Sun Seeks to Light Server Fire

Just a week after announcing new x64 servers code-named Galaxy, Sun Microsystems yesterday released Sun Fire servers powered by new UltraSparc IV+ processors.

The new Sun Fire V490, V890, E2900, E4900 and E6900 servers are powered to run on Solaris 10 or earlier versions of the company’s flagship operating system. The company said the UltraSparc offers customers up to a fivefold increase in performance over previous UltraSPARC processor generations and delivery with clocked speeds of up to 1.5 GHz.

“This introduction makes it clear that SPARC and Power are going head-to-head, now that IBM and Dell have de-comitted to Itanium and Hewlett Packard has effectively end-of-lifed HP-UX,” said Jonathan Schwartz, President of Sun Microsystems. “And of the two, only SPARC benefits from the features and volume of the open source Solaris 10 operating system, which supports industry-standard servers from Sun as well as IBM, HP and Dell.”

Daring the Competition

Sun is bragging about world-record benchmarks and side-by-side comparisons with IBM, HP and Fujitsu. DaimlerChrysler, DoubleClick/Abacus, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Nortel, Oregon State University and Transat A.T. are helping Sun toot its UltraSparc IV+ horn with endorsements.

Sun said SAS and other leading software vendors have also fine-tuned each of their mission-critical applications to work with the new Sun Fire servers.

“We’re in a new cycle of innovation for SPARC that delivers incredible performance gains,” said David Yen, executive vice-president, Sun’s Scalable Systems Group. “Scalable high performance processing, combined with the same power consumption, footprint and price as previous generations, make the new Sun Fire servers the ideal platform for server consolidation.”

Buying Time

Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff told TechNewsWorld that the USIV+ is a nice incremental upgrade to Sparc for Sun’s install base. However, he would not go so far as to call it a disruptive offering in a market where the company has lost server share against rivals.

“This isn’t a new generation of servers aimed at grabbing a lot of new-to-Sun business,” Haff said. “That’s what the Galaxy server it just announced is for. But this is a good upgrade.”

Analysts said the upgrade is designed to bridge the gap until its Advanced Product Line (APL), a collaboration between Sun and Fujitsu, debuts sometime next year.

Keeping up With the Joneses

“Sun has to keep up with the other guys. IBM is going to be coming out with the Power5+ soon. The reality is in this industry you have to put a lot of energy into running to stay in place. What happens if you don’t make these kinds of advances is you fall behind,” Haff said. “So this upgrade is in some respects about maintaining parity with the competition.”

HP’s Montecito module, based on the Intel Itanium chip, will be available sometime later this year. Analysts said if Sun didn’t release an upgrade, it would put its product line well behind the competition.

The new Sun Fire Servers running the USIV+ processors are immediately available and began shipping in late August. Pricing starts at US$30,995.

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