Sun adds performance to low-end Unix workstation

Sun Microsystems Inc. is updating its low-cost workstation line with the release of the Sun Blade 150 Tuesday, enhancing the performance while maintaining the price of the older Sun Blade. The company also released new configurations for its Sun Blade 2000 workstations, and an add-in processor module.

The Sun Blade 150 builds on the performance of the existing Sun Blade 100, which will be discontinued at the end of this year, said Phil Dunn, product line manager for workstations and technical markets at Sun. It features either 500MHz or 650MHz UltraSPARC IIi processors, and 2GB of error correction synchronous dynamic RAM (SDRAM) for a list price of US$1,395.

“This is certainly the least expensive Unix-based workstation on the market. It gives people who want to stay Unix an alternative to Windows-based workstations,” said Kara Yokley, research manager at market research company IDC, based in Framingham, Mass.

One feature that developers increasingly value is visualization technology, Dunn said. Sun increased the graphics performance on the Sun Blade 150 by 75 per cent over the older version, with the standard 2D Sun PGX64 graphics board or the optional 3D Sun XVR-500 board.

Another enterprise computing technology coming into its own is grid computing, which the Sun Blade 150 is optimized for, Dunn said. Sun’s Grid Engine software is preinstalled with the machine, and allows companies to save money by networking low-cost machines to power complex applications, he said.

“We’re hearing from customers across the spectrum that the grid solution is very attractive. People are using low-end workstations and servers all within a grid to accomplish what used to require a much fatter client,” Yokley said.

Developers can also use the Sun Blade 150 to create software on the Windows operating system, with the optional SunPC IIpro coprocessor card, which allows both Windows and Solaris to run simultaneously on the Sun Blade 150.

New graphics configurations for the Sun Blade 2000 machines feature either the PGX64, XVR-500, or XVR-1000 graphics boards, and single or dual UltraSPARC III processors running at 900MHz or 1.05GHz. Sun is also now shipping 1.05GHz processors for the Sun Blade 2000s in volume, either with an entire new system, or through a module than can be added into an existing machine.

Users will find it much easier and cost-effective to simply add a processor module to their existing Sun Blade 2000 machines, rather than purchasing a whole new machine to increase performance, Dunn said. They will receive discounts on the module list price of US$6,995 based on the speed of their existing processor, he said.