Sun's new Opteron servers aimed at data center

Sun Microsystems has launched three Opteron-based servers, positioning them as midrange boxes for network computing in data centres.

The Sun Fire X4500 data server, Sun Fire X4600 server and Sun Blade 8000 are all powered by AMD Opteron processors.

Sun engineers chose the chip because it drew fewer watts and offered more sockets than competing processors like Intel's new dual-core Xeon, vice-president of systems marketing, Lisa Sieker, said.

It changed server processors from Intel to AMD in 2003, and credited the change with helping push the company from a worldwide market share rank of 16th that year to sixth in 2005, she said.

The product launch comes at a tumultuous time for Sun, which saw co-founder and charismatic leader, Scott McNealy, step down as CEO in April. It announced plans in May to lay off at least 4000 staff during the next six months.

To sharpen its focus on seeking profit from servers, Sun executives also reorganised the company, combining the Sparc and x64-based server groups into a single systems group.

Sun hopeds to use the X4600 server to seize market share from competitors, IBM and HP, offered a single eight-socket server to take the place of a collection of daisy-chained computers, its product team lead for Opteron Systems, Arvie Martin, said.

"Consolidation through virtualisation is a huge trend in the market today. Customers can consolidate 50 Xeon-based servers down to one Sun Fire with the X4600," Sieker said.

Sun has worked with NEC to test the new server in a massive installation at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. That system includes 655 of Sun's X4600 servers, each with eight dual-core Opteron processors, for a total of 10,480 cores. The supercomputer ranks as the world's seventh largest, with resources shared among the university's 10,000 engineering students.

The university plans to upgrade the machine to quad-core Opteron chips in 2008 and replace it entirely in 2010, according to Professor Satoshi Matsuoka.

The other new models include the X4500, which Sun calls the industry's first hybrid data server, combining a two-socket server with up to 24TB of storage in 4U of rack space.

The Sun Blade 8000 is a modular blade server system, based on the company's Galaxy x64 server architecture. With room for 10 four-socket computers sitting in a chassis, and cooling fans and I/O located on the chassis instead of the blade, the unit allows customers to expand systems over many years without worrying about replacing the entire system.

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