Get ready for the next migration

Sun unveils UltraSparc III architecture for next generation web-servers.
Written by Deborah Gage, Contributor on
Sun Microsystems finally pushed its UltraSparc III architecture out the door last week after an 18-month delay, but the company's biggest challenges are still ahead.

Sun remains the market leader in Web servers, but now it must manage complicated operating-system and chip transitions. Moreover, Sun must scale its own infrastructure to meet customer demands.

"To be successful, you have to have a lot more than product," says John Shoemaker, Sun's executive VP of system products. He says the company has actually turned away orders because it can't satisfy customers, although it now is at about 90 percent fulfillment because it is meeting its quality standards.

Meanwhile, there are challenges on the high-end server front. Sun president Ed Zander declined to share Sun's pricing and transition strategy for UltraSparc III or to speculate on the length of that transition. Sun will continue to revise its UltraSparc II platform and also is managing a separate transition to Solaris 8, which is tuned for UltraSparc III.

He declined to comment on the company's pricing and specific transition strategy, saying he did not want to tip his hand to the competition.

But Sun is only tiptoeing into the UltraSparc III market. Its first machines to use the new chips will be a Sun Blade 1000 workstation and a Sun Fire 280R workgroup server. Big Web servers running the UltraSparc III won't ship until sometime next year.

Sun also is reorganizing to help deal with all of the transitions. The low-end products are coming out of an Internet Desktops and Server Group headed by VP Mark Canepa, who oversees products on the front end of what Sun hopes will be an end-to-end architecture. The company is betting on bandwidth to help drive the development of a network that will deliver applications and services to billions of devices.

The company also rolled out Sun Grid Engine software, which takes advantage of underutilized processing power on a network. The software, which runs on Unix and NT, is a result of Sun's acquisition of Gridware. The software balances jobs across a network, queuing requests and prioritizing network resources.

The Sun Fire server, meanwhile, will target service providers, with initial shipments tuned for general use. "We've got the economics figured out--we know there's going to be big demand, and we wanted to start with the general server," says executive VP John Shoemaker.

So, how's your Web server running?

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