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Sun switches back to blades in '06

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Sun Microsystems will take its second step on the path to re-entering the blade server market this summer, a year after vacating the sector in the face of stiff competition.

John Fowler, executive vice president for Sun's network systems group, said Sun is working on a series of Sparc and x86 blades that "run all software", and will be released during the course of the company's current calendar year, which means availability before the end of June.

This scheduling would make re-entry exactly a year after Sun canned its Sparc, Xeon, and Athlon-based blades, as well as the Sun Fire B1600 blade chassis.

At the time, Sun said it was working on the "next generation of the blade platform". Fowler was unwilling to say what architecture Sun's blades will use, but he ruled out using the approach adopted by IBM and Intel.

We've discussed Sun's intention to head the four-socket and eight-socket route with the new blades briefly here.

Fowler indicated Sun has no plans to join the IBM/Intel BladeCenter initiative, which uses either Intel Xeon or IBM Power processors, even though IBM last year committed to sell Sun's Solaris operating system on BladeCenter servers.

IBM currently dominates the blade market with 39 per cent market share, according to IDC. The BladeCenter initiative, meanwhile, has secured support from OEMs, as IBM seeks to build an ecosystem of partners around the architecture.

Sun's partnership with IBM, announced in October, marked the company's first faltering return to blades since nixing the company's own products last June.

Fowler said: "We have different ideas about how a blade should be designed. The blade marketplace is a long way from being defined. The real battle has yet to be fought. It will be fought over the next few years.

"Sun and Hewlett-Packard will bring different ideas to the table. It's going to be an interesting time for customers. There will be competition on technology and price." ®

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