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Sun upgrades sub-$1,000 Unix server

Two weeks after Hewlett-Packard followed Sun Microsystems into the market for Unix servers that cost less than $1,000, Sun has released its second-generation product.

Two weeks after Hewlett-Packard followed Sun Microsystems into the market for Unix servers that cost less than $1,000, Sun has released its second-generation product.

Sun entered the sub-$1,000 Unix server market with its Netra X1 last year, which was based on a 400MHz UltraSparc IIe processor. Though Sun is nearly a year and a half through its transition to the newer UltraSparc III chips, the V100 introduced Monday still uses the UltraSparc IIe, albeit a faster 500MHz model.

The HP A400, released earlier this month, uses the company's latest PA-RISC 8700 processor running at 650MHz.

Both companies' systems are rack-mounted, with a thickness of "1U," or 1.75 inches. Such systems are designed to be stacked up by the dozens for companies that need lots of low-end systems for serving up Web pages or other menial server tasks.

Unix servers have typically been much more expensive, running on proprietary chips such as those from Sun and HP. But prices have been dropping as a result of pressure from servers based on cheaper chips from the likes of Intel.

The trend was accelerated by the advent of Linux, a close cousin to Unix, which provides a way to run Unix software on less-expensive hardware, such as Intel's. Sun has announced it will begin selling Linux-based systems later this year.

Servers, powerful systems that handle network-computing tasks such as tracking inventory, were a $47 billion market last year, according to technology-research company Gartner. Sun is the top maker of Unix servers, the single largest part of the server market, but IBM and HP are locked in a battle with the Santa Clara, Calif., company.

The $995 price tag of the V100 is for a bare-bones model with only 128MB of memory. A more useful configuration, with 512MB of memory, costs $1,495, while a system with 1GB of memory and more disk storage capacity costs $2,295.

Sun's server lines are divided into two categories. The "V" series, such as the V100 and the hot-selling eight-processor V880, ship in higher volumes and use more industry-standard components. The Sun Fire series, such as the top-end E15K that can accommodate 72 CPUs for most business uses, come with more Sun-designed components.