at some point, the premium is no longer worth it, of course.

    I think if Sun were more transparent about actual pricing rather than list pricing, this would help their business a great deal. Less sticker shock, less hassle and negotiation, more sales.

    Don

  2. Dang. I just commented, but it was marked as spam.
    Maybe you can find it and unmark it as spam? 🙂
    Don

  3. Don- sorry about that. Your fancy HTML must have triggered the overzealous spam filter. 🙂 The comment has been approved.
    Thanks for the feedback on our pricing. I do know that our [in progress] new storefront will offer dynamic pricing based on various rules, so this isn’t such a black box for customers. As for what can we do in the meantime, I’ll pass your feedback along, and if there’s anything I can do to help keep you guys happy and loyal, drop me an email… address at the bottom of my blog.

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