Suns Blade Servers Lead the Launch of N1 Platform

Sun this week will introduce the first products related to its N1 business strategy, the centerpiece of which is a new blade server architecture.

Sun Microsystems Inc. this week will introduce the first products related to its N1 business strategy, the centerpiece of which is a new blade server architecture.

At an event in San Francisco, Sun officials will unveil an entry-level server, power upgrades to some high-end systems and new storage arrays. But it will be the Sun Fire Blade Server Platform that will likely get much of the attention, representing the Santa Clara, Calif., companys first steps in its N1 plan.

Similar to IBMs on-demand and Hewlett-Packard Co.s utility computing strategies, N1 is Suns vision for easing management and increasing use of resources in data centers. The company acquired much of what will become N1 through its purchases in November of Terraspring Inc. and Pirus Networks Inc.

The Sun Fire Blade Servers, which provide new features not available in Suns earlier Netra blades, will have a single 64-bit UltraSPARC III chip and run SPARC Solaris, x86 Solaris or x86 Linux operating systems and applications. Sun Fire blades will be available in April for $1,795. Sun officials said a two-processor Sun Fire blade will appear later this year.

The Sun Fire B1600 Intelligent Shelf chassis will support multiple operating systems running in the same enclosure. Ultradense servers will be housed in a 5.25-inch-high chassis, which will hold up to 16 blades and provide Gigabit Ethernet connectivity.

Later this year, Sun will ship specialty blades for load balancing and Secure Sockets Layer acceleration, as well as the N1 Provisioning Server 3.0 Blades Edition, which will provide a GUI that lets administrators monitor and configure all the blades in the chassis from a single point, officials said.


In addition to blade servers, Sun will announce:
  • Sun Fire V1280 A Unix server with up to 12 64-bit 900MHz UltraSPARC III processors
  • StorEdge 3510 Fibre Channel Storage Array An entry-level, 12-disk system with one or two RAID controllers
  • 1.2GHz UltraSPARC III chip Available in the Sun Fire 4800 through 6800, 12K, and 15K servers
  • Sun Fire V880z visualization server System with high-end XVR-4000 graphics accelerator
  • New reference architectures Describe components needed for security and mobile location services
Sun is also integrating its Sun ONE application stack into the blade servers and is optimizing its StorEdge 3310 SCSI-based disk array for the blades by giving it network-attached storage capabilities.

Telus Business Solutions, the hosting unit of Telus Communications Inc., has been evaluating Sun blade servers and intends to install them in its seven Internet data centers across Canada. Craig Richardson, assistant vice president of hosting and managed applications, said the blade servers will free up data center space for his company while offering customers greater scalability, speed and performance.

"Well be able to offer a range of capabilities on different operating systems," said Richardson, in Vancouver, British Columbia. "Well see improvements in our density, provisioning and scalability."

However, some industry observers said that even with the new products, Sun will come up short in making N1 a reality if it doesnt improve its professional services and management software—two strengths of IBM and HP.

"The challenge now for Sun is implementing the vision," said Frank Gillett, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc., in Cambridge, Mass.