Sun's Server Overhaul Plays Both Sides

The company introduces some 25 different products including new UltraSPARC and Opteron servers.
Posted February 10, 2004
By

Michael Singer


After taking a beating in the IT marketplace last year, Sun Microsystems is staging a comeback with an overhaul of its hardware and software lineups.

As part of its quarterly mass product announcement ritual, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computer maker Tuesday is expected to announce some 25 individual additions to its product with an emphasis on scaling - as in up with high performance UltraSPARC IV chips running on a new Sun Fire E-series and out with the addition of low-cost servers built on AMD's Opteron processors. They are wrapped within the framework of Sun's Solaris 10 platform and its "N1" utility computing infrastructure.

The company is also releasing its second incarnation of Sun Java Enterprise System, and five new Reference Architectures and Solutions, which the company said serve as blueprints for Sun customers, compiled by Sun customers.

"We're moving from a server company to an IT infrastructure company," Larry Singer, Sun senior vice president of Global Market Strategies, told internetnews.com. "If we can drive down the cost of IT, that benefits all of us. It does hurt some of our competition quite a bit, and others, it doesn't hurt as much."

The company could use a little help from its friends and customers. Sun recently suffered through its 11th straight quarterly loss. However, that luck may change courtesy of Sun's newfound friendship with AMD . Sun said it is padding its volume server lineup with its first Sun Fire system with the Opteron processor running 32-bit and 64-bit applications, including the Java Enterprise System, on Solaris and Linux systems. Starting at USD$2,795, the Sun Fire V20z server is a 2P, 1U box that the company said will go out to select customers on February 26 and for general availability after March 26.

IDC research vice president Jean Bozman said Sun is positioning itself with the refresh so that whichever way IT budgets go, the company will be able to take advantage of that momentum more than they have in the past year.

"In our third quarter statistics for 2003, volume servers accounted for 9.9 percent revenue and overall revenue for the category grew worldwide," Bozman said. "With volume servers, Sun is trying to hit more of the price performance points and tapping into that opportunity."

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Sun is introducing new Sun Fire E2900, E4900, E6900, E20K and E25K servers, all powered by its UltraSPARC IV processors (previously code-named Amazon). The 4-way and above servers are expected to be marketed to high performance customers and include Java Enterprise System and come with multithreading support within the Solaris operating system, Symmetric Multiprocessing (SMP) architecture, and the Sun Net Connect remote monitoring service.

Sun is also offering its Sun Fire V210 and V240 servers with the long-awaited dual x86 Xeon processor. The company is also looking at selling some of its Sun Fire B200x Blade Servers; Netra 240 AC Servers; the SX200S-X10 (a.k.a. the Sun Ray 1G motherboard); Sun's XVR-600 Graphics Accelerator; and its Crypto Accelerator for 4000 v1.1

Helping run all of these servers in concert, Sun said its new N1 (USD$3,920) Grid Provisioning Server software version 3.1 -- or Blades Edition -- is ready to aid systems designed for the Sun Fire B1600 blade platform. The company said the management software lets users design, configure, provision, and scale, blade-based server farms automatically.

"The blade environment is an example of how you can apply that system management software and enter into a microcosm," Bozman said.

On the software side, Sun is fastidiously preparing Solaris 10 for an official launch date just before the end of this year. As previously reported", Solaris 10 will include N1 Grid Containers, predictive Self-Healing technologies and security enhancements. The next-generation operating environment will also serve as the inflection point between Solaris and Trusted Solaris, giving enterprise customers the same security features as Sun's government customers. While the company continues to test new additions with its Solaris Express program, company execs were fuzzy on the exact cutoff date to make the final version of Solaris 10.

After getting feedback from partners and customers, Sun has come up with five new Reference Architectures and Solutions. The company said the software will serve as a roadmap in which future customers can benefit from the experiences of previous Sun partners.

The list includes Sun's Spare Parts Planner Reference Architecture, which will serve as a precursor for RFID tags, inventory management tools; a Messaging Referencing Architecture for Oracle's collaboration suite; Data Warehouse Reference Architectures; Enterprise Messaging, and Sun's Secure Access Platform.

Sun is also updating its Sun Java Enterprise System. The company said it is making its Java Enterprise platform compatible for Red Hat's 32-bit applications. Still priced at $100 per employee per year, the second edition will be available next quarter, concurrently with the upcoming Solaris 9 4/04 OS release. The platform (formerly known as Project Orion) has also added in capabilities from Sun's Java System Portal Server Mobile Access platform. The augmented software includes support for portal wireless access. Users can reuse existing applications, content and services by dynamically rendering and delivering information to any mobile device such as cell phones, PDAs, and smart phones.

The company has also updated its toolbox with the heralding of the latest NetBeans platform later this year. In version 3.6, Sun has added its Java Studio Enterprise, Sun Studio Creator, and Sun Java Studio 8. Sun also said its Java Studio Creator (formerly Project Rave) is now in an early access phase and is on tap for full release later this year.






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