Sun Touts Performance of New Opteron-Based Server

Sun officials claim that the new Sun Fire X4640 system, which can run up to eight six-core AMD Opterons, outperformed rival systems in two benchmarks. Sun Microsystems' hardware business continues to struggle, hampered by the uncertainty surrounding the company's acquisition by Oracle and the courting of its customers by competitors such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard.

Sun Microsystems officials are boasting of record performances from a new server powered by six-core Opteron chips from Advanced Micro Devices.

Sun announced Dec. 8 that its Sun Fire X4640 system, which can run up to eight of the six-core "Istanbul" Opteron processors, outperformed rival systems on two benchmarks, the Two-Tier SAP Sales and Distribution Standard Application Benchmark and SPECompL2001.

Sun officials said the tests were done using both enterprise and technical applications.

The server, which can hold 24 to 48 processing cores, offers 65 percent better performance than the previous generation Sun Fire X4600M2 system. The X4640 supports Solaris, Windows and Linux operating systems, as well as several virtualization technologies, including Sun's own Solaris Containers, Microsoft's Hyper-V and VMware. The 4U (7-inch) system offers up to one-half terabyte of memory in 64 memory slots, according to Sun.

For more information on the benchmarks, click here.

Sun's server news comes at a difficult time for its hardware business. The company is awaiting word on its proposed $7.4 billion acquisition by Oracle, a deal that is in a holding pattern while European regulators address antitrust concerns surrounding the MySQL database technology.

But even before that holdup, there were questions throughout the industry about the future of Sun's hardware business once the company is absorbed by Oracle, doubts that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has been vocal in trying to alleviate. Ellison has said on several occasions that he intends to not only keep Sun's hardware business-including the servers and the SPARC processor technology-but to invest in it.

The deal's delay and the nagging questions around its hardware business have left Sun vulnerable to rivals such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard, which have been aggressively courting Sun customers since Oracle first announced its intentions in April.

Sun's server business, already struggling before Oracle's announcement, has been hit hard, according to analyst companies Gartner and IDC.

In a report on the third quarter released Nov. 30, Gartner numbers showed that Sun's business has suffered more than those of the other top five OEMs-Dell, HP, IBM and Fujitsu.

Overall, worldwide server revenue dropped 15.5 percent in the third quarter compared with the same period in 2008, while Sun's fell 32.3 percent. Overall global server shipments dropped 17.1 percent, while Sun's declined 38.1 percent.