Sun, AMD Alliance Targets Entry and Midrange Servers.
By Timothy Prickett Morgan
Sun Microsystems Sun Microsystems, Inc. (NASDAQ: JAVA) is an American vendor of computers, computer components, computer software, and information-technology services, founded on 24 February 1982. Inc and Advanced Micro Devices Inc yesterday tied the knot at Comdex Fall in Las Vegas Las Vegas (läs vā`gəs), city (1990 pop. 258,295), seat of Clark co., S Nev.; inc. 1911. It is the largest city in Nevada and the center of one of the fastest-growing urban areas in the United States. , Nevada, delivering a complete line of Opteron-based servers in the next calendar year.
The move will initially silence some critics, who have complained that Sun has not faced the hard realities that its UltraSparc platform has fallen woefully woe·ful also wo·ful
1. Affected by or full of woe; mournful.
2. Causing or involving woe.
3. Deplorably bad or wretched: behind the competition. But the critics will soon lament about how long it will take Sun to roll out its AMD (Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., Sunnyvale, CA, www.amd.com) A major manufacturer of semiconductor devices including x86-compatible CPUs, embedded processors, flash memories, programmable logic devices and networking chips. hardware and 64-bit Solaris for the Opteron.
It is an unfortunate fact of the computer business that slapping together a server and software platform stack takes months or years, not weeks. The machines have to be designed, prototyped, and tested. Software has to be tuned for third party products and drivers have to be written for peripherals.
The whole shebang Noun 1. whole shebang - everything available; usually preceded by `the'; "we saw the whole shebang"; "a hotdog with the works"; "we took on the whole caboodle"; "for $10 you get the full treatment" has to be rigorously tested as a complete system. And then the sales force and reseller channel has to be trained to sell and support the new products as the manufacturing facilities actually acquire all the piece parts and create the finished hardware and software. This takes time, and it takes time that neither Sun nor AMD seem to have as their respective competition is raking them over the coals.
That said, the fact that Sun has conceded that Solaris for X86 running on Opteron processors fitted into Sun servers is a great option for the midrange is a big step in the right direction. And now, with Sun behind it, AMD has its first real tier one-OEM partner in the server market, and will probably enlist Sun to push Opteron-based workstations, too.
While IBM (International Business Machines Corporation, Armonk, NY, www.ibm.com) The world's largest computer company. IBM's product lines include the S/390 mainframes (zSeries), AS/400 midrange business systems (iSeries), RS/6000 workstations and servers (pSeries), Intel-based servers (xSeries) has endorsed the Opteron processors in its eServer 325 two-way server for HPC (Handheld PC) A palmtop computer that weighs less than one pound and runs specialized versions of popular applications. Microsoft coined the term for its Windows CE operating system, which is an abbreviated version of Windows. See Pocket PC. markets who want fast Linux servers that offer Itanium-class performance for a Xeon-class price, Big Blue has been very careful not to endorse Opteron as a strategic general computing platform See platform. .
Sun is doing a bit of a dance here, too, because if there is one thing it does not want to do, it is spook the Sparc customer base into thinking Sparc doesn't have a future. After announcing the deal, Sun CEO (1) (Chief Executive Officer) The highest individual in command of an organization. Typically the president of the company, the CEO reports to the Chairman of the Board. and chairman Scott McNealy Scott McNealy (born November 13, 1954 in Columbus, Indiana) was the Chairman of Sun Microsystems, the computer technology company he co-founded in 1982 along with Vinod Khosla, Bill Joy, and Andy Bechtolsheim. met with analysts and journalists at Comdex, and wanted to give the impression that by partnering with AMD, Sun would not be spreading itself thin, and that moving more aggressively into the x86 market while "doubling down" on Sparc, Sun would be able to make more money.
"By doing this with AMD and other x86 vendors, we can invest more on UltraSparc-IV, UltraSparc-V, and our throughput computing," McNealy said.
McNealy was referring to the dual-core Gemini and eight-core Niagara multithreaded multithreaded - multithreading Sparc processors that Sun is working on for future entry midrange servers. These are elegant designs, but they are years away, and cannot help Sun build up momentum against Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM in the entry and midrange markets where they are pushing Lintel and Wintel iron as an alternative to RISC/Unix servers - often including their own products - because of the lower costs of the x86-based products.
McNealy conceded that Sun was way behind on the x86 game, and said the company should have had its own x86 servers using Pentium II The successor to the Pentium Pro from Intel. Pentium II refers to the CPU chip or the PC that uses it. Code named "Klamath," the Pentium II was a Pentium Pro with MMX multimedia instructions. processors and running its own 32-bit Solaris operating system operating system (OS)
Software that controls the operation of a computer, directs the input and output of data, keeps track of files, and controls the processing of computer programs. out the door five years ago. He alluded to the fact that Sun has no great love of Intel or the Itanium architecture.
Sun has ported its Solaris 9 operating system to the Itanium chip, but never productized it, essentially because anything that helps Intel hurts Sun. As many have said before, helping AMD hurts Intel, and that is the best reason for Sun to have adopted AMD engines for at least some of its servers - provided Opterons actually work well.
