Sun launches first x86 quad-core servers

Adding spark to its Sun Fire line on servers, Sun Microsystems Inc. is expected to announce its first x86-based quad-core systems Tuesday.

The Sun Fire X4450 and Sun Fire X4150 rack-mount servers are the second and third Intel Corp.-based products Sun is releasing after the companies signed a partnership early this year. Sun shipped an Intel-based blade server, Sun Blade X6250, in June.

The X4450 is a four-socket, 2U server powered by Intel’s quad-core Xeon 7300 processors, while the 1U Sun Fire X4150 is a two-socket server powered by Intel’s quad-core Xeon 5300 processors. Both servers offer memory capacity ranging from 2G bytes to 128G bytes.

Starting at US$8,895, the X4450 server will ship worldwide in October, said Rebecca Tong, product line manager at Sun. The X4150, starting at US$2,995, will ship in the U.S. this month and worldwide in October. The X4450 and X4150 will also support Intel’s 7200 and 5100 dual-core processors, respectively.

The servers will ship with the embedded Lights Out Manager, a system controller that helps users manage and administer servers. The servers will run either Sun Solaris, Linux or Windows 2003 OSes and support VMware’s virtualization software. Sun is looking to add support for Microsoft Corp.’s Virtual Server virtualization software, Tong said.

Targeted at organizations that need performance and energy efficiency, the servers offer better size, performance and energy efficiency than competing products, Tong said. Sun’s rivals in the x86 server space include IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc.

The servers not only nurtures Sun’s ties with Intel, but also provides more choice to customers looking to buy x86-based servers, said a Sun spokeswoman. Sun has strong ties with AMD, which recently announced its Barcelona quad-core Opteron chip. Sun will announce servers using the Barcelona chip in the future, the company said. Sun already offers the multicore UltraSparc T2 processor which has up to eight cores per processor.

Developers and staff at Eastern Michigan University have benefitted from the X4450 server, said Bill Heilman, a platform specialist at the university.

Equipped with four quad-core Intel Xeon 7300 processors and 64G bytes of RAM, the server has provided the virtualization environment the university was seeking and is especially powerful in the Unix environment, Heilman said. The university is running VMWare ESX Server beta virtualization software and Solaris 9 OS on the X4450.

Additionally, the server’s slim footprint has provided additional benefits.

“Not only is it small, it uses a little less juice,” he said, which will save the university money on electric bills, Heilman said.

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