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Sun unveils its first AMD blade

Sun Microsystems is to unveil the first product from its partnership with Advanced Micro Devices today - a blade server based on AMD's 1.53 GHz Mobile Athlon XP 1800+ processor.

The Sun Fire B100 will be one of four new systems Sun is expected to announce at its SunNetwork user conference in Berlin this week. Along with the B100, Sun will also unveil the Netra 240 and the Netra CT820,  and a replacement for its Sun Blade 2000 workstation, the Sun Blade 2500.

Although Sun has made much of the role the 64-bit Opteron processor will play in its product line, customers will have to wait until the first quarter of 2004 to see the company's first Opteron system, which is expected to be a dual-processor server. It will be followed by a four-way system expected in mid-2004.

Sun is also expected to complete a production-ready port of its Solaris operating system to AMD's 64-bit instruction set by the middle of next year, and the company is also looking for ways to extend Opteron into the midrange of its server product line.

 "There's a lot of work being done on eight-way [Opteron] as well," said Larry Singer, Sun's vice president of global information systems.

Sun expects to produce Opteron blades eventually, said Souheil Saliba, Sun's vice president of marketing for volume systems products, but the company has no plans for such a system yet.

Unlike the new B100, an Opteron blade would probably fit into a different type of chassis from the B1600 blade system that Sun's existing blade offerings are designed for, he added.

"Opteron isn't really ready to go into a blade yet," said Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff.

"If you look at the [Opteron-based]  IBM eServer 325, for example, there's a dual processor but it's quite a large board. ... It looks like it would be challenging to get that into a blade," he said.

Sun's other major product news in Berlin will be an upgrade to its line of high-performance workstations.

The Sun Blade 2500 workstation will be based on the 1.28GHz UltraSparc IIIi processor and will come in single-processor and dual-processor configurations. It will support up to 8G bytes of memory and 72G bytes of storage and can be purchased with Sun's XVR-1200 graphics accelerator or the lower-cost XVR-600 3-D graphics card.

The new Netras will be Sun's first products of this class in two years. Aimed at telecommunications carriers, the military and governments, the Netra 240 will be based on the UltraSparc IIIi processor and, at 8.8cm high, will be smaller and about half the price of its predecessor, the Netra 20.

The Netra CT820 is a 21-slot blade system which houses Sun's CP2300 telecom blade servers. Pricing for the CT820 will start at $32,995 when it becomes available later this month.

The Sun Blade 2500 workstation and the XVR-600 card will both be available from today. Prices for the workstation will start at $4,995. The graphics card will cost $1,195.

Sun's B100 blade will start at $1,795. It will support between 1G byte and 2G bytes of memory and will also be available bundled with either the Solaris or Linux operating system.

Robert McMillan and James Niccolai write for IDG News Service


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