Sun Serves the Data Center

In an attempt to push ahead in the competitive server market, Sun Microsystems on Tuesday unveiled three high-end products for use in data centers as part of its x86 server platform.

Included in the announcement are a 16-way x64 server, a hybrid data server and a blade platform. The three new x64 servers all are powered by AMD Opteron processors with Direct Connect Architecture. These systems also offer customers the option of running standard distributions of both Linux and Windows.

In conjunction with the Solaris 10 Operating System, the new Sun Fire X4600 server, Sun Fire X4500 data server and Sun Blade 8000 modular system are designed to handle data center applications, high-performance computing, virtualization and Web-tier applications.

Strategic Design

“These systems are ideal for customers who use IT strategically — who align their IT infrastructure with business strategy,” said John Fowler, Sun’s executive vice president of the systems group.

“Designed to be the long-term foundation for our customers’ increasingly complex infrastructure, they allow customers to scale and upgrade into the future as business needs evolve,” he explained.

The Sun Fire X4600 allows customers to consolidate more than 50 x86 servers onto a single Sun Fire X4600 server, at what the company calls “comparable prices” to competitive 4-processor x64 servers from Hewlett Packard and IBM. Pricing begins at US$25,995, and Sun is offering several discounts.

The Sun Fire X4500 server reduces system complexity and allows data center managers to make more efficient use of available space. It offers up to 24 terabytes of storage in seven inches of rack space with sustained throughput of up to 2 gigabytes per second from disk to memory, and costs as low as $2 per gigabyte.

“When I was first shown the potential … it blew my mind. Integrating storage and server solutions creates an efficient way of deploying high-bandwidth applications. It shakes up conventional thinking, will delight our customers and puts our competition on notice,” Fowler said.

“With more than five million licenses distributed into the market, Solaris 10 is clearly opening doors to customers who otherwise feel abandoned by their Unix vendors,” added Jonathan Schwartz, president and chief executive officer of Sun Microsystems.

The Sun Blade 8000 modular system is designed specifically for high-end x86 computing. It is an ideal data center compute engine for server consolidation and virtualization, business applications, large-scale HPC deployments and high-requirement databases in Solaris, Linux or Windows environments, according to the company.

Focus on Virtualization

Sun also is focusing on the server’s virtualization options, which it says help increase utilization in data centers while cutting infrastructure costs. An IDC white paper released Tuesday supports the advantages virtualization could provide to companies.

“There is growing evidence that virtualization is moving beyond early adapters and gaining acceptance with more mainstream customers as the market sees the benefits and many uses of virtualization technologies,” John Humphreys, research manager with IDC’s enterprise computing and modular server programs, said in the report, which was sponsored by Sun Microsystems.

Worldwide shipments of server hardware platforms with virtualization capabilities installed are forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 47.7 percent, from 172,000 units in 2004 to 1.209 million units in 2009, according to the report.

“Sun Microsystems is taking a three-step approach to bringing more business benefits of deploying virtualization to enterprises that use x86 servers,” Humphreys said, “emphasizing choice in how companies virtualize, designing an impressive range of x86 platforms with the enterprise-class reliability, availability and serviceability features the company is known for … [and] incorporating physical and virtual machine management into its N1 System Manager so that customers have a single pane of glass when managing their infrastructure.”

Vendors must continue to educate customers about the benefits of virtualization and provide them with choices if they are going to succeed, Humphreys advises. “[They also] must be able to offer the right tools to manage both virtual and physical infrastructures [and] must not overlook the importance of robust, scalable and balanced systems in a virtual world.”

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