Sun updates Netra line, bundles Web Server

Sun Microsystems Inc. launched a new server aimed at telecommunications customers Tuesday. It said the system shows substantial performance gains over past products, and rolled in some Sun infrastructure software at no charge.

The Netra 120 is the latest Sun server to have earned Level 3 NEBS (Network Equipment Building Standard) certification, which means the system meets criteria set by the telecommunications industry for withstanding harsh conditions such as drastic temperature changes or earthquakes.

With the Netra 120, Sun upped the processor speed, cache size and memory size over its predecessor, the Netra T1. Sun will begin shipping the Netra 120 immediately, and will include its Sun ONE Web Server software and a System Configuration Card (SCC) for swapping information between servers, said Laura Finkelstein, group manager for Sun's entry-level servers.

Sun is also releasing a non-NEBS certified version of the server, dubbed the Sun Fire V120, targeted at the military and companies that don't require NEBS compliance. The Netra 120 starts at US$2,495 with a 550MHz UltraSPARC IIi processor, 512K bytes of Level 2 cache and a 36G-byte hard drive.

Sun is a leading supplier of servers to telecommunication providers. Customers have been choosing its rack-mount Netra products because they are thin and can be tightly packed into datacenters, Finkelstein said.

The servers can be used by carriers to handle tasks such as signaling or for pushing wireless applications to customers. In addition, service providers and government bodies often use them for firewall, cache or file servers. While Sun has enjoyed past success in these markets it has been hit hard by cutbacks in technology spending by cash-strapped carriers.

"The good news for Sun is they have great market share in the telecommunications space; the bad news is that there is not much buying there right now," said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Nashua, New Hampshire-based Illuminata Inc.

Although it faces a weak market, Sun has packed more features into the Netra products, helping it to compete against servers based on Intel Corp. chips, which typically cost less, Haff said. Sun's Netras run on its SPARC chips and Solaris operating system.

"The price point stacks up pretty well against Intel servers," Haff said. "They are taking competition from Intel vendors seriously and adding enough features at the right price to let Sun compete against the mass-market boxes."

One of the new features Sun added is a complete version of its Sun ONE Web Server, which is part of a continuing trend at Sun and other server vendors to bundle large software packages at no charge.

Sun also included the SCC product, a removable card that holds information about a server's characteristics which can help administrators in the event of a hardware failure. The administrator can plug the card into a new server, and the hardware will restore data such as software license keys or memory information, Finkelstein said.

The Netra 120 also ships with Sun's Crypto Accelerator 1000 Board for handling secure transactions. Sun claims that the board, in conjunction with the Web Server product, can handle 4300 Secure Socket Layer (SSL) transaction per second.

Sun made the announcement at the Supercomm conference being held this week in Atlanta.

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