SAN FRANCISCO (11/17/2003) - Sun Microsystems Inc. and Intel Corp., a marriage we thought we'd never see. Frankly, many of us were asking the obvious, "Why?" Increased brand dominance is the obvious answer, and the Sun Fire v60x -- the first product of the Suntel union -- does impress.
At first blush, you might not look twice at the machine. Funky logo aside, the v60x looks like a typical Intel-based 1U rack-mounted server. But there's one perceived handicap: It doesn't support Windows. Sun is sticking to the Unix platform; my version of the Sun Fire supported only Red Hat Inc. Lines 7.3, but support is slated for later versions of Red Hat and Solaris 9 for Intel in the future. Purpose? Think grid computing and large rack-based server clusters. And for smaller businesses that happen to have access to Linux expertise, the Sun Fire makes a dandy all-purpose server as well.
Price adds even more shine to the lackluster exterior. My test machine shipped with dual 2.8GHz Xeon CPUs, 1G bytes of RAM, and dual 36G-byte Ultra320 hard disks, all for only US$4,840. Comparably equipped competition runs at least $1,000 more.
In a trend that spans every server manufacturer, the real value-add to the Sun Fire platform is in software. Sun has obviously put some effort into its SCS (Sun Control Station) 2.0 server management package. I tested a late beta version of SCS 2.0, and this is one of the more intuitive Linux server management packages I've seen.
The package's Java-based interface gives users access to a large number of preinstalled modules all aimed at painless remote management for a large number of Sun Fire systems. Aside from the usual health and monitoring capabilities, SCS also allows you to save and to deploy server images, as well as new packages, across racks instead of boxes.
For Linux-savvy datacenters, the Sun Fire may well become a popular buy simply because it provides Linux horsepower with a low price and a respected brand name.