First Intel-Based Servers From Sun Introduced

MENLO PARK, Calif. — Nine months after first announcing their plans to get together, the alliance between Sun and Intel gave birth to a pair of bouncing baby servers today: two Sun Fire quad-core 1U and 2U low-profile servers geared for virtualization environments.

The X4150 is a two-socket, 1U system with Intel’s Xeon 5300 processors. It can hold up to 16 DIMMs for up to 1TB of memory, plus eight disk drives. The X4450 is a 2U box based on four of Intel’s 7300 series Xeon chips, with 32 DIMM slots supporting up to 128GB of memory. Sun touted the scalability of the two units today here on its campus.

“You can go from an entry-level server to high-performance needs,” said John Fowler, executive vice president of Sun’s Systems Group. “We have the ability to go after a broad range of apps within the context of areas people thought volume servers couldn’t go.”

Both servers offer customers the choice of three different operating systems: Sun’s Solaris, Microsoft Windows Server, and Linux. The X4150 is available now, starting at $2,995, while the X4450 will ship next month, priced at $8,895.

Spokespeople from Sun and Intel added that today’s news represents the beginning of what will become a number of product announcements.

“We believe there’s a wide opportunity for companies to standardize on these two platforms, Sun and Intel,” Fowler said.

Additionally, Sun plans to ship similar units using AMD’s Barcelona quad-core Opteron processor later this year, but declined to discuss the matter — perhaps due to the presence of Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president and general manager of the Digital Enterprise Group at Intel. Gelsinger, for his part, talked up the benefits of virtualization for the two new servers.

“Virtualization was never a part of the x86 architecture,” Gelsinger told the small crowd of press and analysts attending the servers’ introduction today. “So we have to re-architect the platform to virtualize the CPU and memory and networking. We’ve seen up to a 50 percent performance improvement, a larger memory footprint, and scalability improvements of up to three-fold.”

The new quad-core Intel servers undoubtedly will help Sun’s x64 momentum. The company has enjoyed seven straight quarters of growth in x86 server revenue. Last month alone, it saw a 50 percent year-over-year improvement in x86 sales, according to IDC figures — and that was without the Intel name on the box.

As for Intel, its name on Sun’s box represents a rare undertaking for the world’s largest semiconductor maker.

“When Intel comes out with a platform like this, all the OEMs come out with their own implementation,” IDC Vice President Jean Bozman told “This is a special case where the two companies worked together.”

Intel has worked with OEM partners like HP and IBM on similar products initiatives in the past. IDC’s Bozman added that the alliance with Intel is needed by Sun, which is attempting to take on those same companies in the x86 market.

“The challenge for Sun is to differentiate if they want to move up a notch,” she said.

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