Sun to launch midrange UltraSPARC servers

Sun Microsystems Inc. this week will boost its midrange server lineup with new multiprocessor systems based on the company's 64-bit UltraSPARC III chip.

The systems, which Sun calls midframes, are expected to feature the 900MHz copper-based UltraSPARC III chip, according to analysts.

The UltraSPARC III is the most advanced processor Sun has built thus far. The chip, which began appearing in systems late last year, contains 29 million transistors, supports 8M bytes of Error Checking and Correcting (ECC) protected external cache and comes with an integrated memory and system controller.

Sun announced the first systems based on the chip - an engineering workstation and a low-end server - in September, several months later than originally scheduled.

Improved Performance

The servers, which are slated to be launched Wednesday in New York, should give users significantly better performance in the midrange space than existing Sun systems, according to Tony Iams, an analyst at D.H. Brown Associates Inc., a consultancy in Port Chester, N.Y.

Sun's midrange servers currently range from the eight-processor Sun Enterprise 3500 to the 30-processor 6500.

A lot will depend on how Sun decides to price the new systems in this space and how well Sun's existing application and database software systems have been tuned to take advantage of UltraSPARC III technology, Iams said.

"They have been incredibly successful over the past few years. This is going to make them even more competitive," he added.

Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp. has just retired some of its older Sun servers and is looking at UltraSPARC III-based systems as possible replacements, said Mike Hoskins, a systems supervisor at the Burlington, N.J.-based company.

"If we can get the horsepower we need in a smaller box with smaller power consumption and less heat, I'll definitely take them," he said.

Users migrating to the new servers will first have to upgrade to Solaris 8, which is the only version of Sun's Unix operating system that runs on UltraSPARC III chips.