Sun Looking to AMD for 64-Bit

Sun has no plans to support Linux or Solaris on Intel's Itanium systems, but it is evaluating AMD's upcoming Opteron processors.

Sun Microsystems Inc. has no plans to support Linux or Solaris on Intel Corp. Itanium systems, but the company is evaluating AMDs upcoming Opteron processors, Sun officials said on Monday.

"We are not seeing or hearing anything from our customers and ISVs that indicates they want or need Itanium. But we are seeing interest for the upcoming Opteron processor family, essentially because it has 32-node compatibility, which Itanium doesnt," said John Loiacono, vice president of Suns operating platforms group.

"They talk about compatibility mode, but everything weve seen so far and every ISV weve talked to about compatibility mode has said theres a huge overhead associated with that, its running at less than acceptable performance," he said.

In contrast, Sun has heard more about Opteron from its customers and ISV partners because of its compatibility. Opteron has 64-bit extensions but can still run all the software of the 32-bit family.

This has created an opportunity for Sun, since it would be able to have compatibility with existing mode application suites and operating systems, with only minor work necessary to get some 64-bit extensions, Loiacono said.

Sun will shortly be announcing the expansion of its entry-level x86 server product lineup beyond the current LX 50 server announced last August. "You will see in the very near future a new class of one- and two-processor [Intel] Xeon- and Pentium 4-processor … hardware in the 2.5 to 3GHz range," said Loiacono.

"The whole issue with the LX 50 was time-to-market, we rushed to market as fast as we could. But we didnt have a plan to sustain that. But we have now changed that and the plan is to sustain that by coming out with the next group of systems and then keep up to the four- to six-month cycles the x86 world has with the release of new hardware," he said.

These next-generation client and server products would also be competitive with Dell Computer Corp. in terms of price and performance. "But we are not giving up on SPARC by investing in x86 hardware," Loiacono said.

He also reiterated that Sun has changed its x86 strategy and will no longer be shipping its own customized Linux distribution.

The company is in discussions with the top Linux vendors and will likely support between two and four of these. But its value-add and what sets it apart is its Project Orion on Linux, he said.

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