Sun V1280s Hot-Swap Power Shines

The Sun Fire V1280 lacks some of the functionality of Sun Microsystems Inc.'s high-end server line.

Although the Sun Fire V1280 lacks some of the functionality of Sun Microsystems Inc.s high-end server line, this little "big" server will work well for server consolidation projects and affords on-the-fly processor and memory upgrade capabilities that competing servers dont.

The Sun Fire V1280 is a fairly simple-looking 12U (21-inch) pedestal server that supports as many as 12 processors and 96GB of RAM. Its big compared with most standard Intel Corp. Xeon-based servers (which usually range in size from two to eight processors), but it is dwarfed by high-end Sun servers such as the Sun Fire 15K.

The Sun Fire V1280, which became available last week, comes with UltraSPARC III 900MHz processors. Unfortunately, the new 1.2GHz processors wont be available for the V1280 until the first quarter of next year.

The Sun Fire V1280 is a big improvement over the comparable Sun Fire V880, which we reviewed last year, and it shows that Sun is going after the market space currently occupied by midrange Intel servers. However, IT managers who are going to be making a big investment in Sun hardware or expect their applications to grow rapidly in the near future should opt for the Sun Fire 3800 because it shares parts with the rest of Suns high-end server line.

The Sun Fire V1280s price is dependent on the number of processors and memory installed. A Sun Fire V1280 with four CPUs and 8GB of RAM costs $79,995; at the top end of the range, with 12 CPUs and 96GB of RAM, the V1280 server costs $274,995.

The Sun Fire V1280 lacks some important server consolidation features, including the ability to support domains.

In tests, we could easily bind applications to specific processors and memory resources. However, consolidation will not be as granular as on higher-end Sun servers because the applications all run on a single instance of the operating system. If one application has a problem and a reboot is necessary, all the applications residing on the server will experience downtime.

That being said, the Sun Fire V1280 is still a good platform for server consolidation, especially for consolidation of low-end servers.

Like the bigger Sun servers, the Sun Fire V1280 can add processors and memory on the fly, a capability not found on competing Xeon-based servers. During tests, we were able to add more processors to the V1280 to increase performance without interrupting the server.

Although the processor/memory boards on the V1280 are similar to the Uniboard modules found in high-end Sun servers such as the Sun Fire 12K and 15K, they are not compatible.

The Sun Fire V1280s storage is limited to just two 36GB Ultra3 SCSI hard drives, so administrators should plan on buying some external storage to hook into the on-board Ultra3 SCSI port when purchasing this server.