Sun fires up Opteron eight-way and Linux on SPARC
Lookin' for love
Sun Microsystems' Opteron orgy has scaled up to an eight-way with the arrival of the Sun Fire X4600. Elsewhere, Linux has made its way to Sun's new UltraSPARC T1 chips.
Sun still won't "officially" discuss its eight chip Opteron dynamo, but the box has become too hard to ignore. The Register has discovered a couple of Sun reseller websites already moving the Sun Fire X4600. In addition, we've found countless Japanese sites mentioning the server, which is no surprise since one of Japan's top supercomputers  is actually composed of X4600s.
Here's a sample  configuration with "academic" pricing from one UK reseller.
Sun keeps trying to hide the fact that the Sun Fire X4600 sits at the heart of a massive Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) cluster. We can assure you that the 10,480 processor box is based on the eight-socket X4600.
With the X4600, Sun becomes the only Tier 1 server vendor to have an eight-socket Opteron-based system. The company will no doubt pitch Solaris x86 big time for the server and hope that the x86 eight-way market grows in the years to come.
It remains unclear when Sun will "officially" announce the X4600, but its own website is littered with documentation on the system, so a release with fanfare and all can't be far off.
[Update: We've now received a US price list for three models of the system that goes as follows: X4600:4x856/8x2GB/2x73GB/DVD $31,995.00; X4600:4x885/8x2GB/2x73GB/DVD $35,995.00; X4600:8x885/16x2GB/2x73GB/DVD $67,495.00.]
Separately, Sun and Canonical announced that the Ubuntu 6.06 LTS (Long Term Support) operating system will make its way to Sun's UltraSPARC T1-based servers. These systems had been Solaris-only.
"Ubuntu is arguably one of the most important - if not the most important - GNU/Linux distribution on the planet and will soon blaze new trails in support for SPARC-based servers," Sun EVP John Fowler said. "The availability of both Solaris and Linux-based operating systems on the Niagara (UltraSPARC T1) platform will further expand our lead in delivering chip multi-threaded innovation and choice to customers."
Canonical will charge $700 per year to support Sun's SPARC systems running Ubuntu.
You could expect to see this move inspire a number of universities to dabble with Linux on the UltraSPARC T1 chip. Schools such as Stanford, the University of Michigan and UCLA are all exploring the UltraSPARC T1 chip and related servers right now. Sun has open sourced the UltraSPARC T1 design, making it an interesting teaching/entreprenerial tool for these universities. ®