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Sun Microsystems did its bread and butter thing this week by releasing a fresh version of the UltraSPARC IV chip that will slot into four- to 24-way servers.

Customers will now find a 1.5GHz UltraSPARC IV+ chip available for the Sun Fire V490, V890, E2900, E4900 and E6900 systems. Sun eventually plans to sell the same dual-core chip with its 36-way and 72-way E20k and E25k servers. In the meantime, those of you buying the low-end to midrange boxes with the new UltraSPARC IV+ chip should see close to double the performance over previous boxes.

The refresh of Sun's core Solaris on SPARC server line follows the recent launch of a new line of Opteron-based systems that can run Solaris, Linux or Windows. Sun still makes the vast majority of its revenue from the SPARC/Solaris pairing but is looking for Opteron server sales to inject new life into the company's server business.

The new chip from Sun will soon be going up against Intel's first dual-core version of Itanium code-named Montecito and a similar refresh of the Power5 processor from IBM. Many analysts cite Itanium and Power5 as better overall performers than the UltraSPARC IV chip, but Sun continues to hold a massive chunk of the high-end server market despite such speed gaps.

Later this year, Sun is expected to release two systems based on its "Niagara" chip, which combines numerous UltraSPARC cores to create a single part that can handle web and application serving software well. ®

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