Sun Microsystems plans is ship two servers based on Advanced Micro Devices' (AMD) Opteron processors next year, Sun's chief executive officer Scott McNealy announced at Comdex in Las Vegas.
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The servers are part of an alliance the companies have been planning for the past year, according to Neil Knox, Sun's executive vice-president of volume systems products.
Under terms of the agreement , Sun will work with AMD to produce a range of Opteron systems, beginning with two- and four-way servers that will begin shipping next year.
The Sun endorsement is a major step for the 64-bit Opteron processor, said AMD chief executive officer Hector Ruiz.
Sun follows IBM as the second major server supplier to commit to selling Opteron systems, which AMD launched in April.
While Sun may be ahead of competitors such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard in embracing Opteron, McNealy admitted that Sun was late to the x86 (Intel instruction set) game.
"I wish a long time ago we'd done the strategy we did with Intel," he said, "That low-end x86 product line is now the fastest-growing part of our computer product line in the datacentre."
McNealy argued that Sun was making its commitment to the x86 architecture clear.
But the move to Opteron also raises questions about Sun's other x86 products, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst with Insight 64.
Sun's one-way and two-way Sun Fire V60x and V65x servers, which are based on Intel's Xeon processors, compete directly with the upcoming Opteron products.
McNealy also announced an agreement between Sun and the China Standard Software consotium to develop desktop computers based on Sun's Linux-based Java Desktop System which could, eventually, see the software installed on hundreds of millions of computers in the People's Republic of China.
"We're going to immediately roll out the Java Desktop System to between a half million and a million desktops in the coming year," said McNealy. "This, I believe, makes us instantaneously the number-one Linux desktop player in the planet."
The China Standard Software is a consortium of Chinese government-supported companies set up to bring a Linux-based desktop to 200 million Chinese computer users, a target mandated by the Chinese government.
Sun hopes that the deal will be the first of a number of deals aimed at bringing the Java Desktop System to government agencies worldwide.
Robert McMillan writes for IDG News Service