Sun to launch low-end servers

Sun Microsystems will update its range of entry-level servers with the launch of the V880 and the Netra 20 on 29 October.

Sun Microsystems will update its range of entry-level servers with the launch of the V880 and the Netra 20 on 29 October.

The company will unveil the V880, which will compete against rival systems based on Intel processors, and the Netra 20, which is aimed at telecoms companies.

Sun has been hit hard by a depressed hardware market and is under pressure to compete against cheaper Intel-based servers running either Windows or Linux operating systems.

The company has traditionally been able to charge more for its servers based on the Solaris operating system, because of the stability of the products and their 64-bit processing capability. However, companies such as Dell are beginning to roll out 64-bit servers of their own and have been able to keep costs down by using Windows and Intel processors.

Sun aims to change some of these pricing traditions with the V880, offering a server that goes head-to-head with offerings from Dell. The V880 is available as a two, four, six or eight-processor system using 750MHz Ultrasparc III chips.

A two-processor server with 4Gbytes of memory and six 36Gbyte hard drives starts at $29,995 (£20,758), while an eight-processor system with 32Gbytes of memory and 12 36Gbyte hard drives costs $119,995.

A Dell PowerEdge 7150 with four 733MHz 64-bit Itanium processors, 8Gbytes of memory and four 36Gbyte hard drives costs $42,658. A similar V880 with four Ultrasparc III processors at 750MHz, 8Gbytes of memory and six 36Gbyte hard drives starts at $49,995.

Netra 20, the first of Sun's servers to be based on the company's latest Ultrasparc III chip running at 750MHz, uses the Sun Fire Plane interconnect technology, which links chips, memory and storage devices at up to 4.8Gbytes a second. A Netra 20 with one processor, 512Mbytes of memory and a 36Gbyte hard drive costs $11,495, said Souheil Saliba, senior director of marketing for Sun's volume systems products.

Sun's move to cut prices on its low-end servers follows weaker than expected recent financial results. As Intel's 64-bit Itanium chips mature and Linux continues to gain popularity, Sun could face more pressing challenges to its past success, said industry analysts.

"We are having to compete much more aggressively in the low-end space," Saliba said. "We are trying harder than we ever have before."

Sun aims to convince customers that its Solaris operating system coupled with 64-bit Ultrasparc chips makes more sense than a similar Dell system with Windows and 32-bit Intel processors.

However, a Dell spokesman argued that the growing maturity of Windows and Linux, along with Itanium, would continue to boost the company's server business.

Sun hopes to convince customers that they can consolidate workloads running on several Intel-based servers on to one V880. The company will also offer consulting services on migration from Microsoft operating systems to Solaris, and courses on clustering Sun servers.

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