Sun readies first Opteron blade server

Sun Microsystems next year will introduce a new line of blade servers that will bring the Linux operating system and Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron processor to its Netra line of telecommunications industry servers.

The blade systems, which will become available in limited quantities in the first half of 2005, will be based on the AdvancedTCA telecommunications equipment specification developed by the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturing Group, said Mark Butler, marketing manager for Netra systems and networking products with Sun.

Sun also plans to ship a version of the blade system based on its UltraSparc processor and Solaris operating system, which will be priced similarly to the Opteron systems, according to Butler, who declined to reveal the new Netra's pricing or product name.

"We've been working in the standards groups for a number of years now," Butler said, "So we sort of understand what both their desires and requirements are. We see there is definitely a strong interest in having Sparc and Opteron blades in this environment," he said.

The AdvancedTCA specification is a follow-up to the CompactPCI standard implemented in Sun's Netra CT 410 and Netra CT 810 servers. It defines things like the physical dimensions, connectors, and power distribution that servers must have in order to meet the specification.

Sun's Opteron AdvancedTCA servers will be available with either the Solaris x86 or Linux operating system, Butler said. Sun has not yet made a decision on which carrier grade Linux distribution it will ship, although Novell's Suse Linux and MontaVista Software's carrier grade Linux were both contenders, he said.

Since announcing support for the Opteron processor in November of last year, Sun has fast become one of its strongest champions. The company now sells a variety of Opteron servers and workstations and is developing readying an 8-processor server in addition to the Netra blade, Sun said.

Supporting carrier grade Linux on Opteron makes "perfect sense," said Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata. "Telecos haven't totally switched over from their legacy systems, but Linux has certainly gained a lot of popularity there," he said. "This is Sun trying to recapture another market where they've lost a considerable amount of share to x86," he said, referring to the Intel Corp. x86 instruction set used by Opteron.

Sun does sell one other AMD-based blade system: the Sun Fire B100x, which uses the Mobile Athlon XP 1800+ processor. It was announced in December of 2003.

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