By Paul Murphy, author of The Unix Guide to Defenestration
So you want to know what that new piece of gear should cost? One immediate approach is to go and look at on-line pricing in places like store.sun.com but that only gives you list prices.
List prices are pretty good indicators for real prices on small gear - there just isn't a lot of negotiable margin on a Sun 480 or a Dell PC - but they're usually just a starting point for price discussions on larger gear.
So if you want a larger box, say a Sun 6800, how do you find out what you should be paying? First there isn't a big used market in them so you can't establish a fair market value that way nor can you realistically threaten your Sun salesperson by waving a Fujitsu business card around. Of course you can do comparison shopping against the latest 32 Processor Itanic or P-Series box, but the more credible you are as a techi, the less credible that threat's going to be.
There is, however something you can do that will often give credible results of value to you during price discussions with your vendor: check the TPC.org site for comparable, recent, configurations and base your price expections on the numbers shown there.
The transactions processing council (TPC) provides audited performance information and requires vendors to provide realistic market pricing for the gear benchmarked. As a result you can use the TPC detailed disclosure documents, which are generally available on the tpc.org web site, to determine what total systems cost and approximately how the performance of two systems compare.
There are recent listings, for example, for small gear like the v880s and one for a Starfire 15K with 72CPUs and 288GB of RAM on which Sun took a 35% discount -meaning that you too should expect to get about that reduction from list.
Mining the detailed disclosure documents gives you more than price information too; it can give you valuable clues about configuration that you won't find in things like Sun's blueprint architecture series - because those are aimed at selling your company more gear whilst the benchmarkers share your aim of minimizing total dollar costs.