McNealy characteristically took a jab at Intel while explaining why Sun chose AMD's Opterons. "These guys," meaning AMD, "got the binary compatibility See binary compatible. right," he said. "They," meaning Intel, "never had an architecture that was worth what we put into Solaris. We were late to the x86 game, but we're right on the button here. We are the first rock-and-roll vendor on the Opteron."
Sun's exact plans for servers are a little bit vague, and Neil Knox, general manager of Sun's volume systems products group, did not offer much clarification of exactly what Sun would eventually deliver or when. The company has committed to roll out two-way and four-way Opteron servers in calendar 2004, and Knox and McNealy both hinted that a broad product line based on Opterons would eventually come out, "with Sun logos all over these puppies," as McNealy so aptly put it. They said that these machines would be generally available in the first half of 2004, and that Sun's channel partners would have them to play with before the year was out.
In addition to these two servers, Sun will probably put out uniprocessor and eight-way machines using the Opteron processors, but will likely not go above the eight-way level for a while. That is the natural, easy scaling point of the Opteron's HyperTransport system interconnect - an eight-way is built from four two-way boards linked by HyperTransport, which is a fast, low-latency memory-to-memory interconnect.
Sun will surely deliver these as rack-mounted machines, but could deliver them as tower boxes as well - particularly for uniprocessor and two-way machines - if it wants to target the small and mid-sized business market.
Sun danced around the idea of putting out Opteron workstations, but it seems logical for Sun to do this if the price/performance of the resulting workstation allows it to better compete against Wintel and Lintel workstations.
Sun and AMD are not going to tweak the current Opteron processors for the Sun line, but Sun will be able to offer AMD with some insights as future Opterons are developed, but their cooperation on the chip front seems to fall far short of HP's relationship as a strategic chip design partner with Intel on the Itanium line of processors. This could change, of course.
Sun's relationship with AMD will also give it access to an advanced foundry where it could even cook up future Sparc chips, if Sun's relationship with Texas Instruments See TI.
(company) Texas Instruments - (TI) A US electronics company.
A TI engineer, Jack Kilby invented the integrated circuit in 1958. Three TI employees left the company in 1982 to start Compaq. Inc hits a bump in the road. Sun has done nothing but wave the TI flag as the UltraSparc-III and UltraSparc-IV processors were delayed. The question now is how tired are Sun's arms? Continuing delays in Sparc processors could force Sun to shift production to AMD or to Sparc licensee Fujitsu, which builds its own Sparc-compatible chips and which has its own foundries.
Where Sun and AMD seem to want to collaborate the most is on the HyperTransport interconnect. Sun's own WildCat Sun Fire Link Sun Fire Link interconnect is a system area network introduced by Sun Microsystems. It is used for Sun Fire cluster systems. Sun Fire Link is a memory-based interconnect, where Sun MPI uses the Remote Shared Memory (RSM) model for its user-level internode messaging protocol. interconnect is very similar to HyperTransport, and the two could probably help each other a lot in this area to build more scalable commercial systems and more powerful HPC parallel systems.
For now, says Knox, Sun will continue to sell its Sun Fire V60x and V65x two-way rack-mounted Xeon DP servers because some customers have standardized on the boxes. He absolutely stepped on the idea that Sun might launch future Pentium 4 or Xeon boxes. For Sun, it seems, X86 architecture The generic term x86 refers to the "CISC" type instruction set of the most commercially successful CPU architecture in the history of personal computing, used in processors from Intel, AMD, VIA, and others. now means AMD Opteron.
As for software, the 32-bit version of Solaris will run on the Opteron processors right now, since Opterons support both 32-bit and 64-bit processing concurrently on the same chip. An early adopter version of the 64-bit version of Solaris for the Opteron will be available in the April to May 2004 timeframe through the Solaris Express preview method that Sun has been using since the late summer to preview Solaris 10 features on Sparc and X86 platforms.
General availability of Solaris for Opterons is slated for August. This might mean that Sun is moving up the Solaris 10 announcement, which was expected in October 2004. Logically, the Opteron-based servers should be equipped with Solaris 10, not the current Solaris 9. All Sun will say right now is that the Solaris running on the Sparcs and Opterons at that time will be "bug for bug, feature for feature" compatible.
The Sun Fire Opteron servers will be able to support Linux operating systems Operating systems can be categorized by technology, ownership, licensing, working state, usage, and by many other characteristics. In practice, many of these groupings may overlap. from Red Hat or SuSE, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. Knox, who refused to answer a question about whether or not these machines will run Windows. In theory, of course, these Sun boxes, like the V60x and V65x, can run Windows. But Sun is all about Solaris and Linux.
Now, Sun has to line up the Solaris ISVs to get behind Solaris-Opteron platforms. Both companies are dedicating money and people to do this, as well as co-marketing money to push the resulting products. Oracle, SAP BEA Systems BEA Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: BEAS) is one of the major companies developing enterprise infrastructure software. BEA makes middleware, products that help software run on top of databases. , Cadence Design Systems (company) Cadence Design Systems - A company that sells electronic design automation software and services.
See also Verilog. , Computer Associates, and a handful of other ISVs have endorsed the future Sun-AMD platforms.