Sun Microsystems Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., a company that grew rapidly during the Internet boom and faltered just as quickly during the bust, is moving away from its roots as a company that stubbornly held onto its own SPARC/Solaris platform while the rest of the industry shifted toward x86 architecture and Linux.
As expected, Sun officials made a large step in that direction during an event here when it introduced the first systems in its "Galaxy" family of systems, powered by Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s dual-core Opteron processors.
Jonathan Schwartz, Suns president and chief operating officer, said during his presentation that what Sun wants to do now is give enterprises a wide range of choice—in server architecture and in operating systems—in hopes of winning back customers it may have lost and stealing business away from such competitors as Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM.
"Today is the culmination of a tremendous amount of [research and development]," Schwartz said. For the past few years, Sun has been "trying to fundamentally understand where we went wrong as a company, where we went off the rails, [and] how we can get back on the rails."
At one point, Schwartz also shared the stage with representatives from several companies—such as Linux vendor Red Hat Inc.—that only a couple of years ago would never have been invited into the room.
The new systems answer customer demands for an industry-standard platform that offers high performance at reasonable prices and addresses growing concerns about power consumption, heat generation and the data center space, Schwarz said.
Sun next month will start shipping the 1U (1.75-inch) Sun Fire X4100 and 2U (3.5-inch) X4200, which officials are touting as the first enterprise-level x86 systems, complete with such features as hot-swap redundant power supplies and fans, RAID on the motherboard and remote systems management capabilities. Both systems run dual-core Opteron chips.
"Enterprise means you want to keep running while changing components," said Andy Bechtolsheim, chief architect and senior vice president of Suns NSG (Network Systems Group.)
Sun also introduced the X2100, a low-cost dual-core Opteron system that, at a $745 starting point, is aimed at the price/performance space. Schwartz said Sun will expand the family with other systems, include blades and an eight-socket server, as the fiscal year unfolds.
At the event, Sun also announced other products and programs, such as Sun Grid Rack Systems, which helps businesses speed up the deployment of Sun Opteron systems by having the vendor integrate everything—from putting the servers in the racks to loading the operating system and Sun N1 System Manager software—before shipping it to the customer.
However, it was the servers themselves that garnered the most attention. In 2003, Sun announced it was going to offer Opteron-based servers, and the following year rolled out the two-way X20z and four-way X40z, which were made by third parties. Sun also dumped the few servers running on Intel Corp. chips it had been selling.