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Sun pencils Feb 10 for server refresh

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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Sun Microsystems Inc is getting ready to make announcements from its Volume Systems Products group on February 10,

writes Timothy Prickett Morgan

.

The company was expected by many to announce the 12-way V1280 value-priced UltraSparc-III server, a kicker to the eight-way V880. Sun may also make its much-anticipated first entry into the blade server market, and debut new general-purpose Linux servers. Sun has kept pretty tight wraps on its plans, and has been vigilant in stomping out early and often accidental releases of its pre-launch materials on upcoming servers.

Just about all the major server vendors were expecting the V1280 to be launched in late January sometime with true volume shipments sometime in mid-to-late February. IBM, HP, Fujitsu and others want the V1280 to be launched just so they know where they stand against the Sun lineup. The V1280 has gone by a number of different names inside Sun, and has been the subject of much speculation in the industry in recent months.

Exactly how much it has in common with the current V Series UltraSparc-III servers is unclear, but given the length of time between the launch of the "Daktari" V880s, which were launched in October 2001, and now, one would expect a substantial amount of new engineering to have gone into the V1280 machine. That would also explain why the V1280 is not yet announced, since new technology and manufacturing processes take time to get the kinks ironed out.

The first two V Series servers - the V880s and the "Cherrystone" V480s announced in June 2002 - were based on modified two-way UltraSparc-III motherboards that were initially used in the "Littleneck" Sun Fire 280R servers, the first of the "Serenegti" line of UltraSparc-III servers that were announced in September 2000.

It seems logical that the V1280 would simply include six two-way UltraSparc-III boards, but we have speculated that Sun might build the V1280 on a stripped-down version of the four-way boards that are used in the midrange Sun Fire 3800, 4800, and 6800 servers. It could even be two six-way cards that plug into what is essentially a stripped down Sun Fire 3800 chassis, which would be even more interesting.

Our sources say that Sun wants the Sun Fire V1280 and its related Netra 1280 (also referred to as the Netra T12 in earlier code names), which is a NEBS-compliant version aimed at telecoms companies), to fit in a 12U form factor, and it has therefore created a new motherboard for the V1280 and Netra T12/1280. In any event, the V1280, which we are told is known as the "Light Weight 8" server internally at Sun, has been tested using a dozen 900MHz UltraSparc-III processors and 96GB of main memory according to sources.

But as we have said in past issues of ComputerWire, Sun may be shooting to deliver 1.015GHz or 1.05GHz UltraSparc-III+ chips in the V1280s, and it may be waiting to make a bigger splash early next year with the 1.2GHz UltraSparc-III+ processors. In any event, we have been told that issues surrounding the main memory in the V1280 have held up the launch. We have never been able to confirm this with Sun. There is a distinct possibility that Sun will also announce commercial and HPC cluster implementations of the V1280 servers running its "WildFire" high speed interconnect. This is a logical thing for Sun to do.

All Sun is saying in its invitation to the announcement is that Scott McNealy, president and CEO, Neil Knox, executive vice president of the Volume Systems Products group, and Mark Tolliver, executive vice president of marketing and business development and chief strategy officer, will be revealing Sun solutions for cost-cutting, complexity free network computing. All that means for sure is that it is not an MVS announcement. We'll just have to wait and see.

© ComputerWire

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