Sun Serves Up AMD Servers, Workstations

by Michael Singer

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

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 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 internetnews.com. "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 internetnews.com. "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 internetnews.com.

This article was originally published on Tuesday Jul 27th 2004
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