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Sun opts for Opteron

Nov 25, 20033 mins

* Sun to introduce two servers based on AMD’s 64-bit Opteron

Sixty-four-bit computing heated up last week as Sun announced it would introduce two servers based on AMD’s Opteron processor.

At Comdex, Sun CEO Scott McNealy announced an alliance with AMD to make 32/64-bit servers that will run Solaris, Linux and Java. The two- and four-processor Sun Fire servers will supplement Sun’s line of UltraSPARC and Intel Xeon-based systems. Sun also announced it will work with AMD to optimize Solaris for AMD’s 64-bit Opteron processor.

At least one analyst is skeptical of Sun’s choice of Opteron for its servers.

“While Sun has come to recognize the need to embrace the industry-standard server market, the biggest reservation I have is the selection of AMD as a partner,” says Jamie Gruener, senior analyst for the Yankee Group.

“AMD is still going through a learning curve of what enterprises look for in server design, and will need to rely heavily on Sun’s experience here,” Gruener says. “The jury is still out on how larger Global 2000 companies will adopt these platforms.”

“Generally, enterprises over the last several years have qualified industry-standard server platforms they will support as part of their data centers and workgroups,” Gruener says. “So they buy from one or two sources in support of those platforms. AMD, working with IBM and Sun, has to find ways of convincing enterprise customers to buy into these platforms.”

AMD’s Opteron runs in either 32- or 64-bit mode, in an attempt to allow users to migrate gradually from their 32-bit applications to more powerful 64-bit applications.

Even though only about 100 enterprise-class applications currently run on 64-bit x86 platforms, software vendors like Microsoft and Lawson say they are porting their applications to 64-bit.

A variety of other software vendors announced support for Sun’s Opteron-based servers. Among them are BEA Systems, Computer Associates, Documentum, SAP and Oracle. Sun also announced a program to encourage independent software vendors to develop for Solaris on Opteron.

“As far as Sun announcing an ISV program, I think it is a great move for Sun and AMD,” Gruener says. “However, this can take years to accomplish, as you need to certify/test ISVs. Intel learned that early on when it started designing servers, and has had to relearn it with initial versions of its IA-64 Itanium.” 

Sun claims Solaris 9 OS x86 applications will run native on Solaris OS for Opteron in 32-bit mode. The company plans to make a 64-bit version of Solaris for Opteron available in the first half of 2004.

Further, Sun and AMD will collaborate on future Opteron-based systems beyond four-processor servers.

Sun is the second tier-one vendor to adopt Opteron. Earlier this fall, IBM said its x440 server cluster would use the processor.

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