Sun upgrades key lower-end server

Sun revamps its four-processor Sun Fire V480 server with faster processors, one of several machines on the front lines of its efforts to compete with Intel-based servers.

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Sun Microsystems has revamped its four-processor Sun Fire V480 server with faster processors, one of several machines on the front lines of Sun's efforts to compete with Intel-based servers.

The V480, which had been code-named Cherrystone, comes with 1.05GHz UltraSparc III processors instead of 900MHz models. The change improves the line's price-performance ratio by 26 percent, Sun said.

Sun was the last of the four remaining major server sellers--the others being IBM, Dell and Hewlett-Packard--to accept into its product line general-purpose servers built around Intel processors, a move it made in 2002. But the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company still prefers to sell machines that use its own UltraSparc processors.

Two other lower-end Sun UltraSparc machines also in the thick of competition have been delayed, however, because of a problem with a chipset from Broadcom subsidiary ServerWorks. Sun had said in July that it expected to resume shipping the two-processor V210 and V240 that month or in August.

Sun hopes customers will be drawn to its machines because its operating system, Solaris, comes with the Sun Open Network Environment (Sun ONE) suite of server software at no extra charge. Sun is in the process of making that suite available for its lesser-used version of Solaris for Intel-based servers, as well as for Linux on Intel servers.

The V480 costs $19,995 for two 1.05GHz processors and 4GB of memory. A machine with four of the processors and 16GB of memory costs $42,995.

A V480 system beat out Dell and HP servers with four Xeon processors on the TPC-H data analysis speed test from the Transaction Processing Performance Council. The Sun system, which costs $94,122, had a speed of 2,140 queries per hour, compared with 1,984 queries per hour for the $89,748 Dell PowerEdge 6650 and 2,106 queries per hour for the $99,545 HP DL580 G2.

However, the Dell and HP scores were achieved with a 2GHz Xeon processors, and both those systems now are available with 2.8GHz chips.

Sun's 1.05GHz UltraSparc III processors aren't its fastest. Sun's higher-end servers, which can mix several processor speeds in the same system, come with processors as fast as 1.2GHz.