Sun Microsystems is counting on a new line of servers based on Advanced Micro Devices' (AMD's) 64-bit Opteron processor to guarantee the future success of its Solaris operating system, according to Scott McNealy, the company's chairman and chief executive officer.
Sun's new Opteron-based servers, previously known by the code name Galaxy, were officially announced on Monday in New York. The servers -- the Sun Fire X2100, X4100 and X4200 -- have a special design that improves airflow and reduces heat. In addition, the systems include sophisticated remote management tools.
Developing the Galaxy servers hasn't come cheap: McNealy estimated that Sun had spent "hundreds of millions" of U.S. dollars on acquisitions and R&D (research and development) necessary to produce them.
Speaking to Chinese software developers at the Java China 2005 conference in Beijing on Tuesday, McNealy bragged that the new Sun Fire servers use one-third less energy and cost half as much as a comparably equipped server from Dell. In addition, he claimed that Sun's new servers offer nearly twice the performance of the Dell server.
With so much invested in their development, Sun has high expectations for the new machines.
"Galaxy, our new Opteron-based server, is obviously very critical," McNealy said in response to a question about the importance of the server line to Sun's future. Specifically, Sun hopes the servers will boost the fortunes of its Solaris 10 operating system, he said.
The company has been trying to develop a market for Solaris on x86-based servers for more than eight years, McNealy said, attributing the company's limited success in past years to "a logic failure."
In the beginning, Sun assumed that if it offered its own x86 servers running Solaris then other companies would be discouraged from licensing Solaris for their own servers. However, that strategy didn't work. "We got into doing 360s in the mud, as I like to say," McNealy said.
Other vendors only lined up to offer Solaris 10 on their servers when Sun introduced its own line of x86 systems, he said.
The next step in Sun's x86 strategy is to get a foothold in the market for 64-bit x86 servers. With the Opteron-based Sun Fire servers, Sun has found "a place and a space where we could come in," McNealy said.
If the Sun Fire servers take off, this will spur more developers to write applications for Solaris 10, which in turn will create a bigger market for Sun's hardware, McNealy said. "The market opportunity for Solaris 10 developers is very high and the affinity for Sun hardware is also very high," he said.