Sun Ships Low-Cost 64-Bit Workstation

The Sun Blade 150, starting at $1,395, runs both Solaris- and Windows-based applications.

Sun Microsystems Inc., the leading maker of 64-bit workstations, today introduced a new low-cost product line, the Sun Blade 150, as well as performance upgrades to its high-end Sun Blade 2000.

Suns announcement coincided with the release of preliminary market data showing the computer maker further extending its dominance in the 64-bit workstation market, with its systems accounting for 69 percent of all units shipped worldwide during the second quarter, a 5 percent increase from the beginning of the year, according to International Data Corp.

Revenue growth was equally impressive, with Suns U.S. sales alone jumping 13 percent to $120 million for the quarter.

After Sun, the leading 64-bit workstation vendors were Hewlett-Packard Co., Silicon Graphics Inc. and IBM.

Seeking to further shore up its sales, the computer maker unveiled the Sun Blade 150, which it contends is the low-price leader in 64-bit Unix workstations. Prices for the new entry start at $1,395, which will buy a system equipped with Suns 550MHz UltraSparc IIi processor, 128MB of RAM, PGX64 2D graphics, CD-ROM and a 40GB hard drive.

For customers seeking higher performance for handling graphic-intensive applications, the company suggests outfitting a Sun Blade 150 with a 650MHz UltraSparc IIi chip, the fastest processor available for the platform, along with 512MB of RAM, DVD-ROM, a 40GB hard drive and the companys new XVR-500 graphics card, which altogether will cost $3,395.

All Sun Blade 150 workstations come with the companys Unix-based Solaris 8 operating system and StarOffice 6.

The new system, when optimally configured, offers a performance improvement of up to 63 percent over its predecessor, the Sun Blade 100 with 500MHz processor, the computer maker said.

Sun said the new workstation is primarily targeted at software developers seeking a low-cost system that runs both Solaris- and Windows-based applications.

"While this system runs Solaris natively, with the optional SunPCI co-processor card, which is essentially a PC on a board, you can run any 32-bit version of Windows side-by-side with Solaris in a secure stable environment," said Phil Dunn, product line manager for workstations at Sun, based in Santa Clara, Calif.

Suns co-processor cards utilize a 32-bit 733MHz Celeron processor by Intel Corp., and come with as much as 1GB of dedicated memory. When installed in a Sun workstation, users can share data, peripherals and network connections between two operating systems. Prices for the card start at about $600.

"That capability to run 64-bit and 32-bit operating systems simultaneously is unique in the industry and particularly attractive to software developers," Dunn said.

For more compute-intensive tasks, the computer maker upgraded its two-way Sun Blade 2000 with the companys new XVR-500 graphics card, and announced widespread availability of systems featuring its fastest processor to date, a 1.05GHz UltraSparc III. Originally announced in March, Sun acknowledged that availability of 1GHz systems had been extremely limited.

The Sun Blade 2000 line features high-end 3D graphics and dual-monitor capabilities and features a crossbar-switch system interconnect that delivers up to 4GB-per-second bandwidth between the processors and graphics subsystem, allowing faster rendering of data-intensive computer models.

Prices for the Sun Blade 2000 start at $10,995 for a system featuring one 900MHz processor, 1GB of RAM, PGX64 graphics and a 73GB hard drive. A similarly configured system featuring two 1.05GHz processors is priced at $19,995.