Sun Revamps its Enterprise Server Lineup

Sun Microsystems on Tuesday will take the wraps off new lines of high-performance servers, including models based on Sun's UltraSPARC IV processor as well as a series running the 64-bit AMD Opteron chip. Company also offers replacement for Microsoft Exch

Sun Microsystems Inc. will on Tuesday announce one of the largest enhancements and upgrades to its enterprise server line in several years.

Scott McNealy, the companys CEO and chairman, will use Suns quarterly Network Computing event to be held in San Francisco on Tuesday to announce the first Sun servers based on the Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s 64-bit Opteron chip, as well as to debut five enterprise servers running its UltraSPARC IV processors—all of which incorporate its "throughput" technologies.

While the new high-end UltraSPARC IV servers will cost some 30 percent more on average than the UltraSPARC III systems available today, users will see an 80 percent or more performance improvement in these new systems, Mark Tolliver, Suns chief strategy officer and executive vice president, told eWEEK in an interview ahead of Tuesdays announcement.

Sun was confident that as it showed customers the bump in performance that these new systems brought, they would see it as a good platform to consolidate their existing applications, since the new servers be made to do more, while letting users taking advantage of all the datacenter, mission-critical, enterprise-application features Sun had built in, he said.

"We are also seeing fairly strong demand again for enterprise-level systems as people perceive that the economy might be getting stronger and are looking for additional capacity. This is one of the most dramatic enhancements and upgrades of our server line in years.

"We are excited to release our first UltraSPARC IV servers, which also incorporate our throughput technologies, which we started talking about a year ago. This is absolutely the right product to be introducing at this, the right time," Tolliver said.

Suns "throughput computing" architecture optimizes the system hardware to handle multiple threads of execution. "The idea is that with todays Web-oriented workloads, people are writing lots of multithreaded applications. So, the underlying thing that is going on inside a throughput-based architecture is that we are organizing ourselves to handle more threads with hardware support.

"This is really about putting hardware under these multiple threads of execution in a way that allows us to really speed up multithreaded throughput-based applications," Tolliver said.

/zimages/5/28571.gifTo read more on how Sun and Intel Corp. have incorporated multithreading into their 64-bit architectures, click here.

The five UltraSPARC IV enterprise machines to be introduced will be the E25k (an upgrade from the existing E15k), the E20k, the E6900, E4900 and E2900. These systems will give users an 80 percent performance boost over the current UltraSPARC III-based servers, while customers will now also be able to add these new UltraSPARC IV-based processing boards right into the same machines that currently contain UltraSPARC III boards, the company said.

"They will be able to mix and match inside their current UltraSPARC III machines. We feel this is a great story when it comes to smooth, seamless, painless investment protection as it protects existing customer investments while also allowing a smooth transition to UltraSPARC IV systems," Tolliver said.

These new server systems are geared at the high-end of the market and support up to 72 processors and 144 threads, he said, adding that these will be the enterprise-level mission-critical systems that offer new features and value for that price.

"Customers are looking for systems that are designed with no single point of failure, that can automatically failover components that fail and keep running and offer se remote diagnostic and monitoring features," Tolliver said.

At the end of the day, those customers running mission-critical datacenters, while concerned about price for that level of system, were also increasingly focused on being able to deliver the availability, serviceability and predictability that Sun had built these systems for, he said.

The Santa Clara-based Sun will on Tuesday also announce the V20Z—its first shipping AMD Opteron-based system. This server will be priced at $2,750 and, as with most one- and two-processor servers, would be targeted as devices for streaming media, big banks of Web servers, departmental databases and smaller-level mail and calendar systems as well as clustered up in grids, Tolliver said.

"AMDs Opteron systems are today the performance leaders in this space in terms of all the performance benchmarks that matter to people. Unlike the Intel world, AMD has organized the architecture such that it runs current generation x86 32-bit applications unchanged, but allows for the expansion to 64-bit on the same part. We think this will be a pretty compelling server product line for us," he said.

Users will also see performance improvements of between 20 percent and 100 percent compared to what current comparable Intel Corp. Xeon-based platforms deliver, Tolliver said.

On the software side, Sun will run both the Linux operating system as well as its version of Solaris for x86 on both its Intel and Opteron product lines.

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