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Sun supports Opteron workstation

One of its own?

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Out of all the servers sitting in Sun Microsystems' Solaris x86 compatibility list one wee workstation stands out. It's a two processor system from Boxx Technologies, and it runs on Opterons.

Sun has gone out of its way to certify servers from Dell, HP and IBM with its version of Solaris that run on Intel and AMD chips. These efforts make a lot of sense. Sun wants Solaris x86 on high volume kit and wants to provide the OS as an option instead of Linux to its rivals' customers.

But you have to wonder why Sun rushed to support the Boxx system on July 11. That date places the Boxx box ahead of some systems from Dell and IBM. And unlike systems from RackSaver and PDSi that were certified by those respective OEMs using a new test suite, Sun ran the Boxx compatibility test in-house. Wasn't that helpful?

Sun's CEO Scott McNealy told The Reg that his company is serious about supporting Solaris x86 on Opteron, but he assured us that no Opteron-based hardware was in the works. Given the appearance of this Boxx system, however, we must ask, Scott, if you do indeed have an Opteron workstation lined up.

Funny thing about the Boxx system. Sun has it running on the latest version of Solaris 9. Most of the other kit is only certified to work with a Solaris release from April. Also, Sun seems to have taken special pains to make sure the nasty Broadcom Ethernet card issues that plagued some other Sun servers have been taken care of. This is quite a bit of special attention for "just another system" in a compatibility list.

Going with an Opteron workstation instead of a server would make incredible sense for Sun. The company is reluctant to see another 64bit chip eat away at its lucrative SPARC business. Why give AMD's kit a boost on the low end before it's really necessary?

The better idea is a return to Sun's workstation roots. The company owns the RISC workstation market but has been hammered in recent years by Intel vendors. They've gobbled up all the market share, and Sun would like some back. Why not use Opteron to put pressure on the Xeon sellers and have a hoot giving Intel a hard time in the process?

We suspect some Boxx employees are busy painting their systems purple at this very moment. ®

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