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.
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 beware."
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 months.
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