Sun Looks to One-Up Itanium 2 Servers

Company contends new four-Way Sun Fire V480 offers better price/performance than comparable Intel-based servers.

Sun Microsystems Inc. today introduced a new entry-level four-way server, the Sun Fire V480, and revved up the power on its popular eight-way V880 system, two servers designed to manage networks.

The V480, capable of running up to four 900MHz 64-bit UltraSparc III processors, is being positioned against soon-to-be-released servers based on Intel Corp.s new Itanium 2 processors. Sun contends the V480 will cost about $1,000 less than comparable Itanium 2-based systems from IBM and Dell Computer Corp., which wont be released until July.

Prices for the V480, code-named Cherrystone, start at about $23,000 for a two-processor configuration. A more fully equipped system featuring four processors, 16GB of RAM and two 36GB hard drives will cost about $47,000.

While prices for the 1GHz Itanium 2, scheduled for release this summer, have yet to be released, Intel said at a news briefing Friday that it expected a four-way Itanium 2 system featuring 32GB of RAM would cost about $41,000.

In order to attract customer interest in Itanium 2, Intel is touting favorable performance estimates and system prices compared with UltraSparc III-based servers by Sun, the worlds largest seller of 64-bit systems.

Sun has countered those claims by releasing its own data supporting its contention that its servers offer better price/performance than comparable Intel-based servers.

While Itanium, first released last year, has yet to make inroads in the high-end computing market, Intel is confidant the second-generation of the chip, which is twice as fast as its predecessor, will prove to be a breakthrough product. More than 40 computer makers will offer Itanium 2 systems when the chip debuts in the coming weeks, including Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM and Dell.

To fend off Intel, Sun is planning to release less costly, but more powerful, servers. The pricing of the Sun Fire V480 reflects that strategy, with its entry-level price running about $5,000 less than a four-way V420R server featuring a slower processor.

In a related move, Sun announced yesterday it has beefed up its eight-way V880 server by equipping it with the latest 900MHz UltraSparc III, enhancing its performance over previous versions that came equipped with 750MHz UltrasSparc III chips.

The V880, which debuted in October, has become one of Suns fastest selling servers ever and was the most popular selling eight-way server during the first quarter of this year, according to market researcher International Data Corp.

Prices for the V880 start at about $30,000 for a two-processor configurations and climb to more than $100,000 for a fully equipped eight-way system.

Sun Fire servers are designed to utilize the computer makers Solaris operating system and compatible applications. Itanium 2-based systems, however, are capable of running different operating systems, including a 64-bit version of Windows by Microsoft Corp., HPs proprietary HP-UX and several variants of Linux.

While Intel contends Itanium 2 will offer customers greater flexibility in choice of software, only a limited number of applications are yet available for the chip. By contrast, Sun customers can choose from among thousands of Solaris-based applications currently available.

Related stories:

  • HP to Back Itanium 2 With HP-UX
  • Intel Findings Show Itanium 2 Beats Sun Server in Performance
  • Itanium to Drive HP Servers
  • Sun Lights Server Fire