Sun x86 servers to include Intel chips

Sun Microsystems announced that it will include Intel Xeon chips in a new line of x86 servers. In return, Intel will start supporting and endorsing Solaris on its chip architecture.

Sun Microsystems Inc. today announced a line of x86 servers using processors from Intel Corp. in exchange for the leading chipmaker's support and endorsement of Sun's Solaris operating system.

The new line of Sun systems, which will include Intel Xeon processors, are expected to be available near the end of the first half of this year. Since 2005, Sun had been selling x86 systems with chips exclusively from Advanced Micro Devices Inc., saying its Opteron chips had better performance-per-watt. But Tony Iams, vice president and senior analyst at Ideas International, said the move to include Intel-based systems wasn't too surprising.

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"At the end of the day, customers want to have choice and both AMD and Intel bring value to the equation," he said. "So Sun cannot really limit the options to customers based on ideology and biases."

Iams added that it will now be interesting how Sun approaches the x86 users to sell Intel-based systems alongside AMD-based ones.

"There are two types of customers," he said. "Sun's current customers are already committed to Sun. They'll definitely be happy that they'll have another choice. Sun now has to try and break out and get new customers. They're going to have to now show why new customers should come to Sun for Intel-based systems."

The announcement is similar to one Dell Co. made in May, when the company announced that it would include AMD chips in its servers, something it had not previously done.

The move will also bolster support for Sun's Solaris operating system. Sun recently upgraded Solaris to include more virtualization features and target Linux, where it is battling for share of the x86 market share.

Jonathan Schwartz and Paul Otellini, the chief executives of Sun and Intel, took the stage for the announcement in San Francisco earlier today.

"At the highest level, this is about Intel endorsing and embracing Solaris, and about Sun endorsing and embracing Intel," Otellini said.

Schwartz added that "this is actually a natural collaboration," a far cry from how Sun and Intel have related in the past, when Sun was only using AMD chips in its servers.

"With Intel being one of the companies that constituted [former Sun chief executive] Scott McNealy's personal axis of evil, it was strange to see the two companies on the same stage together," said Charles King, principal analyst for Hayward, Calif.-based Pund-IT Research.

Schwartz said that Sun wanted to leave "some of the rhetoric behind us."

"We want Solaris to absolutely scream on Xeon," he said.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer.

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