By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2006-03-13 Print this article Print

Sun Microsystems Ultra 40 workstation offers a solid triad of performance, graphics capability and memory capacity, making the Opteron-based workstation ideal for performance-intensive applications, grid computing and software development.

The Ultra 40 supports single- and dual-core Advanced Micro Devices Opteron 200 Series processors. The workstation, which began shipping in February, is Suns replacement for the Sun Java Workstation W2100z.

During tests, eWEEK Labs was impressed with the workstations application support and graphics technology. We were also pleased with the machines responsiveness, which is due, in large part, to the ability of Suns Solaris 10 operating system to take full advantage of the 64-bit Opteron processors. Despite all that power, the workstation ran quietly, a feature many IT managers will appreciate.


However, the Ultra 40 will mainly appeal to developers who rely on Sun software tools. And with patch management software on the way that will make support for Sun and Linux systems much easier, the workstation is likely to appeal to Sun shops—particularly those whose IT managers are looking to lower management costs.

Suns Scott McNealy stumps for utility computing. Click here to read more. The workstation is preloaded with developer tools such as Sun Java Studio Creator, Sun Java Studio Enterprise, the NetBeans IDE (Integrated Development Environment) and Sun Studio. The workstation also comes with a free license for Sun N1 Grid Engine software, allowing IT managers to leverage unused compute cycles in their grid environments.

The Ultra 40 comes preloaded with Solaris 10. The system also supports 32- and 64-bit versions of Microsofts Windows XP Professional, as well as 32- and 64-bit versions of Red Hats Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS and Novells SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

The Ultra 40 version we tested lists for $6,995. Our Ultra 40 was equipped with two dual-core 2.4GHz Opteron 280 processors, 8GB of DDR400 (double data rate 400) memory, a 250GB SATA (Serial ATA) drive and an Nvidia Quadro FX 3450 PCI Express graphics card.

Suns workstation is competitively priced with other 64-bit workstations weve reviewed, from vendors including Dell and Hewlett-Packard. An entry-level Ultra 40 with a 200 Series single-core Opteron processor, 1GB of memory, an 80GB SATA hard drive and an Nvidia Quadro graphics accelerator graphics card costs $2,295.

The Ultra 40 supports one or two AMD Opteron 200 Series single-core CPUs, which range from 2.0GHz (model 246) to 2.8GHz (model 254), as well as AMDs dual-core 2.2GHz Opteron 275 and 2.4GHz Opteron 280 processors. Each Opteron CPU has three 8GB-per-second HyperTransport interconnects.

The workstation also supports up to 16GB of RAM and Nvidias nForce Professional 2200 and 2050 graphics processors. The system has two PCI Express x16 graphics interface slots and two PCI Express x4 slots.

The Ultra 40 can support as many as four SATA drives at 80GB, 250GB or 500GB each. The workstation also has 2TB maximum RAID 0 and RAID 1 support.

Sun recently announced that it will acquire Linux and Solaris patch management software company Aduva, a move that makes Sun workstations such as the Ultra 40 look more attractive. Since Aduva can be used by IT managers to patch hundreds of machines, the software, which will be integrated into Suns products and services, will make it easy for organizations with multiple workstations to reduce risk by automating tasks such as patch and operating system updates.

Organizations that rely on SPARC-based systems will want to consider the Ultra 40s sibling, the Sun Ultra 45 Workstation, an UltraSPARC-based workstation capable of supporting up to two 1.6GHz UltraSPARC IIIi processors and 16GB of RAM. The Ultra 45 was also released in February.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

As a senior writer for eWEEK Labs, Anne writes articles pertaining to IT professionals and the best practices for technology implementation. Anne covers the deployment issues and the business drivers related to technologies including databases, wireless, security and network operating systems. Anne joined eWeek in 1999 as a writer for eWeek's eBiz Strategies section before moving over to Labs in 2001. Prior to eWeek, she covered business and technology at the San Jose Mercury News and at the Contra Costa Times.

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