Sun Re-Activates 32-Bit Strategy

SAN FRANCISCO — Sun Microsystems Monday presented a shift in strategy with the unveiling of its new 32-bit architecture, Intel- or AMD-based Linux-compliant server at LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in San Francisco.

Away from the crowds at the Moscone Center, Sun Chairman, CEO, and President Scott McNeally announced Sun’s renewed interest in 32-bit architecture, an architecture it had stopped developing more than 12 years ago.

But rather than developing its own 32-bit Sparc chips, Sun will use edge-optimized i86 Intel and AMD chips. A first for the vendor.

This offering is also Sun’s first enterprise-ready Linux offering to hit the market, since announcing its foray into Linux in the spring.

“There is a vast market for 32-bit systems,” Neil Knox, executive vice president of Volume Systems Products at Sun noted. “Although 32-bit applications are being deployed at the edge of the network, no one until today has yet fully addressed the need to merge in an enterprise-class system the benefits of open systems and low cost with easy deployment and management. The first of our new generation systems answers customers’ growing need to deploy infrastructure applications — such as Web serving, firewall/VPN and e-mail — through low-cost, scalable hardware and open source software.”

With a starting price point of $2,795, the LX50 server is based on a standard 1.4 GHz Intel microprocessor, and from a hardware perspective, according to Knox, it is simply an industry standard box.

The value, according to Knox, comes with what Sun is bundling on the the box: the Sun Open Net Environment (Sun ONE) software stack, either enterprise-ready Linux (based on the standard 2.4 Linux kernel) or Solaris 9, Java 2 SDK Standard Edition, Sun ONE ASP for Linux, TomCat, MySQL, Apache, WU-FTPD, sendmail, Bind, Sun Grid Engine, and Sun Streaming Server, as well as various support services.

Knox compared a Dell box with similar processing power to an LX50 box, and noted that a Dell server configured similar to an LX50 would be priced close to $10,000.

McNeally noted that Sun competitors which will most feel the impact from this new strategy are Intel (described as a supplier as well as a competitor), IBM, and Microsoft. Sun’s goal is to surpass IBM on the hardware side and keep Microsoft out of the software side, he said.

Striking its own offense in the server wars, IBM Monday morning announced the eServer x335 (see “IBM Renews Offensive on Sun “), a rack-optimized two-way Xeon-based server that can run both Linux and Windows and is being positioned at dissatisfied Solaris customers looking to port to Linux.

The Sun LX50 is powered by either single or dual 1.4GHz x86 processors in a 1 3/4-inch rack-mount server. It can be configured with up to 6 GB of memory and 216 GB of internal storage.

The LX50 is priced starting at $2,795 for a system with one 1.4 GHz CPU, 512 MB of memory and 36 GB of SCSI disk. A system with two 1.4GHz CPUs, 1 GB of memory and 72 GB of SCSI disk is priced at $4,295.

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