Sun and Fujitsu's T5440 Goes Out on a Limb

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Oct 23, 2008


Drew Robb
Sun and Fujitsu just shook up the midrange with the joint release of the SPARC Enterprise T5440 Server. Sun claims this new server offers much higher performance at much lower cost than competitive systems.

Inefficiency has long been considered synonymous with the midrange server space. Sun and Fujitsu are looking to change this with the release of the jointly developed SPARC Enterprise T5440.

"The T5440 provides up to 4X the performance, a quarter of the power per watt, half the physical footprint and up to a fifth of the cost compared to midrange systems from IBM and HP," said John Fowler, executive vice president of the Systems Group at Sun. "It redefines the midrange."

He backs this up with a series of benchmark scores including the Java Business, the SAP Sales and Distribution (SD) Standard Application, Oracle's Siebel CRM Release 8 Platform Sizing and Performance Program (PSPP), and SPECjAppServer2004. Fowler specifically compared the new Sun SPARC box to the 8-processor IBM Power 560 Express system, which he says takes up twice the amount of physical space and consumes 26 percent more power.

The big news, however, is that this is the first chip multi-threaded (CMT) processor that can scale up to four processors. As the SPARC Enterprise T5440 server is an eight core chip with eight threads per core it has up to 32 cores and 256 threads.

That is supported by 512 GB of memory and a host of energy efficiency features. Idle threads, for example, can be parked. Fans are better controlled. Instead of fans-on, fans-off-type control, Sun's Intelligent Fan Control (IFC) adjusts fan speed according to temperature to minimize power wastage. IFC also incorporates cooling zones that slice up the chassis so specific fans are operated only when required.

Of course, all of this wondrous efficiency can be viewed differently.

"The midrange has been space inefficient and power inefficient," said Fowler.

By implication, that includes Sun's previous system designs. So although Sun is saying its new systems are so efficient, it is admitting indirectly that its previous systems were grossly inefficient.

In any case, the unit has plenty of virtualization bells and whistles built in via Solaris Containers and Logical Domains (LDoms). As such, it can consolidate hundreds of applications onto a single system.

In addition, the new server provides I/O bandwidth of up to 10 GB/s and up to 28 PCI-E slots. All of this comes in a 4U enclosure weighing 88 pounds. It is priced starting at $44,995 and is currently available from Sun and Fujitsu.

Market Significance

What does this mean in terms of market share? Sun currently dominates volume server shipments in the midrange and is second in total revenues in what is largely a Unix-driven sector. Can Sun parlay this technology into overall market dominance in the midrange? Possibly.

What this release will certainly do is strengthen the company's lead in overall midrange server shipments. It will presumable shake up HP and IBM, which will be forced to respond with their own smaller, less expensive and faster gear. And that can only be good for the end user.

It will also be good for Sun as a whole. Fowler points out that the midrange accounts for 25 percent of overall enterprise server spend. Sun expects its CMT offerings to gobble up more of the total.

"We have experienced 50 to 80 percent growth rates for CMT servers over the past year," he said.

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