Sun Unveils Low-End Systems

Sun is looking to build on the momentum it gained from a recent partnership with chip maker AMD.

Sun Microsystems Inc. is looking to build on the momentum it gained from a recent partnership with chip maker Advanced Micro Devices Inc. with a host of new and enhanced x86-based entry-level systems.

At the companys SunNetwork Conference in Berlin last week, Sun unveiled offerings that address everything from high-end systems to the HPTC (high-performance technical computing) space. But much of the focus was on low-end systems, an area that Sun, of Santa Clara, Calif., has made a priority over the past year.

At the event, Sun unveiled additions to the Sun Fire B1600 Blade Platform that it introduced in February. The Sun Fire B100x is a one-way blade system powered by AMDs 1.54GHz Mobile Athlon XP 1800 processor and runs the Solaris 9 x86 Platform Edition and Linux operating systems.

In addition, Sun introduced a new specialty blade—the B10p SSL Proxy Blade—that helps offload Secure Sockets Layer encryption from compute blades, giving users better performance, officials said.

Announced last month, the AMD alliance will result in the rollout, starting next quarter, of a series of two- and four-way Sun Fire systems powered by AMDs 64-bit Opteron chip.

Sun is also giving its one- and two-way V60x and V65x servers a power boost with Intel Corp.s 3.2GHz Xeon chips, officials said. The servers had been running 2.8GHz chips.

Jim Garden, an analyst with Technology Business Research Inc., said Sun has to find a way to convince customers that have a mixture of systems—including Intel-based servers running Windows—that running Solaris on x86 systems makes sense. That could be difficult, he said.

Sun burst

New and enhanced products include:

  • Low-end hardware One-CPU Sun Fire B100x blade server; Sun Fire B10p SSL Proxy Blade
  • Midrange and high-end systems Sun Fire V480 and V1280 servers get 1.2GHz UltraSPARC III chips
  • Software Five new reference architectures for supply chain management, Web serving, communications services, application security via firewalls and Hewlett-Packard Co.s Tru64 customers

"Their value proposition in the low end, for some things, is OK for their installed base, but not much outside of the installed base," said Garden, in Hampton, N.H. "When buyers are looking for suppliers for different solutions, they dont typically think of Sun for Intel/Solaris. Its a cultural problem."

Commodity servers were only part of Suns broad product announcement. For HPTC, Sun rolled out the Sun Blade 2500 workstation, which is powered by the companys 1.2GHz UltraSPARC IIIi processor and offers as much as 8GB of memory, 72GB of storage and Gigabit Ethernet support.

Other new HPTC offerings include the Sun Fire Visual Grid System, for enabling greater collaboration on high-visualization projects and more resource flexibility; the XVR-600 Graphics Accelerator; and the SX1500 and SX2500 Netra boards for single- and dual-processor systems.

For midrange and high-end uses, Sun is bumping up the speed of the four-way Sun Fire V480 and 12-processor V1280 servers with 1.2GHz UltraSPARC III chips. The company is also enhancing the management features in its Sun Fire 12K and 15K systems. Those two high-end systems now come with automatic diagnosis and recovery capabilities that enable them to better detect and respond to system failures and allow administrators to swap out failed components without having to bring the servers down.