Sun, Fujitsu Ready Joint Servers

New systems include low-end servers that use the UltraSPARC T1 "Niagara" processors and several midrange and high-end servers featuring a new dual-core processor.

Its been nearly three years since Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu announced that they would co-develop servers based on the SPARC processor and the Solaris operating system.

Now, the two IT icons will see if the unique partnership can pay off.

Sun and Fujitsu will unveil several new systems April 17, including low-end servers that use the UltraSPARC T1 "Niagara" processors and several midrange and high-end servers featuring a new dual-core processor, the SPARC 64 VI, which Fujitsu designed specifically for the joint venture.

The new systems will also support Suns Solaris 10 operating system, a boost for Sun, which has been touting the benefits of its open-source operating system in recent months. With Solaris and the dual-core chips developed for the systems, executives with both companies said the servers will enable customers to more easily deploy virtualization technology in their data centers.

The companies are hoping all three systems find customers that need high-performance computing, back-office support for Oracle and SAP applications, or front-office support for Web infrastructures.

As part of the joint development agreement, Sun is rebranding its UltraSPARC T1-based Sun Fire systems as simply T1000 and T2000 servers. The two low-end systems, which will be sold under the Sun and Fujitsu/Fujitsu Siemens labels, offer multicore UltraSPARC T1 chips starting at 1GHz and running up to 1.4GHz on the T2000.

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The M4000 and M5000 midrange servers and the high-end M8000 and M9000 systems will use the newer SPARC 64 VI processors. The midrange systems will support either four or eight dual-core processors running at 2.15GHz, with memory ranging from 126GB on the M4000 to 256GB on the M5000. The two systems also offer a range of SAS (Serial-Attached SCSI) hard drives and PCI Express and PCI-X slots.

The high-end servers will offer 16 to 64 sockets for chips running at 2.28GHz to 2.4GHz and memory ranging from 512GB on the M8000 to up to 2TB on the M9000 system. Like the midrange systems, these high-end products offer a wide range of SAS drives and PCI Express and PCI-X slots.

Sun and Fujitsu are already shipping some of these systems to customers. Although pricing is being finalized, executives from both companies said the midrange systems will start at about $50,000, with the high-end systems starting at about $225,000.

Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT, said the companies agreement to build systems using co-developed processors is an anomaly in the usually cutthroat competition found in the IT vendor community. Still, Sun and Fujitsu were in a good position to jointly develop the systems without much overlap. Most of Fujitsus customers are overseas, especially in Asia, while Sun sells more servers in North America, King said.

Even so, he said Fujitsu received the better end of the deal. By offering Solaris on its systems, Fujitsu now has greater access to a whole new group of ISVs that use the operating system. For Sun, one drawback is that the new servers are being released as the company is preparing for the release of its next-generation "Rock" processor in 2008, King said. In a blog, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz wrote that Sun received the first silicon for the 16-core chip a week before the April 17 announcement.

"A lot of customers are going to be asking themselves whether they should go for the shiny new stuff [from Sun and Fujitsu] or take a breath and look for the next-generation stuff [with Rock] that is coming out next year," King said.

Still, some Sun customers want to see what the two companies produce. Steven Feindel, director of corporate IS for the province of Nova Scotia, Canada, said that since 2002, his IT department has been using Sun servers—the older Sun Fire V490 and the new T2000 systems—to run SAP and other critical applications for various government agencies. Feindel said that Sun has worked well with Hitachi to create storage offerings and that he expects the partnership with Fujitsu will likely produce a similar result.

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