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Sun sets off with Opteron, rolls out new RISC boxes

Feb 10, 20044 mins

Sun Tuesday unveiled its first server based on the 32-/64-bit Opteron chip, the first product to come out of a partnership Sun announced with AMD less than three months ago. Sun also took the wraps of five new Unix servers, all leveraging the multi-threading technology in the new UltraSPARC IV processor.

“The biggest sweeping theme is that after a couple of years of getting beaten up by Wall Street and others for spending so much on R&D, we’re opening 2004 with probably the most expansive upgrade to our product line from top to bottom that we’ve had in a decade,” says Larry Singer, Sun’s senior vice president of global market strategy.

The Opteron-based v20z is one of more than a half dozen new servers introduced Tuesday as part of Sun’s quarterly news announcement. The 1U dual processor box, which will be generally available next month, starts at $2,795 for a single processor configuration. A two-processor configuration starts at just under $4,000.

By contrast, IBM’s Opteron-based eServer 325 starts at about $2,900 for a one-processor configuration. Pricing for a two-processor model begins around $6,000.

Sun is banking on Opteron to help lift its standing in the fast-growing x86 market, where the server maker has yet to break into the top ten. HP, which reportedly is also considering rolling out Opteron systems, leads in x86 shipments, according to the latest ranking by Gartner.

“[Opteron] provides an opportunity for Sun to take a leadership role in x86, which in the past we have not had a chance to do,” says Souheil Saliba, vice President of marketing for volume systems products at Sun.

Sun made its first entry into the x86 market two years ago and just this past spring rolled out two servers based on Intel’s Xeon processor. Currently, Sun only plans to ship one and two processor Xeon systems. As for Opteron, Saliba says Sun will roll out a four-processor box next quarter, with an eight-processor box also on the roadmap. “Blades and other products” are being planned, as well, Saliba says.

The Opteron servers will run 32- and 64-bit Red Hat and SuSE Linux, as well as 32-bit Solaris. A 64-bit version of Solaris is planned for the Opteron chip later this year. In addition, the systems will be Windows certified, Saliba says.

In the high-end and midrange, Sun rolled out a new line of Unix servers, all powered by the chip multi-threading technology of the UltraSPARC IV processor. The processors are compatible with the UltraSPARC III so users can run both generations in a single box.

“You can even run them together with different operating systems Solaris 8, Solaris 9 and Solaris 10. So people can literally double the performance of their data centers over lunch,” Singer says. “You don’t have to bring the machine down. You can hot swap a new board in. They have the same footprint.”

Singer says the multithreading technology in UltraSPARC IV will give users up to a 100% improvement in performance, depending on the application. ERP and data warehousing applications, in which multiple tasks can be completed at the same time, will see the greatest benefit, he says.

The new servers are:

* The Sun Fire E2900, with up to 12 processors, geared for rack-optimized deployments. Pricing starts at just under $99,000.

* The Sun Fire E4900, with up to 12 processors, starting at $185,000; upgrade kits start at $15,000.

* The Sun Fire E6900, with up to 24 processors, geared for large databases, data mining or server consolidation. Pricing starts at $235,000; upgrade kits start at $30,000.

* The Sun Fire E20K, with up to 36 processors, starting at $640,000 .

* The Sun Fire E25K, with up to 72 processors, starting at $825,000.

In addition, Sun introduced a new two-processor Intel-based blade that starts at $3,790. The Sun Fire B200x will sit alongside Sun’s UltraSPARC and x86 blades, as well as its specialty blades in its 3U blade platform.

Sun also announced an enhanced N1 Grid Provisioning Server 3.1 Blades edition, which enables users to manage heterogeneous blades as a single pool of resources.