Sun Still On Top With Chip Performance--For Now - InformationWeek

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Sun Still On Top With Chip Performance--For Now

On an unusually brisk September morning in New York, Sun Microsystems set up tents in the shadow of the city's grand Lincoln Center to debut its latest powerhouse chip, the UltraSparc III. You can't blame Sun for trying to dress up the chip. It is, after all, critical to Sun's lead in Unix servers over Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

The UltraSparc III has a clock speed of either 750 or 900 MHz, depending on configuration. Sun is using copper in the chips to reach those speeds and, it hopes, to hit 1.5 GHz by the end of next year. The UltraSparc III has an on-chip memory controller and 32 Kbytes of memory.

The company's Sun Blade 1000 workstations, which are priced at $10,000 and up, feature the UltraSparc III. So does the rack-mountable Sun Fire 280R workgroup server, which also starts at about $10,000. But the chip won't be in Sun's high-end servers until next summer, giving HP and IBM time to disturb Sun's dominance.

Industry analyst Tony Iams at D.H. Brown says Sun is vulnerable. "It's important for Sun to come up with the higher-end models later on," he says. Company execs, in fact, soon may have to stop boasting the industry's best performance. Says Iams: "We expect HP to publish the highest performance numbers in a couple of weeks."

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