Sun Fires Up Midrange Servers - Page 2

Sun Microsystems Inc.s latest midrange enterprise servers, the Sun Fire V490 and V890, offer new multithread processor technology and revamped operating system support. eWEEK Labs tests show both will provide IT managers with a robust, scalable Unix platform for hosting midtier or back-end applications.

The Sun Fire V490 and V890 feature Suns latest UltraSPARC IV processors with CMT (chip multithreading) technology. The CMT architecture allows the CPU to run multiple threads in parallel, providing higher throughput for multithread applications. UltraSPARC IV CMT processors integrate two UltraSPARC III cores onto the same die, and each core has access to 8MB of L2 cache—essentially, each UltraSPARC IV processor is equivalent to two UltraSPARC IIIs.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read about the upcoming UltraSparc IV+ processor, code-named Panther.

The UltraSPARC IV CMT processors can run two concurrent threads per core, and, in the future, the architecture will allow Sun to scale the UltraSPARC to support 10 times the number of threads per core, Sun officials said. The CMT processor technology will greatly benefit multithread applications and server workloads, providing better throughput performance in network computing or databases, for example.

The Sun Fire V490 and V890 will also be the companys first server systems to bundle Solaris 10, which offers advanced features such as Solaris Containers (formerly N1 Grid Containers), system fault prevention, and enhanced server security and optimization capabilities.

/zimages/3/28571.gifeWEEK Labs Jason Brooks says Solaris 10 is a much more attractive option for enterprises than previous versions. Click here to find out why.

Both the V490 and V890 systems shipped in September and are priced aggressively. The 5U (8.75-inch) rack-mount V490 starts at $30,995 for a basic configuration of two 1.05GHz UltraSPARC IV CPUs, 8GB of memory and dual 73GB hard drives. The larger, more scalable V890 is priced starting at $39,995 with dual 1.2GHz UltraSPARC IV CPUs, 8GB of memory and six 73GB FC-AL (Fibre Channel-Arbitrated Loop) disks.

We tested a decked-out V490 that lists for $75,995 and comes with four 1.05GHz UltraSPARC IV processors, 32GB of RAM and dual FC-AL hard drives. The system we tested also included a System Controller card and dual embedded Gigabit Ethernet.

Like their V480 and V880 predecessors, the V490 and V890 use CPU/RAM modules that can be removed for upgrades. However, the V490 and V890 will support only UltraSPARC IV modules.

Each UltraSPARC IV module can support two CPUs and 16GB of memory in 16 DIMM (dual in-line memory module) slots. The shared-memory architecture allows each processor to have its own memory subsystem. Each CPU has its own memory controller logic to control as many as eight DIMMs. The modules can also support eight-way interleaving when fully populated with identical DIMMs.

The V490 showed decent expandability in tests, supporting a maximum of two FC-AL hard drives and six PCI slots. Neither the V490 nor the V890 supports PCI-X, although the built-in FC-AL controller lets the V490 connect to external storage arrays.

IT managers who arent worried about rack space and need more expandability should look at the V890, which offers as many as eight CPUs, 64GB of RAM and nine PCI slots and can accommodate 12 FC-AL hard drives with a built-in FC-AL controller.

Both the V490 and V890 offer impressive serviceability features such as Suns RSC (Remote System Control). The RSC card enables remote access, monitoring and control of the server. The RSC software lets IT managers monitor multiple server systems using a command-line interface or a Java user interface.

The remote user interface even includes a handy graphical representation of the servers front panel so that IT managers can see quickly if any access panels have been opened.

Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at

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