Sun to Roll Out Opteron, Niagara Blades for Telecom

The company's new Netra blade servers will be powered by AMD Opteron chips and UltraSPARC T1 processors.

For its telecommunications customers, Sun Microsystems is planning to roll out blade servers powered by Advanced Micro Devices Opteron chips and Suns own UltraSPARC T1 processors.

In an interview at the companys Santa Clara, Calif., headquarters, David Yen, executive vice president of Suns Scalable Systems Group, said the Opteron-based Netra server will launch in the second quarter of 2006, followed by the T1 system in the second half of the year.

The moves highlight Suns push to expand its product portfolio, offering more choices to its customers and enabling it to bid on business that traditionally it could not have.

"We basically want to make sure that all the ground is covered," Yen said.

Both the Opteron-based Galaxy systems and the servers powered by the T1 chip—formerly code-named "Niagara"—are key parts in Suns push to broaden its offerings after years of focusing primarily on its SPARC/Solaris platform.

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Sun will launch a blade server and eight-socket system running on the Opteron chip when AMD, of Sunnyvale, Calif., rolls out its next Rev F line of processors in the middle of the year. The Opteron-based Netra systems will be added to the lineup of SPARC-based servers Sun offers the telecom industry.

Netra servers are NEBS 3 (Network Equipment-Building System 3)-compliant to handle hostile environments, and in addition the new systems will be based on ACTA (Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture), a series of specifications aimed at taking advantage of the latest high-speed Internet technology and next-generation processor design.

Yen said that while Sun will offer a telecommunications blade server powered by the T1 chip, company officials have yet to decide whether to roll out a general-purpose T1 blade.

"Blade is really designed for the x86 space," Yen said. "On the RISC side and Unix side, a lot of the [customer] investment is in vertical infrastructures, in SMPs [symmetric multiprocessing]."

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However, Sun may decide to pursue a T1-based general-purpose blade server if customer demand is high enough, he said.

IBM and Hewlett-Packard are the leaders in a blade server market that analyst firm IDC, of Framingham, Mass., said it expects to grow to $10 billion by 2009. Both have broadened their offerings. HP offers systems running on Opterons as well as Intels Xeon and high-end Itanium chips; IBM has blades running on Opteron, Xeon and its own Power chip.

Later this year IBM also will include a blade server powered by the new Cell processor, which it co-developed with Sony and Toshiba. IBM demonstrated the Cell-based blade at the CeBIT show in Germany the week of March 6.

Next Page: Suns biggest growth may come from Opteron.