Faced with increased competition from systems running on an Intel architecture, Sun Microsystems Monday said it will begin using AMD chips in some of its blade servers.
At its annual gathering of securities analysts the Santa Clara, Calif.-based networking giant is highlighting its server and desktop directions and said it is rethinking its strategy on its UltraSPARC line.
"Our basic message is 'innovation pays'," said CEO Scott McNealy. "Our focus is to connect all of these devices to the network."
Sun said it will offer two processor types on its blades: the UltraSPARC IIi, running at 650 MHz, and the Athlon XP-M. The UltraSPARC blades are expected to ship in the second quarter, and the x86 blades in the second half of this year. Server blades are more cost-efficient, smaller and consume less power than traditional box-based servers.
AMD, which declined to comment on stirring rumors of the deal last week, was not available for comment.
"SPARC and Solaris remain the standards for 64-bit computing as the UNIX market continues to grow, buoyed by Solaris, Linux, and Solaris x86, and with the new products Sun introduced on February 10," said Sun chief competitive officer Shahin Khan.
The company is also expected to announce a new four-thread UltraSPARC processor based on technology that Sun acquired from Afara Websystems in 2002. The chips should make their debut by 2005.
In comparison, IBM's Power4 processor uses two-thread technology. Intel's Itanium and some Pentium 4 chips also use two-thread technology (Hyper-Threading), and the vendor is working on systems that read three-threads. Currently, Sun uses Texas Instruments to build its UltraSPARC line. Sun said that relationship is not expected to change.
Last week, chief technology officer Greg Papadopoulos said Sun is working on adapting its servers to use logical partitioning technology. The project (code-named Kevlar) is expected to compete with similar offerings from IBM or Hewlett-Packard.
Papadopoulos is expected to give more details about the chips and Kevlar during his keynote address Tuesday.