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Sun upgrades low-end servers

Server maker updates its low-end servers with faster 1.5GHz UltraSparc IIIi processors.

Sun Microsystems has upgraded its low-end UltraSparc-based servers with faster 1.5GHz UltraSparc IIIi processors, the company said Wednesday.

The move has been expected since August, when Sun said it scrapped its UltraSparc IIIi+ "Serrano" processor and planned to upgrade the IIIi instead. The new chips are a notch faster than their 1.35GHz predecessors.

In addition, the new "Boston" and "Seattle" models--formally called the V215, V245 and V445--employ PCI-X and PCI Express input-output technology, a faster upgrade compared with the PCI of the earlier models. The systems compete chiefly with IBM's newly refreshed Power series of Unix servers and Hewlett-Packard's Itanium-powered Integrity line.

In the second quarter, Sun was the only one of the big four server companies to show revenue growth. The company is still working hard to re-establish Sparc as a chip with a strong future, but Sun also added its "Galaxy" line of x86 servers into the product line.

Sun canceled the UltraSparc IIIi+ to concentrate its attentions on another, more radical, low-end processor: the UltraSparc T1 "Niagara", used in the T1000 and T2000 servers. The chip has eight processing cores, each able to execute four threads of instructions.

Sun was concerned that the Niagara systems would cut into sales of the more conventional UltraSparc machines, but it didn't happen, said Warren Mootrey, senior director of volume Sparc systems.

"We didn't see the cannibalization I thought we were going to see," he said. "We think the T2000 is getting us into a lot of new application markets."

Sun will continue its two-pronged Sparc server strategy, adding low-end systems in early 2007 through the Advanced Product Line (APL) partnership with Fujitsu and then introducing Niagara 2-based servers in the second half of 2007.

Sun also plans to announce two Niagara systems for telecommunications customers: the rack-mounted Netra T2000, which runs on DC power and complies with the Network Equipment Building Standard, and the Netra CP3060 ATCA blade server, 12 of which fit into one Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture blade server chassis.