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Scott and Larry are friends again

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Scott McNealy pulled out the shovel on Monday and filled three gaping holes in Sun Microsystems' product line.

Sun's CEO appeared in an unlikely setting at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to show new Intel-based servers and announce deals with Oracle and Red Hat. By selling faster Intel kit that can run Oracle on Red Hat or Solaris x86, Sun has made strides to even up its market position against rivals and shown that it can still make nice with Larry Ellison.

Sun executives have admitted to the failings of the LX50 - an Intel-based server released last year. Since the fateful day when the LX50 arrived, engineers inside of Sun have been working on Intel and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) servers that would make the company something other than the laughingstock of the 32bit hardware world.

To redeem itself, Sun has rolled out the Sun Fire V60x and V65x servers that run on 2.8GHz or 3.06GHz Xeon processors. This is a nice leap from the Pentium IIIs in the LX50.

The V60x is a 1U high system that ships with up to two Xeons, 6GB of memory and up to three Ultra320 SCSI hard drives. The larger V65x takes up 2U of rack space, holds two Xeons, supports up to 12GB of memory and can fit six 73GB hard drives.

The new servers start at $2,450 and $2,650 respectively and are available immediately.

Sun needed the new kit to back up its deal with Oracle. The two companies have agreed to ship the Oracle9i Database, Real Application Clusters, Application Server, Collaboration Suite and E-Business Suite on Sun servers running either Red Hat or Solaris x86.

Larry Ellison made a much needed appearance at Sun's SF MOMA launch, joining old friend McNealy on stage.

For the last few months, Ellison has been cuddling up to Sun foes such as HP and Dell. He claims that big systems are dead and that clusters of lower cost Lintel hardware are the best way to run a database.

This strategy has caused some tension with Sun where large SMPs running on 64bit UltraSPARC chips are king.

However, Ellison and McNealy go back a long way, and with the introduction of the new Intel systems from Sun the two can be the closest of friends again.

To emphasize their kinship, McNealy joked about having the keys to Ellison's yacht and Ellison returned the favor by bashing Microsoft much to McNealy's delight. The two executives then prattled on about being the low cost leaders in computing, killing mainframes and the like.

Behind closed doors, the two could be the worst of enemies, but on stage they did indeed come across as good friends.

Sun has also brought a new friend into its fold via its Red Hat partnership. Sun had tried to go it alone in the land of Linux with its own distribution, but nixed those plans and left users in the dark as to where it would go with the open source OS. Now, Sun has sided with Red Hat and will ship the company's OS as an option on its x86 kit.

So with some decent Intel kit, a Linux OS and Oracle's suite available on Solaris x86, Sun has set itself up to be an interesting player in the Intel market.

Now it's time to see if users are prepared to swallow Sun's Solaris/SPARC sidestep or whether they will stick with more familiar brands. McNealy has filled some holes in Sun's line, but he'll need more than Larry Ellison to convince users that Sun can thrive in enemy territory. ®

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