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Sun, Oracle to push budget blades

The companies on Monday are expected to unveil a joint effort to promote the use of stripped-down blade servers as a way to lower computing costs.

Sun Microsystems is expected to unveil Monday a partnership with software maker Oracle to promote the use of stripped-down blade servers as a way to lower computing costs.

The announcement will describe an effort code-named Project Grizzly, part of Sun's plan to develop servers that use Intel and Advanced Micro Devices processors and that run Sun's Solaris operating system, according to sources familiar with the plans.

Other announcements from Sun are anticipated for Monday, and though details are still sketchy, their overall theme will likely center on the company's efforts to show that it can offer low-cost options to customers. As part of this, it is expected to talk about plans to bundle Oracle's database software on its low-end servers as well as to discuss progress on its Linux efforts.

An Oracle representative would not comment on the upcoming announcement. A Sun representative also declined to comment ahead of Monday's press conference.

Both companies have been tight-lipped about the announcement, scheduled to take place in San Francisco. Sun CEO Scott McNealy and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, as well as executives from other Sun partners, are expected to take part.

Analysts said that Sun and Oracle have a common interest in encouraging the adoption of low-cost servers.

Sun started shipping blade servers earlier this year as part of an overhaul of and a price reduction to its server line. Sun's first blade servers run its own Sparc microprocessors, but the company said it intends to sell Intel and AMD-based blades that run the Linux operating system as well.

With blade servers, companies can fit several individual servers into a single chassis to share resources such as power supplies and external network connections. Sun, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Dell Computer are hawking blade servers as a cheaper alternative to larger, more expensive server machines.

Database maker Oracle, too, is a major proponent of lashing together low-cost servers to tackle high-end computing jobs. The company sells Oracle 9i Real Application Clusters, which lets several database servers work together to take on large computing tasks.

Oracle has been pushing its database clusters on relatively cheap Intel-based servers, particularly those running the Linux operating system, as an alternative to larger and more expensive servers. In April, Oracle CEO Ellison spoke at the Dell shareholders meeting to announce a partnership in which the computer maker would offer Oracle's database clusters on Linux with Dell servers.

A similar database bundling would be beneficial for Sun, because the Menlo Park, Calif. company is eager to make headway against low-cost rivals in the server arena, said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata.

"Sun has been trying to get more aggressive in the low-end system pricing. Sun has really resurrected Sun Solaris on Intel from the dead, and it has Linux servers, although they haven't set the world on fire," Haff said.

Another analyst speculated that Sun would sell its blade servers with Oracle's clustering database software that's preconfigured for Sun's hardware, which would simplify installation.

HP took Sun to task ahead of the announcement.

"Sun's x86 strategy sounds like an attempt to keep the Solaris install base from migrating to Linux or Windows," HP said in an e-mailed statement. "Sun is clearly playing catch-up."

Staff writer Ian Fried contributed to this report.