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Sun Microsystems has been notoriously late bringing hardware to market, but if an industry analyst is to be believed, its new line of Opteron servers will arrive right on time.

Sun shipped more than 5,000 Opteron servers last quarter, according to Mark Stahlman at American Technology Research. The Opteron sales are of particular interest with Sun yet to officially launch the products or offer them to its customer base at large.

"Our information is that provided a little over 5,000 Opteron boxes on early availability to key customers and channel partners," Stahlman told El Reg. "The products are not yet formally announced or priced, so this is pretty aggressive."

It's anyone's guess as to how many of the 5,000 boxes Sun actually sold as opposed to giving away. That matter aside, the shipments give rise for some optimism that Sun will manage to ship product in the first quarter as planned. This would help make up for massively delayed Xeon-based kit, blade servers and workstations. Not to mention the slothful delivery of UltraSPARC IV-based systems. But, hey, what's the rush to bring out systems in a flat market, right?

With word of telco spending on the rise, Sun may be poised to see a nice rise in both Opteron and UltraSPARC shipments. Telcos largely hold Sun's fate in their hands, and a carrier recovery should lead to a bit more busy work at Sun's shipping docks.

Or put another way.

"Sun Microsystems has completed the first stage of a turnaround, by no means complete, yet sufficiently advanced to make long-time industry veterans hunt for the comparables. Given up for dead only a short while ago, Sun has vaulted back into begrudged acceptance, confounding many," Stahlman wrote in a recent research note.

Sun plans to ship Opteron workstations and one- to four-processor servers. At present, this makes Sun the most vocal backer of AMD's x86-64-bit processor with IBM just behind. HP and Dell are still in Itanium country, hoping Intel's might will win out in the end.

Just as a point of reference, Sun's 5,000 Opteron shipments beats out the total number of Itanium servers shipped by all vendors in the third quarter. This figure, however, can be somewhat misleading given that all of the Itanium shipments will be used for 64-bit computing, while many of the Opteron boxes will likely run in 32-bit mode, making them more comparable to fast selling Xeon kit. ®

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