As part of Sun's move to introduce a budget Linux-based server, the company will also make available its own secure distribution of the open-source Linux operating system, for which it plans to provide full support.
The LX50 servers, which Sun announced on Monday, will ship with what the server maker is calling Sun Linux 5.0. Simon Tindall, volume products business manager for Sun in the UK, said the version number denoted the fact that Sun's Cobalt subsidiary has offered four previous versions of Linux on its Raq server appliances. However, Tindall conceded that Sun Linux 5.0 is not an updated version of the Linux distribution used by Cobalt; instead, it is a modified version of Red Hat 7.2.
"We are taking the standard distribution and we are enhancing that, beefing up security, enhancing some hardware drivers," said Tindall. "But really the significant difference between us and Dell or Compaq is that we will know this version inside out and can support it ourselves."
"If you bought a Linux server from Dell or Compaq it could come with Red Hat or SuSE, which is fine, but the problem is support," he said. Customers going to those manufacturers for support will be referred to the distributor, noted Tindall. "That causes problems over who owns what bits of support. We will support the whole of the distribution in the same way we support Solaris. That has implications for customers who are in our core markets; the banks, financial markets, are looking for Linux to be an alternative to Microsoft."
Tindall confirmed that although Sun will only offer support for copies of Sun Linux 5.0 sold with its servers, the distribution will be freely available for download from its site. The open-source licence under which Red Hat Linux is distributed allows any company such as Sun to take the software for free and make any modifications, but stipulates that these modifications must be made freely available under the same licence.
Sun Linux 5.0 is one of two operating systems that will be offered on the Intel-based servers. Sun will also offer Solaris 8.0 on the servers, and this weekend Jack O'Brien, manager of Sun's Linux Business Office in Menlo Park, California, acknowledged that Solaris 9.0 will also be offered -- a change of heart from January, when the company indicated it would not bring Solaris 9 to the x86 architecture.
Both the Solaris and Linux versions of the LX50 will be offered with software such as Sun's Grid Engine, which aggregates available computing power across different servers and delivers it as a network service. Java 2 Standard Edition is also bundled, as is the Sun ONE ASP for serving applications through a browser. The servers will also come with the Apache Web server software, the MySQL database and the Sun Streaming Server software capable of delivering up to 50 simultaneous streams.
Sun said it plans to offer the entire Sun ONE stack of software on the LX50, which includes Portal Server 6, Directory Server 5.2 and Application Server 7.
Although the LX50 will ship in a pizza box-shaped 1U high rack case similar to the Cobalt Raq server appliance, it will be more powerful, said Tindall, with up to two 1.4GHz Pentium III processors, and support for up to 6GB of SDRAM. It will also have two 64-bit 66MHz PCI slots and an Ultra-160 SCSI interface for hard drives.
Pricing for the LX50 will start at £2,150 in the UK, said Tindall, and the servers should be available by the end of August.