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7/7/2006
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Sun Banks On 'Uniqueness' Of New Server Offerings

Sun Microsystems is unveiling on Tuesday three x64 servers designed to take its lineup beyond the two-socket rackmount fare that makes up the bulk of the market.

Sun Microsystems is unveiling on Tuesday three x64 servers—its first data server, an eight-socket rack-mount server and a blade server—taking its lineup beyond the two-socket rackmount fare that makes up the bulk of the market.

Andy Bechtolsheim, chief architect and senior vice president at Sun, Santa Clara, Calif., and the designer behind the company's successful Sun Fire x64 Advanced Micro Devices-based servers that first shipped earlier this year, said he believes the new products offer Sun a differentiation point in the increasingly crowded industry-standard server space.

"We are focused on uniqueness right now," he said.

One product that stood out to VARs as an original is the Sun Fire X4500 Data Server. The server combines into one 4U chassis up to four processors, Solaris 10 with its Solaris Zettabyte File System (ZFS), and 24 Tbytes of storage—48 individual 500-Gbyte drives spaced in a manner that will allow air to flow in between the drives for cooling efficiency.

Sun is positioning the Sun Fire X4500 as an application server with lots of storage. Bechtolsheim said it is perfect as an online database, media or surveillance server. In particular, Bechtolsheim said that he expects customers to experiment with combining the box with open-source databases to run queries on unstructured data.

Mark Teter, CTO of Advanced Systems Group, a Sun partner in Denver, said the Sun Fire X4500 is one of Sun's most unique products.

"You have a hardware platform that leverages the ZFS file system and provides a very cost-effective file service solution," he said. "I think this will differentiate Sun among other system vendors."

Teter said the product could also host a content management application, be used as a virtual tape library or as a potential replacement for a SAN.

Another area in which Sun tried to differentiate itself was the amount of processors supported in its servers. Bechtolsheim said the new Sun Fire X4600 server will support up to eight processors in a 4U chassis by employing a variety of cooling tricks. Among them were using 90 percent efficient fans sourced from a manufacturer supporting the telecom industry, directing airflow through the chassis efficiently, adding dense air holes in the back of the chassis to let hot air escape, and using "gigantic" heatsinks on the CPUs.

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