Sun and Fujitsu join to deliver new Unix servers

Sun and Fujitsu unveiled a new line of UltraSPARC-based Unix servers, ranging from the low-end T1000, all the way up to a 64-processor behemoth.

Sun Microsystems Inc. and Fujitsu Ltd. have issued their first joint product announcement since announcing a 20-year partnership in 2004: a new line of Unix servers aimed squarely at taking on rivals Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) and IBM.

The new line of SPARC Enterprise servers were developed and manufactured by Sun and Fujitsu, and will be co-marketed by both companies along with Fujitsu Siemens under the SPARC Enterprise brand. The servers -- beginning with the midrange M4000 and ranging to the high-end M9000 -- are based on the new dual-core SPARC64 VI chip, and run the Solaris 10 operating system.

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In addition, Fujitsu will re-brand Sun's existing UltraSPARC-based Sun Fire T1000 and T2000.

At a press briefing, Sun officials said the servers aim to offer mainframe reliability at an open systems price. While costs of the servers vary widely based on configuration and options, Sun said the T1000 starts at $4,000, while the M9000 can cost upward of several million dollars.

New Unix servers to focus on enterprise applications

The new servers represent Sun's attempt to go after three main areas, according to Bob McGaughey, Sun's director of enterprise servers within the systems marketing group. With the M series of servers, beginning with the four-processor M4000 model and eight-processor M5000 model, Sun is targeting midrange, mission-critical customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply chain management (SCM) applications. For higher end needs, the M8000 and M9000 feature 16 or up to 64 processors respectively, and Sun is going after applications from the likes of Oracle and Sun that "require high scalability, availability and utilization," McGaughey said. The T1000 and T2000 models represent Sun's low-end offerings for Web infrastructure applications.

Officials from both Sun and Fujitsu played up partitioning and domaining features of the high-end servers, asserting that such technologies will enable more efficient virtualization and consolidation. On the M9000, "the 24 electrically separated partitions allow customers to shift resources among domains and provide granularity down to a single CPU or socket level," McGaughey said. "There's no overhead or performance hit, and resources can be transferred based on the demands of the system."

Even though Sun and Fujitsu officials touted mainframe-like performance and reliability features, such as swappable components and mirrored memory of up to 2 terabytes (TB), the same officials said the SPARC Enterprise lineup has IBM's pSeries and HP's Integrity line of servers in its sights. "We've done some heavy lifting engineering work and hard tested the servers before sending them out to customer environments," McGaughey said. "We have really good products to compete with HP and IBM."

With this announcement, Sun is putting itself in good position to build off recent gains it has made in the proprietary Unix server market. In the past few years, numbers from analyst firms Gartner Inc. and IDC reveal the ever-tightening race for dominance in the Unix server market as Sun, HP and IBM have jockeyed for leadership position in the space. Most recently, Sun has the edge, according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker. For Q4 2006, Sun's Solaris servers grew their market share 3.8% compared to the same period in 2005, while HP's share of the Unix market slipped 1.7%.

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