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Exclusive There are whispers in the air emanating from Sun Microsystems, and while faint, the voices speak of massive things - a deal with AMD.

For awhile now, we've brought you news of an upcoming Opteron-based workstation from Sun. And it now seems that whatever flirtation Sun had with the x86-64bit chip has turned into infatuation. A kind soul in Asia and couple closer to home have brought word that Sun plans to unleash a one- to two-way Opteron server and a four-way Opteron box.

Customers will not have to wait long to hear about the new kit. We suspect the Sun Chief himself Scott McNealy will do the honors at Comdex.

"Please join Scott McNealy, Chairman, President and CEO of Sun Microsystems, at his Comdex keynote to hear more about Sun's low-cost computing initiative and the new ways we're helping customers "Scale Out" their network computing infrastructures," Sun said in an alert.

"Scott's keynote will be followed by a press conference where Scott will be joined by Neil Knox, Sun's Executive Vice President for Volume Systems, and other industry leaders, as they take your questions about the day's big news."

The value of a Liberal Arts education can be questioned, but given the right teacher, discerning reading skills can develop, and we point you to two phrases in particular from this blurb. "Scale Out" and "other industry leaders."

Sun already has a rich portfolio of Sparc/Solaris clusters and there is no indication that it plans to add to this line in the near future. Instead, our bird in Asia says that Sun will push the Opteron cluster path and tout Solaris x86 as the OS for the "Scale Out" mission.

Sun is buzzing at the moment with close to 20 new Opteron engineer hires. The boffins have been busy preparing a 64bit version of Solaris x86 for Opteron and tuning device drivers and the like. Wouldn't it be something to see Oracle join this march as well and chip in its clustering technology for an Opteron-based Unix system?

We've checked in with AMD to see if Hector Ruiz might be joining the Scale Out partners in the "industry leader" capacity, but the company is mum on whether or not the AMD CEO will appear in Las Vegas.

Rest assured, however, Sun has serious AMD plans in the works. It will take the company a while, likely till the first half of 2004, to push the systems out the door, but they will arrive.

For both Sun and AMD, the deal is vital for their near term aspirations. Sun is able to push its x86 line farther, expand Solaris into new markets and answer analysts' demands that it rely less on Sparc. In addition, it's a nice shot against Intel's Itanium chip, which is always appreciated in Sun country.

For AMD, Sun will join IBM as a major OEM backing Opteron. Enough said. ®

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