Sun unveils its first AMD blade

By Robert McMillan

IDG News Service

Sun Microsystems Inc. on Wednesday will unveil the first product of its recently announced partnership with Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD): a blade server based on AMD’s 1.53 GHz Mobile Athlon XP 1800+ processor. The Sun Fire B100 blade server will be the first AMD-based system designed by Sun, the company said.

The new Athlon server will be one of four new systems Sun is expected to announce at its SunNetwork user conference in Berlin this week. Along with the B100, the Santa Clara, Calif., computer maker will also unveil two new Netra servers, the Netra 240 and the Netra CT820, and a replacement for its Sun Blade 2000 workstation, the Sun Blade 2500.

Although Sun has made much of the role the 64-bit Opteron processor will play in its product line, customers will have to wait until the first quarter of 2004 to see the company’s first Opteron system, which is expected to be a 1U (4.4 centimetre high) dual-processor server. It will be followed by a four-way, 3U (13.3 centimetre high) system, expected in mid-2004.

Also by mid-2004, Sun is expected to complete a production-ready port of its Solaris operating system to AMD’s 64-bit instruction set, and the company is also looking for ways to extend Opteron into the midrange of its server product line, according to company executives. “There’s a lot of work being done on eight-way (Opteron) as well,” said Larry Singer, Sun’s vice-president of global information systems.

Sun expects to eventually produce Opteron blades as well, said Souheil Saliba, Sun’s vice-president of marketing for volume systems products, but no plans for such a system have yet been announced. Unlike the new B100, an Opteron blade would probably fit into a different type of chassis from the B1600 blade system that Sun’s current blade offerings are designed for, he said.

“Opteron isn’t really ready to go into a blade yet,” said Gordon Haff, an analyst with industry research company Illuminata Inc. “If you look at the (Opteron-based) IBM eServer 325, for example, there’s a dual processor but it’s quite a large board….It looks like it would be challenging to get that into a blade,” he said.

Sun’s other major product news in Berlin will be an upgrade to its line of high-performance workstations.

The Sun Blade 2500 workstation will be based on the 1.28GHz UltraSparc IIIi processor and will come in single-processor and dual-processor configurations. It will support up to 8GB of memory and 72GB of storage and can be purchased with Sun’s XVR-1200 graphics accelerator or the lower-cost XVR-600 3-D graphics card, which will also be unveiled Wednesday.

The new Netras will be Sun’s first products of this class in two years, according to Saliba. Aimed at telecommunications carriers, the military and the government, the Netra 240 will be based on the UltraSparc IIIi processor and, at 2U (8.8 centimetres) high, will be smaller and about half the price of its predecessor, the Netra 20, he said. It will be available as of Wednesday, Sun said.

The Netra CT820 is a 21-slot blade system that houses Sun’s CP2300 telecom blade servers. Pricing for the CT820 will start at US$32,995 when it becomes available in late December. The Sun Blade 2500 workstation and the XVR-600 card will both be available as of Wednesday. The workstation will be priced starting at US$4,995. The graphics card will cost US$1,195.

Sun’s B100 blade will start at US$1,795. It will support between 1GB and 2GB of memory and will also be available bundled with either the Solaris or Linux operating system, as of Wednesday.

– With files from James Niccolai, IDG News Service

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