It is the end of an era. Or, rather, the official end of an era, as Sun officially retires the Sun Ultra line and launches a program to encourage existing Ultra owners to upgrade to the Sun Blade workstation line.
Specifically, the program gives discounts to those who trade in their older Sun Ultra 5, 10, 60 or 80 workstations for one of Sun's newer Sun Blade 100 and Sun Blade 1000 workstations.
What makes this mandatory retirement notable? For starters, the Sun Ultra 5 workstation is the best-selling UNIX workstation ever, so chances are good that anyone who cut their teeth in a Sun shop spent some time on a Sun Ultra. Granted, being the best-selling UNIX workstation may not seem like a big deal when millions of Intel-based PCs are sold yearly and Linux serves as a low-end UNIX for many corporations, but since the lines introduction in January 1998 the Sun Ultra 5 was the workstation of choice for anyone doing any serious Solaris development. For a powerful UNIX box, it was relatively affordable -- ,995 without a monitor -- and it was designed to be a workstation, rather than merely a downsized server.
But times have chance since January 1998: there are high-end Linux boxen that serve the needs of many UNIX users. And Sun itself began the process of obsolescing the Sun Uktra 5 line with the introduction earlier this year of the insanely inexpensive Sun Blade workstations. How insane? The entry-level Sun Blade workstation is a 64-bit, 3D graphics workstation priced under ,000 without a monitor.
Normally were not big on reporting contest news, but this one was too good to pass up: As part of the Sun Ultra 5 retirement push, Sun is sponsoring a "Find the Fives" promotion that seeks to identify five Ultra 5 workstations from the first group of workstations sold. The Sun Ultra 5 workstations with the following serial numbers -- FW81008413, FW80704047, FW81212912, TW80701882, and TW80802492 -- will be replaced free of charge by Sun with a fully loaded Sun Blade 100 workstation package. (In this case, fully loaded means 40 GB of storage, 2 GB of memory, the Sun Expert3D-Lite Graphics board, and an 18-inch flat panel monitor from Sun.)
"The Sun Ultra 5 workstation has been the best selling UNIX workstation ever because customers prize the high standards we set for price/performance," said Fred Kohout, director of marketing of Client and Technical Market Products at Sun Microsystems, in a press announcement. "With our new Sun Blade workstations, we've further raised the performance bar while dramatically lowering the price bar, providing the robust, highly scalable 64-bit Sun platform at PC price points. We've brought to market the desktop solutions that our customers need, which is why Sun Microsystems holds more of the 64-bit workstation market than all of our competitors combined."