Sun, AMD Join Forces on 64-Bit Computing

Two Silicon Valley giants are getting together to cut into the enterprise server and processor sectors currently dominated by the likes of IBM and Intel .

Sun and Advanced Micro Devices
executives announced Monday the
release of Sun Fire servers running on 64-bit Opterons
(originally codenamed the “Hammer”). It’s the first
step in what both companies say is a long-term
strategic alliance to adapt 64-bit computing on
Solaris, Java and Linux technologies.

Sun hopes to roll out several Opteron-powered systems
throughout next year while working with the chip maker
to develop new products.

As something of a surprise to many, Sun announced its
intentions to port its Solaris OS on the x86 architecture into a mixed 64-bit/32-bit
computing environment by sometime in mid-2004. Currently, the OS
only supports 32-bit computing (UltraSPARC nonwithstanding) and Sun has not made
any noise recently about any plans to accommodate
faster computing. Along that vein, the two companies
will also host an iForce Partner Program to get
developers to port their applications to the Solaris
OS .

For Sun, the deal means the company can pitch
enterprise-grade 64-bit computing without the high
prices associated with Intel’s chips on IBM systems.
In today’s cash-strapped IT departments, that could
give them an edge against IBM with its On Demand
service and Microsoft’s business
server business, both of whom are making a huge push
to entrench themselves as de facto server
providers on the corporate infrastructure.

It gives Sun some traction in the x86 and Linux
markets, two areas they’ve made little headway with in
recent times, said Jean Bozman, IDC worldwide server
group research vice president. Her research firm
finds that one-half of all server revenues come from
the x86 segment, while Linux server revenues have
leapt 40 percent each quarter over the past year, with
$2 billion in spending this year and $8 billion
expected by 2007.

“Sun has (gotten into x86) in a pretty unique way by
going to AMD,” she said. “Because what they’re going
to do is have a chip there that’s going to allow them
to into each PC space very quickly.”

AMD, on the other hand, gets access to the customer
base Sun enjoys today and makes the chip maker a more
viable and recognized name to compete against Intel.
The knock against AMD in the corporate environment,
Bozman said, is that many companies didn’t take them
seriously because they’ve never fallen in with one of
the four major server vendors who cover 80 percent of
the market share — IBM, Sun, Hewlett-Packard and Dell .

Sun was the last of the four she expects AMD could
have signed with, since Dell has a deep relationship
with Intel and HP has just launched its own Itanium
line.

For the past year the two companies have been signing
a successive string of agreements to bring its two
products together. In February, Sun signed
AMD
to deliver 32-bit processing power to its
UltraSPARC blade servers.

“Over the past year we’ve made a dramatic move in
leveraging industry economics to bring customers the
enterprise-class benefits of our Solaris OS and Java
technology at compelling price points,” said outspoken
Scott McNealy, Sun chairman and chief executive
officer, in a statement Monday. “With the addition of
the AMD Opteron processor, we are setting a new
industry standard by delivering even more choice and
performance to our customers.”

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