Sun has high hopes for Niagara servers

Sun Microsystems has taken the wraps of its first Niagara processors, as it looks to jumpstart its underperforming server business.

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By  Caroline Denslow Published  December 11, 2005

Sun Microsystems has taken the wraps of its first Niagara processors, as it looks to jumpstart its underperforming server business. Last week, at a launch event in New York, US, the company revealed its Sun Fire T1000 and T2000 servers, which are based on its UltraSparc T1 chip. The Niagara systems are the latest instalments of Sun’s multi-level server revamp strategy, which began three months ago when Sun introduced its ‘Galaxy’ line of x86 servers. The units are the first ‘eco-responsible servers’, according to Carl Ray, field engagement manager, Scalable Systems Group Marketing, Sun EMEA, as the Niagara chips feature Sun’s patented CoolThreads multithreading technology. CoolThreads allows the proc- essor to consume just 70 watts of energy — less than half the power used by Intel Xeon or IBM processors, claimed Sun. “They will be providing streaming performance, performance that is four times what is prescribed in industry-standard servers,” Ray told IT Weekly. “They are also the first serv- ers that are eco-responsible ser- vers. They will address power, cooling and space constraints for our customers,” he added. The servers’ main selling points lie in the processor itself. The UltraSparc T1, which bo- asts a new, radical design that Sun built from the ground up, offers better compatibility with web applications and distributed database systems. “It’s the first processor delivered to the market designed specifically for the workload it is going to run,” said Ray. “Up until now, every processor has some form of heritage on a desktop or a workstation, that then got modified to move into the workspace. The reason we did the clean-sheet appro- ach was because we saw the power and cooling constraint issues that we were going to run into,” he explained. As the latest instalment of its multi-level server revamp plan, Sun is banking on the Niagara servers to give it a much-needed boost in the server market. In the last few quarters, Sun’s server business performance has been lacklustre with IBM’s Power chips and Intel and AMD’s x86 processors becoming market leaders. Sun claims that the new Niagara systems complement Galaxy’s single-thread functionality with its multi-thread capabilities. The company believes that the units will prove attractive to its existing Sparc clients, and will enable Sun to lure customers away from its rivals. “The value proposition is so compelling that customers will seriously look at our servers as an alternative to their power-hungry Xeon-based servers,” Ray went on to claim.

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