Sun low-end aim to displace Wintel from data centre

Fruits of Cobalt acquisition

Sun Microsystems has announced two lower-end server lines which are positioned against low-end Wintel and Lintel (Linux-Intel) systems in the internet data centre.

The products include two server appliances, the Sun Cobalt RaQ XTR, designed for hosting, and Sun Cobalt CacheRaQ 4, designed for caching, which come from Sun's acquisition of Cobalt Networks. The firm's storage appliance, the NasRaQ, is being sold by Seagate in an OEM deal.

Much was made at the time of the acquisition of the fact that Cobalt appliances run on Linux, and Sun executives at the launch said that would remain the case for the "foreseeable future", whilst not ruling out the use of Solaris in future higher-end products. Cobalt's servers use AMD processors, but the use of Intel chips was also left open as a possibility.

Sun was much more keen to emphasise the ease of setup and use the Cobalt appliances offer which it suggested would allow the provision of web hosting services for as little as $50 per month. Predictably enough, Sun also took the opportunity to have a pop at its server rivals, such as Compaq and IBM, whose market share in the web hosting and application service provider market it is keen to take away from them.

"Cobalt is a disruptive technology for the PC server market," said John McFarlane, executive vice president for Sun's Network Service Provider group. "The Cobalt acquisition will have the same effect on the PC server market as Cray technology had at the high-end."

In reference to recent poor results from PC vendors, McFarlane added: "Vendors retreating from the PC debacle are going to have a hard time in the server market."

IDC estimates that the appliance server market, for machines optimised to one task, will be worth $11.5 billion by 2004.

Sun also introduced fresh products in its Netra range of rack-based servers, which are targeted at the telco market, and are capable of handling heavy ecommerce loads that are beyond the Cobalt appliance as well as functions such as voice over IP servers. These servers include two carrier-grade Netra T1 systems, the Netra T1 ACD200 and CD200 servers; and the Netra X1 server, the first Solaris server to sell for less than $1,000 - but only in the US, British customers will have to fork out £1 200 to channel partners in order to get their hand on the kit.

As with the Cobalt technology the emphasis is on lower-cost and easy management - not cutting edge technology. All the fresh products in the Netra range use Ultrasparc II and not Ultrasparc III processors. ®

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