Sun Shines Light on New UltraSparc Server

By David Needle (Send Email)
Posted Apr 13, 2006


Sun made a big splash in December with the release of its first Sun Fire T2000 servers based on Sun's Niagara eight-core UltraSparc processor. At the time, Sun said it would be expanding the product family in the first quarter of 2006. The new low-cost Sun Fire T1000 aims to broaden multi-core servers' appeal, while the next generation leaves the drawing board.

On Wednesday, it delivered on that promise.

The new Sun Fire T1000 is the entry-level member of the Sun Fire family, priced at $2,995. The T2000 is priced at $7,795. The T2000 has eight computing cores, while the T1000 (based on the same 1.2 GHz T1 UltraSparc processor), sports six, less memory (2 GB of RAM) and no on-board hard drive.

The T1000 is also available in 4- and 8-core processor configurations. But Sun has big plans for this "starter" Sun Fire and has already lined up some significant customer wins.

After getting several T1000s in advance for testing, Sina.com, the largest Web portal in China, said it is ready to displace its entire pool of Intel-based Dell servers for new T1000 machines.

The total number of servers it plans to buy was not available at press time. Sina's testing showed a five times performance increase in transactional processing versus the Dell systems, according to information provided by Sun.

Analyst Nathan Brookwood of Insight64 said the T1000, although not as powerful as the T2000, should have broader appeal with its lower price.

"That's an incredible amount of computing power you can pack into a rack of servers when you compare it to either Opteron on Xeon," Brookwood told internetnews.com.

A Sun official said he expects the T1000 to appeal to customers most concerned with price and performance-per-rack.

"There is a set of customers who really care more about high-performance, low price and our low-watt-per-thread count, and less about redundancy and other features," Paul Durzan, group marketing manager for Niagara products at Sun told internetnews.com. "If one fails they'll get another one."

Separately, Sun announced it completed the "tape out" or final design of the T2000, based on the next generation UltraSparc T2 processor.

Sun expects T2000 systems to be available in the second half of 2007. Where the T1 was the world's first 32-threaded processor, the T2 is on track to be the first 64-threaded processor. Sun expect the T2 to offer double the performance of the current T1 processor.

"The fact that they're announcing the tape out now is positive because there's been a lot of skepticism about Sun's ability to meet the schedules for their chip design projects," said Brookwood.

"But I think they did a pretty respectable job on Niagara and this is further assurance they are on track."

Brookwood gives Sun credit for its engineering investments in new design even if its stock price has languished the past few years.

"Sun spends more on R&D than its competitors and Wall Street hates that," said Brookwood.

"But if Sun spent that money and didn't come out with new stuff, then they'd really be in trouble. What Sun really needs is new customers, and so far there are positive signs they are getting them."

This article was originally published on internetnews.com.

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