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Sun deals Xeon server line to Intel for Solaris ad

The chip deal that isn't

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Server buffs have spent years wondering when Sun and Intel would finally bury their hatchets in each other's back and form a partnership. Now the deal is done, but it wants for excitement, controversy . . . anything.

The Sun/Intel question was interesting back when Sun dominated the server game on a SPARC-only stance. It waffled a bit toward Intel after the $2bn Cobalt purchase, but no one paid much mind. Then came Sun's firm Opteron squeeze, effectively quashing what used to be of curiosity on the x86 front.

Today, we find Sun simply adding another chip supplier. It will ship one-, two- and four-socket Xeon-based servers by midyear along with a line of workstations. Sun also intends to craft an eight-socket Xeon box one day. Sun's CEO Jonathan Schwartz announced all this during a press conference in San Francisco on a shared stage with Intel CEO Paul Otellini.

Otellini appreciated Sun's end to the Opteron-only stance so much that he mentioned the Solaris operating system again and again.

"At the highest level this is about Intel endorsing and embracing Solaris, and Sun endorsing and embracing Xeon," Otellini said.

What the heck could Intel's endorsement of Solaris possibly mean?

Apparently, Intel's engineers will team with Sun's engineers to make sure Solaris x86 runs well on Xeon-based systems. In addition, "Intel has signed a Solaris OEM agreement enabling Intel to distribute and support the Solaris OS to its customers as market opportunities may arise and consistent with Intel's product strategies."

Sure, Intel moves a few white boxes here and there, but this isn't the OEM agreement dreams are made of. Maybe Otellini can get on the horn with his pal Michael Dell and explain why Solaris is so cool.

"This is not just a chip deal," Otellini reminded the crowd.

Gotcha.

The older readers out there will remember the days when Sun fought the likes of Microsoft and Intel with vigor - sometimes for no other reason than to be different. Now Solaris stands as Sun's only means of going against the crowd, and it wants the crowd to love Solaris. My how un-fun $2bn anti-trust settlements and multiple processor suppliers have become.

According to the two executives, it only took one bottle of nice wine for them to feel the love. A lovely dinner sealed the deal.

Now all the Xeon can't scale rhetoric has been replaced with "We're driving Xeon to eight-socket country." And Wintel has gone Soltel or Sintel Inside, if you're an adolescent.

With Sun now shipping Intel boxes and Dell moving AMD gear, order has been restored in the server universe. Customers have never had it so good.

It may just be that customer win that does in fact make this more than just a chip deal. But, really, we're still kind of bored. ®

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