Linux comes to Sun SPARC servers

Ubuntu Linux gives Sun server customers alternative to Solaris.

Sun is officially giving customers a wider choice on its SPARC servers with the announcement that it will support Linux on its new multicore UltraSPARC T1 systems.

Sun has spent the last few years expanding customer choice with a growing portfolio of x86 systems that run Linux and Solaris. But the announcement this week that a Linux distribution would be serviced and supported on Sun’s SPARC platform is a first, industry experts say.

“The announcement is significant in that it shows Sun’s willingness to let users freely choose between Solaris and Linux instead of just having Solaris [on SPARC],” says RedMonk analyst Michael Cote.

Sun joined Canonical, the company that distributes Ubuntu Linux, in announcing that the next release of Ubuntu would support Sun’s T1000 and T2000 servers.

The servers are built on Sun’s new UltraSPARC T1 chip, which includes eight processing cores on a single piece of silicon and can handle as many as 32 application instructions at a single time. The architecture is perfect for jobs such as Web serving or application serving, where dozens of software threads run simultaneously, areas where Linux has become well-established, says Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical.

“The pricing of these [T1] systems is in line with the prices of servers people would look at for deploying Linux,” Shuttleworth says. “We think people will be excited about having the ability to deploy Linux on this new kind of architecture.”

The Sun Fire T1000 starts at just under $3,000 and the Sun Fire T2000 starts at about $7,800.

Ubuntu is best known on the desktop, where it has gained widespread adoption because of its ease of use, analysts say. Ubuntu 6.06 LTS [Long Term Support] is expected to be released early this month and will include the first “enterprise-focused” product for the data center.

Ubuntu 6.06 LTS includes five years of support on the server, and Canonical offers technical support for SPARC deployments for $700 per year. Ubuntu 6.06 LTS also supports Xeon-, Opteron- and PowerPC-based systems.

Ubuntu was ported to the SPARC platform via Sun’s OpenSPARC initiative, which gives developers access to the UltraSPARC T1 specifications, Shuttleworth says. Sun released the processor’s specifications in February, saying that it wanted to make it easier to port Linux and other operating systems, as well as applications and middleware, to the platform in order to drive greater interest in the new servers.

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