Sun, IBM to Pump Up High-End Servers

By eweek  |  Posted 2001-09-17 Print this article Print

Competition in the Unix server market will heat up in the coming weeks with the release of two systems from market leaders Sun Microsystems Inc. and IBM.

Competition in the Unix server market will heat up in the coming weeks with the release of two systems from market leaders Sun Microsystems Inc. and IBM.

On Sept. 26, sources said, Sun will release a new top-of-the-line server, the Enterprise 15000—code-named Starcat—which is being positioned to succeed the E10000, a 64-processor system that sells for more than $1 million.

The E10000, a design Sun acquired from Cray Research Inc. in 1996, has been credited with fueling the companys financial success in the late 1990s. Overall, Sun has sold more than 5,000 of the high-end servers, which for years provided unmatched computational capabilities.

But the E10000s dominance has been eroded as rivals release more-competitive products, such as a 128-way Solaris-based server unveiled by Fujitsu Technology Solutions Inc. last month. Sun, of Palo Alto, Calif., also lost some of its edge as a result of a delay of more than two years in delivering a redesigned processor, the UltraSPARC III, which was released last year, five years after its predecessor.

Sun wants to separate itself from the pack with the Starcat, which Sun officials said will offer three times the performance of its predecessor. The Unix system designed for use as a critical mainframe server for businesses will be capable of handling up to 72 of Suns newest 900MHz UltraSPARC III chips, and the company is designing one for research institutions capable of handling more than 100 CPUs.

But underscoring the increasing competition in the Unix server space, sources said IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., will unveil its own new challenger six days later, a machine code-named Regatta that will feature the companys newest microprocessor, the Power4.

While the Regatta will only incorporate up to 32 processors, IBMs latest mainframe will feature several new technologies, including the Power4 and a self-healing capability designed to boost system reliability and uptime.

Among the Power4s unique qualities is that it features two 1GHz processor cores integrated onto a single die that will be able to provide up to 100GB per second of internal bandwidth.

Analyst Nathan Brookwood of Insight 64, in Saratoga, Calif., said that while the Starcat should help reaffirm Suns hold on very high-end Unix buyers, the Regatta represents an increasing threat to Suns grip on the midrange to high-end Unix market.

"The Starcat is more or less a product line upgrade. There will be more memory, more bandwidth, faster processors, more capacity, better benchmark numbers, but fundamentally, its the same approach and a refinement of the technology that you saw in the E10000," he said. "But the Regatta is breaking new ground for IBM in terms of performance and capabilities, so IBM is making a bigger leap up in terms of what its trying to do."


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