In 1998 RAVE specialized in reselling Data General (DG) and Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) computer hardware. By 1992 we had dropped DEC and sold DG and Sun Microsystems computer systems, by 1995 we focused on reselling only Sun.
A niche market grew in the 1990’s: companies that made compatible hardware that fit into the proprietary OEM systems. Sometimes they were effectively clones, same fit, form and function but often they differentiated themselves by adding additional features or increased performance. RAVE focused on creating relationships with these type companies and then offered configured solutions that took advantage of “best of breeds” technologies – which is what we still do today.
One such example was a company called Weitek Technologies. They offered a chip replacement for the Sun Sparc 2; it doubled the systems processing speed. We sold thousands of “enhanced high performance” Sun systems; one of our biggest markets at the time was Wall Street. (As the Sun Sparc 2 technology obsoleted so did Weitek, RAVE in fact bought out their entire remaining inventory when they went out of business; we sold every chip at a nice profit.)
In the late 1990’s, RAVE was in a great position – our Sun “STB” partner type allowed RAVE to purchase Sun components at the component level, plus we had relationships with the compatible/enhanced manufacturers. RAVE introduced “Sun Clones” that outperformed Sun original manufactured products. Our focus then was to find the markets that could take advantage of the performance. Keep in mind our core understanding that “one size does not fit all.” It was at this time the RAVE introduced our own “RAVE Systems” brand.
This was an opportunity but it also created a challenge. RAVE had a very strong relationship with Sun. From their perspective they preferred that we sell only Sun branded products. They understood and supported us when we would take Sun product into a new market or helped them avoid losing to a competitor. When it seemed as if we were competing with Sun products, it became sensitive.
Sun offered a proprietary Operating System called Solaris, also Trusted Solaris specific to the defense industry. Both are a variation of the Linux operating system. Linux is today one of RAVE’s core competencies. In 1998 Sun was the only major computer OEM that did not have a relationship with or support Windows products. In those years there was a great rivalry between Bill Gates and Sun Microsystems’ President Scott McNealy, at the time there was a very loyal Solaris customer base. Windows was considered buggy, and virus prone, Solaris was not. RAVE focused on the Linux customer base and did not choose to pursue the WinTel/X86 base at all. We were drinking Sun’s Kool-Aid.
In 2003 Sun introduced its first Windows based systems. It was RAVE’s wakeup to Windows. RAVE began the process of updating our core competencies to understand and support Microsoft Operating Systems and products, including new form factors and the concept of truly open systems architecture. The Sun X86 based systems were very niche in that they offered world record performance, but only into certain customer environments. However they were offered also as a one size fits all solution which we quickly learned did not work well. They marketed their systems world record performance which people bought into, but within some markets/applications they performed poorly. Because most customers don’t have the tools to benchmark performance they don’t know the difference and assume they invested in the best technology available.
RAVE did as we always do: formed relationships with compatible manufacturers, integrated “best of breed technologies” and found successes, and started building a focus market. What we also learned was Sun was very expensive; we could build even clone products and significantly undercut their standard pricing.
Around 2005 RAVE started finding successes outside the Sun customer base which opened up new opportunities. The systems/solutions that we offered were truly RAVE (branded) systems and no longer “Sun compatible.” Our relationship with Sun which at one point was critical to our business plan and success started to change. We did not truly understand the importance of that fact until several years later.
Next month, RAVE systems brings opportunities and challenges.