AMDs Opteron to Power Sun Fire Servers

During his Comdex keynote, Sun's Scott McNealy will announce that early next year the company will be rolling out a line of low-end Sun Fire servers powered by Opterons.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. on Monday will be getting a crucial endorsement as it tries to push its 64-bit Opteron server processor into the enterprise space.

At the Comdex show in Las Vegas, Sun Microsystems Inc. is announcing that early next year it will be rolling out a line of low-end Sun Fire servers powered by Opterons. The announcement will come during Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealys keynote address Monday.

The alliance between the two companies will fuel Suns aggressive push into the low-end x86 server market while giving AMD the much-needed support of a major OEM. IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., gave its support of Opteron when the chip was released in April and has since rolled out the eServer 325, an Opteron-based system aimed at the high performance computing space.

Several major software makers also are supporting the processor, including Microsoft Corp. and Sun, which is teaming with AMD, of Sunnyvale, Calif., to develop Opteron support for Linux, Java and Solaris.

According to officials with AMD and Sun, Sun will introduce new two-way and four-way Opteron-based systems throughout 2004. In addition, the two companies will work together to expand the number of systems based on the chip, including servers holding more than four processors.

Currently, customers can run Solaris on Opteron in 32-bit mode, and will make 64-bit Solaris for Opteron available in the second half of 2004. The two companies also will create an iForce Partner Program for software vendors and developers who are writing or porting applications to Solaris. The program will include a developer resource kit, which is available at both and

Sun said it will use AMDs Opteron processors in a line of low-cost Sun Fire servers that it will begin shipping in early 2004. The Santa Clara, Calif., maker of network servers also said that it has developed versions of Linux, Java and its Solaris operating system to run on Opteron-powered servers.

AMD is hoping that Opteron can start chipping away at the enterprise server space dominated by Intel Corp. Officials say a key differentiator is that, unlike Intels 3-year-old 64-bit Itanium architecture, Opteron can run 32-bit applications as well as it does 64-bit software, giving users greater flexibility and an easier migration path to 64-bit computing.

Initially Opteron will compete primarily with Intels 32-bit Xeon chips, but it is expected to go head-to-head with Itanium as more businesses move to 64-bit computing.