Sun Unveils New Sun Fire, Blade Servers

Hungry to regain market share lost to HP and IBM, Sun Microsystems Monday unveiled its highly-anticipated Sun Fire V1280, a new midrange, rack-mounted Unix server available in four to 12 processing unit configurations.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based computer systems manufacturer also unveiled its blade servers for the first time, a faster, cooler UltraSPARC III 1.2Ghz chip for its Sun Fire line, as well as inaugural software for its N1 strategy for on-demand computing.

Fitted with the outfit’s Dynamic Reconfiguration technology and hot-swappable CPU/ memory boards, the Sun Fire V1280 is targeted for mainframe rehosting, Wintel server consolidation and high performance technical computing (HPTC). The system is based on Sun’s Solaris Operating Environment(OE) and features the Sun Open Net Environment (Sun ONE) software stack.

The V1280 also offers one of the largest memory systems in a 12-way UNIX system, with 96 GB, and 9.6 GB per second system bandwidth to make sure applications run smoothly. As a rack system, the Sun Fire V1280 system allows room in the same rack for an additional Sun Fire V1280 system and/or complementary components such as the Sun StorEdge 3300 line, and the Sun StorEdge 3510 Fibre Channel array for direct and SAN attached storage.

The V1280 is priced competitively, from $79,995 to $174,995, to counter similar strategically priced servers from HP and IBM, who have steadily taken market share from Sun in the last year or so.

“Customers have told us that while lower acquisition costs are an incentive to buy in today’s economy, the real attraction is lower total cost of ownership in a rack-optimized solution for server consolidation,” said Clark Masters, executive vice president, Enterprise Systems Products Group for Sun Microsystems.

Richard Fichera, research fellow with Giga Information Group, said the Sun Fire V1280 addresses both price and performance, and is an attractive alternative to customers needing 8 to 12 CPUs. Fichera also said the play is a necessary step for Sun to regain some lost market share to HP and IBM.

“They have to do it,” Fichera said. “This comes at the right time. It’s offensive and defnesive. They need to keep their installed user base, as well as try to regain some of the performance part of their systems.”

The news also likely spells the end for the Sun Fire 3800 line, Fichera said.

“If you compare the V1280 price to the price of 3800 it’s pretty clear that there isn’t a lot of reason to buy the 3800. That’s not a major deal. It’s product line Darwinism, and if they didn’t cannibalize their product, someone else eventually would.”

Fichera said that while HP and IBM have gained ground on Sun, Fujitsu is an emerging figure on the landscape who, although it does not yet have a major U.S. presence, is gaining traction in America and enjoys success in Europe.

The Sun Fire V1280 system is currently being used by such high-profile customers as DaimlerChrysler, Lucent Technologies, Nortel Networks, and Oregon State University. eBay, Sun said, is currently incorporating Sun Fire V1280 systems into its infrastructure.

Sun: Now’s the time for blades and N1

Sun also took the wraps off of its blade server for the first time, unveiling the Sun Fire Blade Platform High, which is designed for rapid deployment of services for the front end of the network.

Ashley Eikenberry, Group Manager, Blades Product Marketing, Sun Volume Systems, said the blade platform, which will cut down on necessary cables and conserve power, enables customers to mix, match and manage Solaris and Linux operating systems, SPARC and x86 architectures and special function blades in the same chassis.

Eikenberry said it is managed by the company’s first N1 software product, the N1 Provisioning Server 3.0 Blades Edition, which helps IT administrators manage more servers and slash server farm deployment time from days or weeks to under an hour.

Eikenberry also said specialty blades concentrating on Content Load Balancing and SSL Proxy Specialty Blades, designed to increase resource utilization and availability of applications running on the Sun Fire Blade Platform, will be launched later this year.

The Sun Fire B1600 blades feature an Intelligent Shelf with integrated switches and system controllers, customer-replaceable SPARC/Solaris blades and x86/Linux and Solaris general purpose blades, Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Proxy and Content Load Balancing special function blades, the N1 Provisioning Server 3.0 Blades Edition, Sun Open Net Environment (Sun ONE) middleware and Sun ONE Grid Engine software, and Sun StorEdge 3310 NAS solution.

The new Sun StorEdge 3310 NAS product is designed to provide easily managed RAID storage for the Sun Fire Blade Platform. It has more than three times the density and twice the bandwidth of its nearest competitor, maximizing floor space efficiency and increasing resource allocation.

Pricing for the Sun Fire B1600 Intelligent Shelf begins at $4,795, while the Sun Fire B100s SPARC Blade begins at $1,795. Both will be available in April. The Sun StorEdge 3310 NAS product starts at $18,995. The software license for the N1 Provisioning Server 3.0 Blades Edition is $3,920 U.S. list for one Sun Fire B1600 Intelligent Shelf. Sun’s Load Balancing and SSL Proxy Specialty Blades will be available later this year.

Sun also offers an N1 Blades Starter Pack to help customers deploy the N1 technology in a blade environment. Priced at only $27,000, the product includes blade hardware, N1 software, onsite installation and configuration, remote help desk services, and third-party software in a ready-to-go pack.