Trio of Servers Put Sun “Ahead of the Curve.”

Do  good things come in threes? Sun Microsystems must think so because it managed to get three major product rollouts into one blockbuster announcement.

On Tuesday, Sun unveiled a blade system, a high-end server, and a storage system at a big media event at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.

All powered by AMD’s Opteron processor, Sun’s new systems start with the X4500, a four-way data server designed for high performance computing (HPC), virtualization and Web-tier applications.

 Sun said it will pack the system with the highest density of storage available and “incredibly high data throughput” (2 Gbps). Up to 27 TB of storage are available in a 7-inch rack space. Even the entry-level system starts with a whopping 24 TB of storage.

The X4500 (priced starting at $32,995) grew out of a project where Sun had to build a video server, and it can easily perform that function, said Andy Bechtolsheim, chief architect and co-founder of Sun Microsystems.

“We’ve also seen interest from people running open source databases, encryption and many other applications related to high performance computing.”

The advantage for running open source, relatively unstructured databases is quicker search times. “At 2 gigabytes per second, you can scan the whole box in a few hours; something that would have taken days with other systems,” said Bechtolsheim.

With its second system, the X4600, Sun is claiming an industry first, a 4-way server that can scale up to a 16-way, all in a 4U chassis.

“This is the best scaling machine, bar none,” said Bechtolsheim. Sun said a single X4600 (starting price of $25,995) was capable of consolidating as many as 76 Intel Xeon-based servers.

Lastly, Sun is unveiling its long-awaited re-entry into the blade market with the Sun Blade 8000 Modular System.

Like the other X4500 and X4600, the Blade 8000 (starting price of $14,600) is based on the Opteron, x86, 64-bit architecture. Sun is aiming high with the system it said offers up to four times the memory and up to 20 times the I/O capacity of competitive offerings.

“None of these products are commodity offerings, they’re top-of-class offerings. Sun is ahead of the curve,” Jonathan Eunice, analyst with Illuminata, told

“The blade system is absolutely different from what HP and IBM are doing; this is a full bore data center play without any compromise.

HP and IBM are trying to also address the SMB and branch office market, but this is aiming right for the data center with some impressive specs.”

The chassis design of the Blade 8000 accommodates up to 10 4-socket blades powered by AMD’s dual-core Opteron. Sun designed the system as a data center compute engine for server consolidation and virtualization, business applications, and large-scale HPC deployments and high-requirement databases in Solaris, Linux, and Windows environments.

HP’s response to the news was to say  there is little evidence of customer demand for scalable x86-based systems, which have been offered for years by various vendors. Quoting IDC figures for the first quarter of this year, HP said 99.8 of the all x86 systems shipped were one to four sockets.

But Bechtolsheim said there are several reasons for the sluggish demand and expressed confidence there will be plenty of demand for Sun’s new servers. For one, he said, other  4-socket solutions haven’t scaled well, and Sun is seeing better results with AMD’s relatively new Opteron chips.

For another, the price of these systems have been high, but he thinks prices will come down now thanks to increased competition by both AMD and Intel in the high performance market.

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