RealTime IT News

Sun To Find Competition in New Intel Rack Units

Intel Corp. is positioning its new line of telecom server processors and rack units as an underdog against the commanding presence Sun Microsystems Inc., holds in the market.

To do so, engineers at the popular microchip manufacturer are betting carriers and service providers want an option to Sun's proprietary operating system (OS) and server setup.

Shantanu Gupta, Intel director of marketing for telecom platforms, said Intel's new server line gives customers the flexibility they need to build their own networks, using their own tools.

Intel's 2U rack units come with two Intel Pentium III chips on a high-density form factor motherboard; the customer installs the hard drive, OS and memory on their own. Intel plans on putting its line of Xeon and Itanium processors in upcoming rack units, along with shrinking the units down to 1U (1.75 inches) size, giving companies more room in their collocation space.

All rack units will conform to the Network Equipment Building Specification (NEBS) and European Telecom Standards Institute's (ETSI) highest safety standards. That means each would be capable of withstanding the effects of catastrophes like an earthquake. Intel technicians even set fire to their little servers and demonstrated they could put themselves out, not release harmful toxins in the air and send an alarm out to network technicians in another area of the building.

By letting carriers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) integrate their own network system and OS, Intel gives customers the best reason to go with them over Sun's own proprietary OS (Solaris) and server setup.

"The differentiation really comes in at the integration level, based on what I/O cards and what solution they are building and by the services that OEM offers and represents to the end customer," Gupta said.

Rack units manufactured by companies like Sun, and now chipmaker Intel, are used by carriers and other providers to perform a variety of functions at a central office. Softswitches allow telephone companies to provide voice of Internet (VoIP), or Internet phone calls, while others varieties of rack units allow companies to offer virtual private networking (VPN) business services to corporations.

Mike Fister, Intel enterprise platforms group vice president and general manager, and other Intel technicians refer to these rack units as "building blocks" that let carriers grow their business in their own fashion, the keystone to Intel's rack unit methodology.

"Intel's world-class building block products and open computing model offer telecom and service provider customers lower costs, greater investment protection and an opportunity to deliver services and innovations faster," he said. "Unlike traditional RISC-based platforms, Intel-based solutions provide the flexibility, choice, raw performance and scalability to address the needs of the telecommunications market."

Intel officials say their product's technology is already a generation ahead of Sun's current product line. Following Moore's Law, officials said, the new server processors are both faster and less expensive to manufacture, making it an easy choice over the competition.

"Sun cannot match that," Gupta said.

That's something Intel executives hope the telecom industry will be saying down the road, after getting a chance to use the new rack units. While Gupta said several companies have already signed contracts with them, they wouldn't be announced until the first quarter of 2002.

Intel's goal?

"Our goal is to have a meaningful presence a year from now," Gupta said.