Sun announces two servers, will it help them in manufacturing market?

Santa Clara, Calif. - Sun Microsystems, the "network is the computer" company, announced two new servers October 29 based on its UltraSparc III microprocessor and Solaris operating system.

By Gary A. Mintchell, senior editor November 2, 2001

Santa Clara, Calif. – Sun Microsystems , the ‘network is the computer’ company, announced two new servers October 29 based on its UltraSparc III microprocessor and Solaris operating system (see details below). As control engineers face mounting demands to gather and provide information directly from manufacturing processes, server hardware begins to look more attractive rather than using a PC. Typical servers, however, are typically more expensive than PCs.

Benjamin Baer, group manager of volume systems, pointed out to Control Engineering that, in addition to announcing two new server products, Sun was trying to overcome the perception that Solaris and Sparc servers come at a premium price. The two products are the Sun Fire V880 server designed at a price point competitive with ‘Wintel’ [that is, Microsoft Windows operating system and Intel microprocessors] technology and Netra 20. ‘Our claim to fame is ultra scalability, 1 to 72 CPUs in a box, plus operating system reliability.’

Pradeep Parmar, senior product manager for Netra 20, pointed out that the product is primarily designed for telecom applications, but manufacturing companies also value features like ability to handle temperature and humidity extremes, shock and shake situations, dirt and dust, and electrical problems.

Bob Atherton, worldwide director for process industries, stated, ‘The whole issue is people are finding it hard to consolidate information into one box. Across the board virtually all customers are talking about consolidation of hardware. The real strength of the V880 is ability to consolidate a number of workloads into one.’

The real problem for greater penetration into the manufacturing market for Sun lies in the dominance of Microsoft. Windows is the predominant platform for almost all HMI/SCADA programs. Today, these applications will not run under Solaris. The Sun team told Control Engineering that they hope to persuade software vendors to port their products to Solaris so that customers can take advantage of these new servers. Right now, if users have Oracle as the database of choice, or can send information to Oracle, then these servers can be added to the system.

Sun’s new Sun Fire V880 features mainframe-like technologies, such as Sun’s innovative Sun Fireplane system interconnect, and combined scalability and reliability of the Solaris operating environment and the UltraSPARC III processor at prices said to be below competing Wintel systems. Sun’s integrated portfolio of professional and support services will provide Sun Fire V880 server customers with assistance in NT Migration and server consolidation to lower their total cost of ownership (TCO).

The Sun Fire V880 server allows users to consolidate servers and scale within their existing architecture.

‘With the Sun Fire V880 server, we are focusing our design leadership on the fastest growing segment of the server market – entry-level servers. Using the same technologies that make our enterprise-level servers the most reliable and scalable in the industry, we’ve created a new kind of entry-level server that saves our customers money today, and offers them a simple path for future growth,’ said Neil Knox, vice president and general manager of Sun’s Volume Systems Products. ‘What we’re telling customers is bring your Wintel servers in by the boat load, and replace them with a few Sun Fire V880s.’

Features of the Sun Fire V880 server include automatic system recovery, hot-swappable PCI cards, online upgrades, concurrent maintenance, cluster support, multi-pathing, system management, and remote access and administration (RSC).

‘Xerox’s strategy with the DocuColor iGen3 is to deliver a platform that grows as our customer needs grow. The Sun Fire V880 server accomplishes this through its balanced approach to memory, I/O and processor bandwidth,’ said Dick Austin, vice president, Production Systems Software Unit, Xerox Corporation. ‘In addition, the bus architecture that Sun offers has major advantages for our types of applications which are very I/O intensive. With the Sun Fire V880, Xerox offers the best possible scalability–we can add more processors, I/O, disk and memory – – enabling our print engines to perform at a very high standard in a mission critical environment.’

The Sun Fire V880 is available and shipping now. The starting list price is $29,995 for a system configured with 2 UltraSPARC III 750MHz processors, 4 GB memory, and 6-36GB hard drives; 4 UltraSPARC III 750MHz processors, 8 GB memory, and 6-36GB hard drives starts at $49,995; and 8 UltraSPARC III 750MHz processors, 32 GB memory, and 12-36GB hard drives is priced at $119,995.

Sun also announced the first UltraSparc III processor-based Netra server. The new Netra 20 server is rack-optimized and ruggedized for telecommunications and government customers who need to deploy highly reliable and high performance servers.

Built on 750 MHz UltraSPARC III processors, the Netra 20 server uses the Sun Fireplane interconnect technology.The Netra 20 comes with a removable System Configuration Card, which allows a system to be serviced with only minimal disruption due to system downtime.

Netra 20 meets mandatory requirements for deployment in Central Office through NEBS Level 3-certification, DC power, and shallow depth. As a replacement to the Netra 1120 and 1125 servers, the Netra 20 will be used in the next generation of services deployment in both service provider and telecommunication network infrastructure.

The Netra 20 server is available today through Sun and Sun’s existing sales channels. Netra 20 server with one 750 MHz UltraSPARC III processor starts at $11,495 with one 36 GB FC-AL hard drive and 512 MB of memory installed.