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Sun's 256-thread African journey begins next month

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Exclusive Sun Microsystems will leave the midwest and head to Africa next month with the release of its fanciest ever multi-core servers, The Register has learned.

On April 9, Sun plans to unveil a line of systems known internally as the Maramba boxes. The 1U and 2U servers will run on the UltraSPARC T2+ processor - aka Victoria Falls.

These African flavored code-named replace things like Huron, Erie and Ontario used with previous versions of Sun's systems that run on the up to 8-core UltraSPARC T1 and T2 chips.

The big leap forward with Victoria Falls comes from the chip's ability to sit in multi-socket servers. To date, Sun has only delivered one-socket systems with the UltraSPARC Tx family. In April, Sun will ship the two-socket T5140 and the two-socket T5240 servers. Later on, customers will see the four-socket T5440 (Botaka) system as well.

We broke the news about the multi-socket Victoria Falls chip back in March of 2006. And we're impressed that the processor and servers will actually reach customers, since the gear should have shipped last year. You never know with Sun.

Victoria Falls has up to eight-cores and 64 threads just like its predecessors, but you obviously get more threads in the same amount of space by moving to two sockets.

While Sun will officially launch the new systems on April 9, we understand that many customers can already order the units. A few hundred boxes are making their way through the channel now.

The T5140 is available with four-, six- and eight-core versions of the 1.2GHz UltraSPARC T2+ chip. Memory support ranges from 8GB up to 64GB, and Sun will ship the systems with a pair of 146GB disks. Prices start at $15,000 for a four-core unit and range up to $40,000 for a system with two of the eight-core chips.

The T5240 will be available in three flavors - one with six-core chips and two more with eight-core chips. The 2U systems can hold up to 8 disks, although Sun will ship two of the 146GB disks as standard. The low-end model with 8GB of memory starts at $18,000, while the high-end model with 64GB of memory starts at $41,495 - or so our sources claim.

We've yet to acquire specifications for the four-socket box.

Sun says it has turned the UltraSPARC Tx servers into a $1bn+ business, which is nice enough. As far as we can tell, however, sales of these systems have just replaced sales of Sun's lower-end, regular UltraSPARC gear rather than creating a grand, swelling new market. Sun remains the only major server vendor to use such a radical multi-core attack. ®

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