Sun releases UK blade prices, defends SPARC

Sun Microsystems, with blade servers using SPARC and Intel, aims to be a tech inventor as well as providing cheaper products

Sun has issued UK prices for the mixed-processor blade servers it released on Monday, and defended the role of SPARC in a market sector that has gone completely with Intel. The company also cut the prices of its existing servers by up to 30 percent.

Sun's blade servers will sell from £1,300 per blade in the UK. Sixteen blades can fit in a shelf costing £3,500, with up to 12 shelves fitting in a chassis that costs £3,900.

The new blades are based on Sun's own 650MHz UltraSPARC processors. Blades using Intel processors will appear next quarter for the same price, and can be mixed in the same shelves alongside the SPARC blades. The Intel blades will run Linux or Sun's Solaris, and the SPARC blades will run Solaris.

The blades link using Gigabit Ethernet, and are managed by Sun's N1 provisioning software. This is the first significant part of Sun's N1 virtualisation strategy, and is based on a product from Terraspring, a company founded by ex-Sun employees. Sun acquired Terraspring in November 2002.

Despite launching an Intel-based blade, Sun does not accept that blades will be a commodity, said Charles Andrews, director of technologies for Sun UK. SPARC will not be taking a back seat: "You can't commoditise 20 years of engineering," Andrews said.

Although Sun lost a high-profile customer, as Pixar has switched from SPARC to Intel, there was still a need for SPARC, said Andrews. A launch demonstration of showed Sun's price-performance leadership in graphical visualisation, he said, while Pixar's graphical "rendering" work was different. "Linux on Intel is applicable to rendering, not to visualisation," said Andrews.

The next part of the N1 strategy will be storage virtualisation, based on software from another acquisition, Pirus Networks. However, although there are pilots using it, the product release could be six months away, said Andrews.

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