Sun takes aim at Dell servers

Sun Microsystems is using this year’s Gitex to show off its new AMD powered servers. Sun is taking aim at rivals Dell with this move from its UNIX heartland into X86 systems.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  September 25, 2005

Sun Microsystems is using this year’s Gitex to show off its new AMD powered servers. Sun is taking aim at rivals Dell with this move from its UNIX heartland into X86 systems. Sun says the SunFire enterprise-class x64 (x86, 64-bit) multi-core servers offer one-and-a-half times the performance, consume about one-third the power and are only one-quarter the size of competing products from Dell and other vendors. The systems, codenamed Galaxy were released worldwide two days ago and are powered by AMD Opteron processors. The Sun servers run the company’s Solaris 10 operating system (OS) as well as Linux and Microsoft Windows, all supported by Sun. “Gitex delegates are the first in the Middle East to learn about these state-of-the-art rack mountable volume servers. Their unparalleled simplicity and versatility is set to benefit businesses in every industry right across the GCC and beyond,” says Chris Cornelius, managing director, Sun Microsystems MENA. Sun has not got the new server at the show but instead has a host of experts on hand to explain the technology behind Galaxy and the benefits it brings to enterprise data centres. “The timing of Gitex is perfect for us. We have some major announcements such as the Galaxy product, it’s not a printer that’s two pages per minute faster,” continues Cornelius. “This is our first effort to be serious about the X86 market in terms of processor and OS. So we signed up for the Opteron. We tried to work with Intel but felt we were just another also-ran. In addition, we don’t believe in the [Intel] Itanium processor,” he explains. Sun hired Andy Bechtolsheim, who was one of the original four guys who started Sun to spearhead the move into X86. Now Sun has a ten year roadmap with AMD, where Sun designs the whole unit based on AMD's Opteron processor. The servers are designed to combat the heat issue in densely packed server rooms. A rack of servers in a GRID situation produces great performance but also generates lots of heat. “You might as well be in Saudi if you’re in Finland,” says Cornelius and he says heat causes costs to spiral for the customer and also slows the chip, affecting performance. That's why Sun focused on heat management and form factor as well as performance for the new SunFire processor. “We are outperforming industry leaders such as Dell and beating them on price. We might be new to X86 but we’ve come from the enterprise and have quality products that don't fail. That’s what we bring to the party,” concludes Cornelius. The new industry-standard x64 multi-core available server family begins with the SunFire X2100, the lowest cost single-socket x64 rack-mount server, and includes the two-socket, 4-way SunFire X4100 and SunFire X4200 servers. Future servers in this same family are being designed to accommodate up to eight multi-core processors to achieve 16-way mid-range system performance levels.

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