Sun servers to get Intel inside

Sun will offer a range of Intel systems, including workstations and servers

Sun Microsystems has once again joined forces with Intel. After a hiatus of a little over two years, the computer maker will begin offering Intel-based servers and workstations again, starting in the first half of this year, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz said during a press conference today.

Sun has pledged to offer a range of systems, including dual-socket servers and later four-way and eight-way machines. The machines will use Intel Xeon DP 5100 dual-core chips, Xeon DP 5300 quad-core chips and the forthcoming Tigerton Xeon MP quad-core chip. Sun will, of course, pair them with its own Solaris operating system.

In twist, Sun positioned itself as adding Intel chips to its current AMD-only server lineup in an effort to expand the number of customers it can appeal to. That's a mirror image of Dell's October 2006 server product line shakeup, which added AMD chips to its previously Intel-only line due in part to customers' requests.

As part of their relationship, Intel has pledged to assist Sun in adding new features to Solaris. Among them are support for Intel power management and the chipmaker's accelerated input/output technology. The Sun partnership would also give Intel better access to markets, such as telecommunications, Intel CEO Paul Otellini said during the press conference.

The deal is something of a public relations headache for AMD--at least for today--in that Sun isn't going to stick with AMD to try and serve all of its x86 server customers' needs. However, Sun will continue to offer AMD processors in its servers. Right now it's getting ready to add AMD's Barcelona quad-core Opteron chip to its servers, for exampe. That's why I think that, ultimately, the Sun-Intel deal is really a lot less about the battle between Intel and AMD and more about Sun's own future. What you see is the company getting more serious about x86 servers and what they can do for its revenue and profitability. Ultimately, that could end up serving both chipmakers well. 

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