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If you're in the market for a $1m server, then Sun Microsystems has a new system for you.

Sun on Monday began selling its highest-end Unix servers - the E20K and E25K - with new 1.5GHz UltraSPARC IV+ chips. Customers have already been able to buy lower-end systems with the UltraSPARC IV+ chip and to replace existing UltraSPARC III and IV Uniboards with fresh ones running on the new processor. Now, however, they can purchase brand spanking new entire systems.

Sun used the release of its speedier 36-way and 72-way giants as an opportunity to go after IBM.

"We are the first to upgrade high-end servers with next-generation 90 nanometer microprocessor technology, again offering customers true investment protection and the best price/performance in the industry," said David Yen, Sun's EVP in charge of SPARC systems.

To its credit, Sun does let users run chips of different speeds and different generations in the same server. Customers can also replace processor boards with the system still running. In addition, Sun, like all of its major rivals besides Intel, can boast the use of high-end, dual-core chips. This means that an E25K server can crank through 144 software threads at one time.

Sun used its milestones and monster servers as fodder for bashing IBM, which recently began a Unix server upgrade. IBM has slotted the Power5+ chips into low-end systems but won't give higher-end servers the same boost until 2006. Even then, IBM isn't expected to have a system comparable in size to the E25K.

Analysts, however, would be quick to point out that IBM has outperformed Sun in both raw processor performance and Unix server sales over the past two years. The Power4 and Power5 processors helped IBM gain ground against both Sun and HP.

More information on Sun's monsters can be found here. ®

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