Sun Touts Niagara Servers

At a press event in New York, Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy debuted two rack-mount servers based on the UltraSparc T1 chips, formerly code-named Niagara, touting high performance with lower power consumption. The servers are priced at $2,995 to $25,995.

The T1 line is able to accomplish this power-performance ratio by bulking up on lower-speed cores—the processors run at 1GHz or 1.2GHz at 60 watts to 70 watts—and by making use of Solaris and Java&'s native multithreading capabilities, said executives from Sun, Santa Clara, Calif. The T1 can handle up to four threads per core. Most processors can natively handle only one. Solution providers overall gave the servers high marks.

“These are the best new servers I&'ve seen in years,” said Mark Teter, CTO of Advanced Systems Group, Denver. “With one and a half times the performance, half the cost, one-quarter the size, and one-third less energy of a Dell server, what&'s not to like?.”

But there are some concerns.

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Solution providers—and Sun—noted the processor doesn&'t handle floating-point-intensive tasks well, something key to high-performance computing. And several partners are wary of licensing costs on an eight-core processor.

Although Oracle, Santa Clara, has said it will offer software licensing at .25 percent per core for a “limited time,” both Sun and Oracle refused repeated requests to clarify that program. Oracle&'s published pricing scheme calls for licenses at .75 percent per core, a prospect that solution providers said is squashing potential sales of servers based on an eight-core chip. “It&'s totally and completely outrageous,” said one partner, who wished to remain anonymous.

JOSEPH F. KOVAR contributed to this story.