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Sun shines light on blazing fast motherboard

Sun's presents a new motherboard that combines a 250-MHz UltraSPARC processor and 64-bit PCI with network software to form the core of high-performance, next-generation network computing devices.

Sun Microsystems (SUNW) announced the SPARCengine Ultra AX, a motherboard which can form the core of next-generation intranet hardware, part of a company move to seed the market for a wide range of network computing devices.

Ultra AX boards are designed to be used in the entire network infrastructure including switched hub servers, network route servers, telecom intelligent networks, intranet and Internet servers, and power workstations, Sun said.

"Corporate network managers are looking for higher performance, and increased bandwidth to support new media, Java applets, and collaborative network applications across intranets and global networks," said Chet Silvestri, president of Sun Microelectronics, a division of Sun Microsystems in a written statement.

"[The Ultra AX] provides a tightly integrated solution consisting of scalable hardware and network software to build an enterprise intranet or Internet infrastructure that goes well beyond the capabilities of Windows NT and PC-based motherboards," he added.

The Ultra AX can use a variety of UltraSPARC processors, ranging from the 167-MHz UltraSPARC-I all the way to the 250-MHz UltraSPARC-II processor.

The boards come in a PC-ATX-standard form factor with a PCI bus. The Ultra AX is the "first Sun platform to offer the cost reductions associated with PCI bus components," Sun said.

An Ultra AX configuration supporting a 64-bit PCI bus operating at 66 MHz is available for advanced applications such as 622 megabit ATM boards that are being developed, Sun said. Current PCI implementations on Intel-based PCs run at 33 MHz and use a 32-bit bus.

The Solaris OS, one the primary operating systems for these boards, supports network computing software including Java technology.

For the desktop workstation user, Ultra AX supports Sun's 3D Creator graphics and imaging expansion card, getting memory directly through the Ultra Port Architecture 64-bit I/O port.

For local and wide area networking capabilities, the Ultra AX offers on-board 10/100Mbit/sec Ethernet and supports optional PCI bus cards for FDDI, T1/E1, and 155 mbps ATM LANs.

Ultra AX software development support includes UltraSPARC-optimized compilers, WebNFS network file system, Java Developer's Kit, NEO, Joe, and Java and networked objects programming environment tools.

SPARCengine Ultra AX motherboards are scheduled to be available beginning in January 1997 in four configurations for flexibility in application performance and cost. These include entry-level SPARCengine Ultra AX 167-MHz motherboards priced at $2,900 and 250-MHz UltraSPARC-II processor boards priced at $4,500.