Sun’s Latest Blade Supports Three Chip Lines

MENLO PARK, Calif. – For the first time, Sun is supporting three different chip architectures in a blade form factor. The Sun Blade 6000 Modular System is available with blades based on AMD Opteron, Intel Xeon and Sun’s own UltraSparc T1 processor

A very distant runner up to HP  and IBM  in blades, Sun re-entered the market earlier last year with the Sun Blade 8000 series based on Opteron processors. While Sun  continues to evolve the high-end 8000, it’s new blade system, previewed here at one of Sun’s campuses, is a lower priced entry.

Available now, the Sun Blade 6000 is priced starting at $4,995 for the Sun Blade 6000 Chassis; $5,995 per server module for the Sun Blade T6300 (1-socket blade powered by an UltraSPARC T1); $3,695 per server module for the Sun Blade X6250 (2-socket, Quad-Core Intel Xeon); and $3,995 per server module for the Sun Blade X6220 (2-socket, AMD Opteron).

“This is a full functional replacement of what you’d want from a rack mount server,” said John Fowler, executive vice president of Sun’s System group. “It’s truly a universal platform with all the volume [chip] architectures people want to run today, x86-64 or SPARC.”

As in the 8000, Sun is emphasizing its use of an industry standard I/O architecture, PCI-Express, as a key benefit over competitors’ proprietary solutions. Fowler claimed the use of PCI-Express allows customers more flexibility in replacing I/O modules from a choice of vendors versus other blade system’s more proprietary approach that can cost more than $20,000.

The strategy makes sense to Sageza president Clay Ryder. “The pricing they are showing, and lack of a proprietary switch is something a mid-size company could buy and grow with,” Ryder told

“With the 8000 and now this choice in the 6000 series, Sun can go after a couple of different market segments. With the UltraSparc option, companies with older Sun servers can look to the 6000 as a consolidation play. It’s going to make very logical sense for some customers,” said Ryder.

The Sun 6000 supports Solaris 10, Windows and Linux operating systems and Sun said it “easily integrates into existing datacenter infrastructure and management systems.”

Sun is also planning to “blade”  the next version of its UltraSparc processor, the UltraSparc II, slated for release later this year. The current Opteron processors can also be upgraded to AMD’s quad-core “Barcelona” processor when it’s released later this year.

The Sun Blade 10 RU chassis supports up to 10 blades and up to 320 cores per chassis, in addition to 2.5 terabytes (TB) of memory and five Tbps usable I/O throughput per rack.

An HP spokesman issued a statement dismissive of Sun’s efforts to date and likely success going forward:

“The HP BladeSystem c-Class and Sun Blade8000 were both introduced in Summer 2006 and have experienced very different levels of customer acceptance. HP has enjoyed a rather quick ascension to No. 1 in blade revenues and shipments while Sun owns a very small position of this rapidly growing market.”

But Fowler insists the race is just beginning. “HP’s been gaining a little momentum at IBM’s expense,” he said. “Most people haven’t made choices and blades are a small per percentage of the overall [server] market. This is a significant opportunity for us.”

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