Sun denies more UltraSparc III delays

Sun Microsystems officials went into damage control last week, refuting suggestions the vendor had once again pushed back the delivery dates of its first UltraSparc III-based servers.

Sun remains firmly on track to deliver systems based on the next-generation chip sometime during the second half of this year, insisted Doug Van Aman, a spokesman for Sun.

However, he refused to elaborate on whether these systems would be UltraSparc III-based servers or workstations.

"We have not made a definitive statement on what the first systems will be," Aman said.

Sun has typically tended to introduce new processors first on its lower-end workstations before introducing them on higher-end enterprise class servers, Aman said.

"We have a lot of chips in our labs . . . our engineers are working on [UltraSparc III] systems right now," Aman added.

Sun will roll out UltraSparc III systems as scheduled throughout the latter part of this year and into early 2001, Aman claimed.

"We are dead on target," he said.

If Sun does indeed delay shipment of systems based on the new chip, it won't be the first time. Sun first announced plans for its 600MHz UltraSparc III chips back in October 1997. Analysts had expected systems based on the chip to start shipping by late 1998.

But Sun later claimed the schedule was too aggressive and said that UltraSparc systems would only start shipping in early to mid-1999.

The UltraSparc III chip is aimed at the high-performance computing market, including enterprise and workgroup workstations and servers.

Systems based on the chip are expected to be significantly more powerful than current-generation UltraSparc II chips. A 1999 report by Gartner claimed that customers who move to the new technology can expect a 75 per cent to 100 per cent performance boost, but upgrading will require a total system swap.

Meanwhile Microsoft scored a minor legal coup recently when a federal judge recently denied a pretrial motion by Sun Microsystems in its lawsuit against the software giant over its use of Sun's Java licence. Sun had asked US District Court Judge Ronald Whyte to rule that it did not have to supply Microsoft with Java upgrades compatible with Microsoft's Java technology, but the judge denied the motion. While a Microsoft spokesman said the ruling helps the company as legal proceedings move forward toward a trial of the lawsuit, a Sun spokeswoman and industry analysts said the action is minor. Sun sued Microsoft in 1997, alleging Microsoft violated the terms of a licensing agreement by altering its Java programming language technology, making it incompatible with Sun's Java technology.

Microsoft will benefit from the ruling, said company spokesman Jim Cullinan, because it adds weight to Microsoft's argument that Sun has misinterpreted the contract between the two companies.

Sun disagreed. "It's a minor ruling," Penny Bruce, a Sun spokeswoman, said. Meanwhile, David Smith, an analyst with Gartner, said the ruling will not have a major impact on the more important issue of whether and how Microsoft will ultimately be allowed to use Java technology. A date for the trial has not been set.

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