Opteron systems expand Suns

By eweek  |  Posted 2005-09-12 Print this article Print

market"> Analysts have said that Sun runs the risk of the Galaxy systems competing directly with its SPARC systems, particularly now since theyre targeted at the enterprise. Can you address that? Bechtolsheim: We see Opteron primarily as a market expansion for Sun because we now can address Linux and Windows markets that we were not able to address before. There may be a small amount of substitution going on, but fundamentally I believe we were already losing those kind of customers that wanted to make a transition to the industry-standard architecture anyhow. With our Opteron box, we can capture them as part of the Sun product line.
SPARC is into the highly multi-threaded or throughput kind of architecture that we have discussed in public for quite some time. Those systems [based on the upcoming Niagara platform and UltraSPARC IV+ chips] will be coming out in the near future, and they also will have outstanding throughput and box performance and power performance, and in fact will have better power performance and throughput … than even Opteron had. Its a radical improvement on the SPARC side.
Now, what they do not have is the highest single-core performance. The Opteron, quite frankly, wins hands-down on the single core throughput, and thats important for technical, scientific, engineering applications, where you tend to run one program for a long period of time until its complete, and then the number of licenses that you need has to do with what the throughput per thread is. Sun polishes Java Studio Creator. Click here to read more. When Sun first announced the Opteron systems, and later with the purchase of your company, was the talk about some internal resistance to the investment in x86. Have you run into much resistance in your work in developing the Opteron systems? Bechtolsheim: What really changed for Sun when I came back was that for the first time, there was a clear commitment to deliver and to engineer systems in this space. I think the previous philosophy was that you could pick up these kind of white boxes or gray boxes in Asia and just bring them to market. I think what the company very quickly realized was that you dont add any value doing that. To deliver value to the customer, you have to do something thats essentially better than you can buy on the street corner in Hong Kong. There is a difference between the capabilities you can deliver by designing it ourselves and what we can get from an Asian supplier. So even though all of this stuff is built and manufactured in Asia, these systems were fully developed by Sun. You basically need critical mass in doing that, so … we now for the first time in the history of Sun have put a critical-mass effort on this effort, and that makes a big difference, including to customers because, if I was a customer, the first question I would ask is, "How do I know this is really compatible? How do you know if there is an issue, you can fix it?" And if you dont own the source code or dont know whats in the BIOS or service processor, how do you really do that? Were making a commitment here, a long-term commitment to the market for industry-standard architecture, and thats really the combination of the AMD chip in terms of its performance level and our ability to add some value that got us excited to get into this market. Quite frankly, theres plenty of people supplying these type systems into the market. Its more fun to be different. One of the mantras in the industry over the past year or so is bringing down the power consumption of the processors to enable enterprises to more easily deal with thermal issues. Yet you are bringing on systems with chips that consume more power. Bechtolsheim: Opteron already is twice as power efficient as Intels [chips], and you get more than twice the throughput for the same power consumption as Intel, so were really ahead. And AMD is increasing the performance per power, so as far as we can tell here, yes, power is important—AMD has it now, Intel has it a year from now—so theres a major difference here. … If customers are concerned about power, the only solution that makes sense is dual-core Opteron. Its twice the power-efficiency-per-throughput than anything from Intel. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.


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