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Sun plans software support for Opteron

Sun Microsystems' software products will support AMD's new Opteron--but not initially the chip's 64-bit capabilities that distinguish it from rival Intel processors.

Sun Microsystems' software products will support Advanced Micro Devices' new Opteron processor--but not initially the chip's 64-bit capabilities that distinguish it from rival Intel processors.

The support will include Sun's version of Unix, called Solaris; its Java software that lets programs be moved more easily from one computer to another; and its Sun Open Network Environment (Sun ONE) server software collection, the company said in a statement Monday, the day before AMD launches Opteron.

"We are very excited to work with AMD on this new opportunity, as the availability of Solaris, Java and Sun ONE on AMD Opteron provides our customers and partners with a highly reliable, secure, enterprise-ready platform for deploying applications and Web services," Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice president of software for Sun, said in a statement.

Sun executives have already said they will likely adopt Opteron into its x86 server line.

The move is an endorsement for Opteron, a processor that can run existing 32-bit programs written for processors such as Intel's Xeon or AMD's Athlon, but that can also run 64-bit programs that have been built for the chip. The 64-bit nature of the chip allows a computer to use much more memory than 32-bit chips.

The endorsement also highlights Sun's heightened emphasis on its version of Solaris for Intel processors and their derivatives. Most of Sun's Solaris business comes from sales of its servers using the company's own UltraSparc processors.

But Sun's software support in some ways is not as extensive as the Opteron commitment from Microsoft or from Linux sellers Red Hat and SuSE. Those companies all plan to sell operating systems that support the 64-bit "x86-64" instructions that Opteron understands, not just the "x86" 32-bit instruction set that defines how Pentium and its kin work.

Sun "continues to evaluate demand for 64-bit x86 platform support," the company said.