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Sun tries to lure developers with cheap Opteron workstation

Ultra 20 for $30 a month

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Sun Microsystems has polished off its cheapest and likely most attractive Opteron-based workstation to date.

The hardware maker today introduced the world to the Ultra 20 a one-way (one socket) box that starts at $895. That price has to please a lot of Sun customers who complained when the much higher-end W2100z amd W1100z workstations arrived, costing thousands of dollars. With the Ultra 20, Sun is really delivering some of the price/performance benefits associated with x86 chips to the developer crowd.

Sun has long been a major player in the workstation market, pumping out Solaris on SPARC boxes for engineers, developers and designers. The rise, however, of Intel Xeon's processor ate into a huge chunk of Sun's workstation share. Sun's line of Opteron-based systems is its response to this loss, and the Ultra 20 is the first box in this line aimed square at developers.

Sun unveiled the system at its Java One conference which starts today in San Francisco.

"This system is meant to reach a much broader audience," said John Fowler, Sun's vice president in charge of the x86 systems. "Java One is the world's biggest developer conference, so it made sense to show it off there."

While you can buy the Ultra 20 flat out just like any another bit of hardware, Sun also has a much weirder pricing option. Customers can pay $30 per month over three years ($1,080) and get the system, Solaris 10, Java Studio Enterprise 7, Java Studio Creator and support. This package full of Java tools is meant for the developer crowd.

Initially, the Ultra 20 will ship with a single-core version - 1.8GHz to 2.6GHz - of AMD's Opteron. As El Reg reported last week, AMD will make a dual-core version of this 100 Series chip available in the third quarter. (AMD confirmed the move to customers in a note issued Friday.)

The Ultra 20 also ships with up to 4GB of memory, up to 2 SATA drives (80GB or 250GB), six USB 2.0 ports and two IEEE 1394a ports. The box will run Solaris x86, Red Hat and SuSE Linux 32-bit and 64-bit and Windows XP Pro 32-bit and 64-bit.

Sun continues to see a sharp rise in it Opteron system sales. The company is currently battling with HP for the top spot among all Opteron server sellers.

Sun has enjoyed particular success in Germany where it holds 41 per cent of the Opteron server market versus 23 per cent for HP, according to the first quarter figures from Gartner.

You can see the Ultra 20 in all its glory available here.

Along with the Ultra 20, Sun also pointed to the new Ultra 3 Mobile Workstation, which runs on its UltraSPARC chip and starts at $3,400. This system looks like a rebranded version of a Tadpole laptop. ®

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