RealTime IT News

Sun's Workstations Hit High Note

Ramping up its bread-and-butter workstation line, Sun Microsystems today announced new systems based on AMD's 64-bit Opteron processor.

The company has made increasing use of AMD's processor line as an x86-compatible alternative to its mainstay Sparc chip.

At the high end, Sun is laying claim to several performance breakthroughs for its Sun Ultra 40 workstation.

At the low end, a new entry-level system, the Sun Ultra 20 Workstation, is priced starting at $895 for a system that includes 512MB of RAM, an 80GB Serial ATA hard drive, DVD-ROM, ATI Entry 2-D graphics, and several pre-loaded developer tools.

Another new workstation, the Sun Ultra 45, is based on Sun's own UltraSparc processor. Compared to Sun's Sun Blade 2500 workstation, the Ultra 45 has three times the storage and 2.6 times the graphics performance improvements thanks to a new Sun XVR-2500 graphics accelerator.

Sun also notes the Ultra 45 is one of the first workstations to come "grid-ready."

For the Ultra 40, Sun said it's broken a world record for the Pro/Engineer OCUS benchmark for mechanical computer-aided-design work.

When equipped with 64-bit Windows XP and two AMD Opteron processor Model 254 CPUs, Sun said the Ultra 40 is up to 7 percent faster than the competing HP xw9300 workstation and up to 49 percent faster than the closest competing Intel Xeon-based workstation, the Dell Precision 670.

"Customers are looking for increased performance from their workstations, including the ability to handle increasingly complex data sets and sophisticated visualization," said Lloyd Cohen, director of worldwide market analysis at IDC.

"What's more, IT departments are faced with developing the correct IT infrastructure at the right cost. With its Ultra Workstation family, Sun offers customers flexibility in platform and operating system choice, providing options for the x64 market, as well as the company's SPARC installed base."

Sun customer Siemens Power Generation has been testing both single- and dual-core Sun Ultra 40 Workstations ahead of their formal release to run structural and computational fluid dynamics simulations and gave them a strong thumbs up.

"We are extremely impressed with the functionality and stability of the Sun Ultra 40 Workstation," said Wayne Johnson, senior system engineer of Siemens Power Generation.

"Running both the Solaris 10 OS and Linux on the Sun Ultra 40 Workstation has vastly improved our performance and analysis times, which enables us to do more in less time and has resulted in more robust designs with shorter design cycles."

The Sun Ultra 40 Workstation entry-level configuration priced at $2,295 is pre-loaded with developer tools and comes with the Solaris 10 OS, one AMD Opteron processor Model 246, 1 GB of memory, one 80 GB Serial ATA hard drive, one NVIDIA Quadro Graphics Accelerator, one DVD-RW disk drive, and a license for Sun N1 Grid Engine software.

Sun is also claiming several benchmark performance breakthroughs for its Ultra 20 workstation.

It topped the chart in the performance and price/performance categories in composite results of an eight-test SPEC APC SolidWorks 2005 benchmark suite designed to capture the typical activities of a CAD/CAM designer, including I/O, CPU and graphics-intensive operations.