The 15K, code-named Starcat, includes the Sun Fireplane triple cross-bar interconnect, which reduces the latency usually associated with big Unix systems with processors that share the same memory and input/output. Sun has also enhanced Domains, which was introduced in the 15K's predecessor, the E 10000. Domains allowed users to run multiple workloads, but users had to program them ahead of time and stick with them during operations. The 15K's Dynamic System Domains lets users rearrange the partitions on the fly. In addition, features in the Solaris operating system let users modify software without taking the system down.
With the 15K, Sun is setting its sights on users of IBM's E Server zSeries, the only server in the mainframe market. First, mainframe customers can begin moving information from the mainframe to the Sun server by rehosting apps on the SunTone Cluster Platform 15K/9960 with five terabytes of storage in a factory-configured architecture that's ready to be plugged in. Next, Sun acquired the mainframe hosting business of Critical Path Inc., which will provide the coding to bridge OS/390 on the mainframe and Solaris on the 15K. The 15K will be available in November with pricing ranging from $1.41 million for 16 processors to $10 million for 106 processors.
"It's another tool in our toolbox to free up IBM customers," says John Shoemaker, Sun's executive VP of computer systems. He points out that the same software and hardware components run in the 3500, one of Sun's smallest and least expensive servers, as in the 15K, the biggest and most expensive server. He also points out that Sun reduces complexity because it offers only one platform. In comparison, IBM has four and Hewlett-Packard will have as many as 10 after its merger with Compaq is complete.