GuidesSun Unveils Sun Fire 12k, Downplays IBM and High-End Linux

Sun Unveils Sun Fire 12k, Downplays IBM and High-End Linux

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Today Sun (NASDAQ:SUNW) revealed its new high-end Sun Fire 12k server, code-named
“Kitty,” and announced its intention to go after the estimated billion market in the $.5
to million price range, new territory for the company. As has been been
its recent practice
, the company also continued to take shots at
rival IBM (NYSE:IBM), which has chosen to approach the high-end market with its
mainframe-oriented strategy.

Revealing its Sun Fire 12k server today, Sun says its product line is now consolidated all the way from the blade to its highest-end systems. The company also took some time to take more jabs at IBM and its ill-advised Linux strategy as the company touts Solaris 8 as its high-end operating environment.

The Sun Fire 12k is the latest in Sun’s line of Uniboard-CPU/memory
board-based systems, which the company says provides for an easy
upgrade line across the Sun Fire line, starting at the 3800 at its
low end and ending with the 15k, which was released in September of
2001. It’s positioned between the SunFire 6800 server and the 15k.

Among the features touted by Sun, the 12k can scale up to 52
UltraSparc III 900 MHz processors and offers 288 GB of RAM. The units
ship with Solaris 8 OE. According to the company, the units will
upgrade to Solaris 9 with ease. Clark Masters, Vice President and
General Manager of Enterprise System Products for Sun said the
unveiling of the 12k represents Sun’s “[full transition to the Solaris
8 and Ultra 3 product line.”

Sun’s Chief Competitive Officer Shahin Khan touted the benefits of the
Sun Fire line:

“It’s not about the chips, it’s not about the technology. It’s
about the whole line,” he said, claiming that the unification of Sun’s
high end products around Solaris and UniBoard technology allows for
easy scalability without the transition costs often associated with
retraining/certification and server consolidation. According to Khan,
the 12k is field-upgradable to the UltraSparc 4 processor or hardware
needed to bring the machine up to the levels of performance attainable
with a Sun Fire 15k, saving on the costs some hosting outfits charge
for changing out servers.

Masters said that the 12k consolidates Sun’s overall strategy of
“blades on the low end, uniboards on the high end.”

Shots at IBM

Khan and Masters reserved some of their enthusiasm for a little
Big Blue-bashing, as well, targeting IBM’s e-Series P690 for
particular scrutiny. The P690 was initially targeted by Sun with the
Enterprise 10000 server, and continues to hold some advantage in terms
of raw clock speed. Khan cast doubt on the ability of the p690 to
keep up with the new 12k, though, claiming that IBM has been slow to
release benchmarks, which he says is reflective of a need for large
amounts of tweaking and fine-tuning, and that purchasing the server
would be “like buying junk bonds… you could get lucky, but buyer

For its part, IBM has focused increasingly on mainframes in the past
year, arguing that the tight economic times provide an incentive to
consolidate servers onto single mainframes to reap lower
adminstration, maintenance, and even energy costs when compared to
Sun’s cluster-based approach.

In return, Sun today said its product line is better suited for
mixed work-loads in a variety of tasks across the enterprise. Khan
claims Sun has replaced 50 mainframe installations in the past 12

When asked why the company seems to be singling out IBM for special
attention, Khan noted IBM’s recent high-profile publicity campaigns
and said its Sun Fire product line is equally competitive against
Hewlett Packard’s Superdome line.

Linux on the High End

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