Hardware Today: Sun Microsystems Server Snapshot Page 2

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted May 9, 2005


Low-End Solaris

Solaris made its name on the Unix platform running SPARC-based processors. As part of its strategy to widen market penetration, Sun is now offering Solaris for its x64 servers. Solaris 10 is, after all, the third release of the operating system that supports multi-core systems. With this release, Sun brings to x64 multi-core systems enterprise-class technologies, such as Solaris Containers, Predictive Self Healing, and Dynamic Tracing (DTrace). For example, Predictive Self-Healing automatically detects failing cores, which can then be taken offline without affecting application availability, and Containers divide up a system into multiple virtual environments in which the application can run.

"This is a flexible way to get the most out of hardware," says Lovell. "It offers higher throughput, as it bypasses the need for lot of unnecessary processing."

In addition to supporting Solaris, Sun hardware also runs Windows, Linux, and several other operating systems. Linux, says Lovell, is currently one of the most popular options. One emerging trend he's been seeing is that enterprises are increasingly bypassing the server-bundled operating system route are instead purchasing their operating system from Red Hat or Windows and then finding a hardware supplier certified to run that operating system.

Another trend Lovell sees is that while Linux contributes to volume shipments at the low end, Solaris is now the x84 performance king.

"One year ago, we could get the best performance on benchmark tests out of Linux," says Lovell. "Now, all our latest benchmark wins have been on x64/Solaris, as that operating system is optimized for AMD 64."

The Vital SPARC

While Sun is investing major effort into making its Opteron line a winner, its SPARC-based processor servers are still the primary breadwinner. This past year, Sun has been steadily upgrading the line with Solaris 10 UltraSPARC IV machines, including the Sun FireV490, V890, E2900, E4900, E6900, E20K, and E25K servers.

The UltraSPARC IV is a 1.35 GHz processor that offers two-times the throughput at 34-percent better price/performance than the fastest UltraSPARC III systems, said Fadi Azhari, group marketing manager, Scalable Systems Group at Sun. These UltraSPARC IV and Solaris-based systems deliver Chip Multithreading Technology (CMT), which Azhari says doubles the application throughput and provides 34 percent better price/performance in the same physical footprint as its predecessors. Sun plans to release an UltraSPARC IV plus server with added clock speed and memory in the second half of this year.

"As a result of these improvements, we are experiencing greater demand among our mid- and low-end SPARC models," says Azhari. "We are also seeing health migration rates by existing customers to our newest servers."

In addition, Sun gave a speed bump to the Netra 440, a Solaris-, UltraSPARC-processor-based 4-way carrier-grade server for the telecommunications market. It is NEBS (Network Equipment Building Systems) Level-3 certified and now available at 1.6 GHz.

Rock and Roll

What does the future hold? Will the Sun come out tomorrow? Sun's R&D department is working hard on two new chip designs. Its Niagara chip, Azhari said, is based on radical CMT technology that aims to increase throughput by multithreading each core. It is due out in early 2006.

"The Niagara will give us 15 times the processor throughput," says Azhari. "It will be available in up to eight cores in one processor socket with four threads in each core."

Further up the line, circa 2008, Sun plans to release a high-end version of Niagara, known as Rock.

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