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Sun Serves Up AMD Servers, Workstations

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Sun Microsystems has launched a new batch of products based on the AMD Opteron processor, a release that follows months of anticipation and plenty of chatter about in the industry.

The company this week unveiled its 4-way Opteron-based Sun Fire and two workstations that made their debut on eBay.

The systems vendor is expected to debut its 4-way Opteron
based Sun Fire V40z (priced at $$8,495) and two workstations — the 1-chip W1100z ($1,995) and the two-chip W2100z ($4,695). The units represent Sun’s second collaboration with AMD in eight months. The V20z Opteron-based rack servers announced back in November 2003 marked the start of the strategic alliance.

Sun is placing high hopes on the coupling of AMD and Solaris x86. The revision is being marketed to enterprises that have less than stellar Linux marriages. But just in case, the server and two workstations will also ship with the Solaris OS, Red Hat or SUSE Linux, and Microsoft Windows through Windows Hardware Qualification List (WHQL) certification.

The 4-way rack server comes with 32 GB of RAM and six Ultra320 SCSI
non-removable disks. The tower units offer a Gigabit Ethernet port, 5x USB
2.0, FireWire and a DVD Rom/CDRW combo drive.

The workstations actually made their debut on eBay last month. During its JavaOne show in San Francisco, Sun auctioned off 12 of the single-Opteron processor workstations — each signed by Java guru James Gosling.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun is also reportedly slashing prices by a third on the V20z, bringing the 2.2 gigahertz Opteron 248 processors to just under USD$1,000.
Previously, the V20z with one Opteron has a list price of $1,495, while a
two-chip system was priced at $4,995.

“A four-way Opteron server could serve Sun and its enterprise customers
well, indeed, especially as a powerful alternative to HP and IBM offerings,”
Michael Dortch, principal business analyst at Robert Frances Group, told “However, IT executives know that the number of
processors isn’t nearly as important as how efficiently each is and all are
used in real life. This depends largely on a combination of well-designed
hardware and tightly aligned software. Since Sun makes a lot of the software
that runs on its servers, it may have a significant advantage in the race to
deliver applications that take full advantage of evolving hardware
performance. If Sun can promise, then deliver the ability of incumbent or
easily upgraded applications to take full advantage of the power under the
hood, four-way Opteron servers should fly off of Sun’s showroom floors.”

Still, the battle remains a steeply uphill one. First-quarter 2004
statistics from IDC show Sun’s revenue 12.5 percent lower than it was in the
first quarter of 2003. At the same time, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, and IBM gained
firmer footholds, and the overall server market grew 7.3 percent. Sun’s
current share of 10.2 percent brings it neck and neck with Dell, whose sweet
spot holds a very different customer.

“While Opteron is enjoying a great deal of success, there’s a lot more to
making Sun a success than just announcing 4-ways,” George Weiss, Gartner vice
president and analyst told “Sun must also clarify
how they will position Linux against Solaris. Users may want to know of
their intentions for open sourcing Solaris. There are a lot of other Opteron
serves out there so Sun will have to make sure that it is driving the market
in some compelling way.”

Sun has been burning rubber on the hardware development front. In
February, the vendor more firmly redirected its approach to x86, adding the
dual-Opteron Fire V20z rack server and dual Low Voltage Xeon B200x blades to
its server family.

At the same time, Sun fueled its Sun Fire servers with a Chip
Multithreading (CMT) capable Solaris 10-ready UltraSPARC IV, adding the
E2900, E4900, and E6900 in the midrange, and the E20K and E25K to the high
end. Sun also stoked its NEBS-Certified offerings, replacing the Netra
t1400/1405 with the UltraSPARC IIIi-based Tetra 440.

This article was originally published on

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