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Solaris takes on Linux with Opteron

Sun released a slew of new servers and software Monday that run on AMD's 64-bit compatible Opteron processors and pre-installed with Sun's Java Enterprise System software.

SAN FRANCISCO -- There will be a lot of screaming going on during Sun Microsystems Inc.'s quarterly barrage of product announcements Monday, but -- in a change of pace -- it won't be done by Sun CEO Scott McNealy.

Instead, McNealy will let the "screaming fast" speed of Sun's new hot-swappable servers running on AMD Opteron processors and the pre-installed release of two Sun Java Enterprise Systems (JES) speak for themselves.

Sun streamlines migrations off Exchange

The attention-grabber in Sun's Reference Architecture announcements is the  Reference Solution for Enterprise Messaging Consolidation (EMC), which promises to streamline migrations from Microsoft Exchange to Sun's QMS messaging platform.

This is a technology that IT shops have been asking for, said Ravi Pendekanti, Senior Director, Sun Reference Architectures and Customer Ready Systems Marketing. Many have wanted to get rid of Exchange, but they're afraid of a painful migration.

Sun's messaging consolidation architecture simplifies migration by providing a platform for rapid implementation.

 It also offers interoperable support for Microsoft Outlook clients, which enables a back-end enterprise messaging system migration that won't impact end-users. This Reference Solution also includes migration services.

The product fest is the fifth in Sun's new series of quarterly announcements.

In the hardware arena, Sun touted super benchmarks for its new midrange and high-end systems with chip multi-threading technology, its first Sun Fire system powered by the 64-bit-compatible Opteron and new industry-standard blades.

On the software side were five new Sun Reference Architectures and Solutions, including modules for companies that want an alternative to Microsoft Exchange and messaging on Oracle Collaboration Suites. In addition, Sun released version 2 of JES and N1 grid system management and security solutions.

"For those who've been wondering what Sun is spending its R&D dollars on, this quarter's announcements are the first payoff," said Larry Singer, senior vice president of Sun Global Market Strategy. "Sun's back with a low-cost screaming-fast alternative to the Xeon processors for a scale-out architecture with compatibility with Solaris and Linux."

Consumer approach to IT

Investment protection, complexity reduction and better performance are the bars Sun has set with these announcements. If the products announced perform as promised, Sun will leap that bar, said IT consultant and site expert John H. Terpstra. "Sun is innovating and delivering new ways to extend the use of its platform solutions," he said. "These announcements demonstrate that Sun is taking a more consumer-oriented approach to solving the complete IT problem, from the most diminutive input device through to the back-end server."

In the lineup of Sun Fire server introductions, Sun's V20z stands out with a promise of being 45% faster than comparable 32-bit systems. The V20z is the first offspring of Sun's months-old alliance with AMD. Running the AMD Opteron processor for 32-bit and 64-bit applications, V20z includes JES and can run Solaris and Linux operating systems. Linux users will get 32-bit enhancements in May when Sun releases its 32-bit JES for Red Hat Linux.

Priced at $2,795, V20z is an alternative for companies that have been turning to commodity-priced Intel servers from Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., Singer said. It's less expensive than IBM's comparable 64-bit systems and similar in price to IBM's and HP's 32-bit servers. "We also give them the JES, a value-add that they can't get elsewhere," Singer said.

Using JES as well are the new Sun Fire E2900, E4900, E6900, E20K and E25K servers. These systems can "scale up" with nearly twice the horsepower of previous comparably sized Sun machines, Singer said. Also included is the Sun Net Connect remote-monitoring service that conducts predictive fault analysis to speed resolution times.

The lower costs associated with the new AMD chips are a plus for IT organizations with tight budgets, said Unix consultant Kenneth Milberg, also a site expert. In his opinion, however, it's a toss-up whether the lower costs and better performance offered by Sun's AMD servers will play well against Intel servers from HP and Dell. Stay tuned, he said, because Intel isn't going to take this lying down. "Don't give up Intel for dead yet," he said.

Terpstra, however, is more enthusiastic about the AMD-Sun partnership. He's talked to several companies that have evaluated and are excited about Opteron. "Sun is in a good position on this move," he said. "They recognize the value to the customer of the ability to scale and grow from 32-bit to 64-bit without having to re-invent the application."

Linux is here to stay, and people that are looking to migrate to Linux are going to do so, regardless of what the Unix hardware vendors do
Ken Milberg expert adviser

Sun holds on to Intel, too

By the way, Sun hasn't abandoned Intel entirely. Today, the company announced the 2P x86 Sun Fire B200x Blade Server, which uses Intel Xeon processors. Also new in the blade server area is the N1 Grid Provisioning Server 3.1 Blades Edition.

The second release of Sun JES, due in the next quarter, takes Sun's integrated system approach into the wireless realm, thanks to the inclusion of the Sun Java System Portal Server Mobile Access platform. With this technology, users can render and deliver data from existing applications and service to mobile devices over any wireless network.

Sun promised that the servers unveiled today will run on Solaris 10, slated for release in the fourth quarter of 2004. A beta version -- featuring new N1 Grid Containers, Predictive Self-Healing, diagnostics and systems controls -- was made available to Sun's ISVs and developers today.

As a Solaris consultant, Milberg welcomes the new version of Solaris. He said he believes it will do the job for companies that intend to stick with Unix. As a Linux expert, however, Milberg believes that Solaris 10 won't stem the rising tide of Unix-to-Linux migrations.

"Linux is here to stay, and people that are looking to migrate to Linux are going to do so, regardless of what the Unix hardware vendors do," he said. That's why making Linux-friendly versions of JES -- such as the May release of JES for 32-bit Red Hat Linux -- is a step in the right direction for Sun.

"Better to hop on the bandwagon, like IBM, then try to avert the inevitable," he said.

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