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Blades and water jackets

Sun is also previewing its impending Opteron blade server, an upgrade to the four-socket blade server it currently sells with a new southbridge part of the chipset delivering the native QDR InfiniBand and employing the latest "Shanghai" quad-core Opterons from Advanced Micro Devices. Sun says that this upgraded X6440 blade server will be available by the end of the year.

The company was also showing off its new water jackets for the back of server racks, code-named "Glacier," that will be shipping by the end of the year along with the new AMD blade server.

Sun also announced a preconfigured HPC cluster offering, called the Sun Compute Cluster, which is a completely integrated rack of servers, networking, and software that comes pre-configured from Sun - ready to run. (This is similar to preconfigured racks for HPC that IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and others sell). The offering scales from one to eight racks of servers, and the Sun integration can reduce the time to deploy an HPC cluster by 90 per cent.

The racks come with 32 X2250 two-socket rack servers or up to 30 Sun Blade blade servers, whichever customers want. Sun is offering a basic compute cluster setup based on this hardware as well as two others, one designed to support structural analysis applications and another aimed at supporting modeling applications in the financial services sector.

On the storage side, Sun is offering the Sun Storage Cluster, which is a rack of preconfigured storage servers and adjunct disk arrays equipped with the Lustre file system. The setups scale to over 100 gigabits of bandwidth between the servers and the storage and to several petabytes of disk capacity. This Storage Cluster bundle uses a mix if X4250 servers running Linux and the Lustre file system.

In both cases, the idea is to not only make HPC clusters easy to buy, but easier for Sun and its channel partners to sell. And because they save customers time and presumably a little bit of money, too, that will also help make Sun's case in the market. "We're actually a good way to save money on storage," Fowler explains. "We're a great economic solution, but people don't think of Sun that way. We have to get people to look at us and to understand that, which is why we have the Try and Buy program."

Somewhere between 70 and 80 per cent of the customers who do the trial server and storage program convert to a Sun sale either through Sun or a channel partner (the hedging in that number is because some customers try one product and buy a different one in the Sun lineup).

On the HPC software front, Sun upgraded a bunch of its tools, including Lustre 1.8, HPC ClusterTools 8.1, HPC Software (now with a Linux Edition 1.1 that allows deployment of the software stack on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.2), and the Studio Express 11/08 compilers.

The one thing that Fowler was not yet ready to talk about was the effect of the just-announced layoffs on the systems software, server, and storage business that Fowler now controls - and which constitutes the vast bulk of Sun's sales. As far as anyone knows, all Sun server and storage lines are still on track, full steam ahead. With so many job cuts, it is hard to believe that there won't be at least some product changes. But who can tell? Only Sun knows where it actually gets sales and where its real costs are. Sun is under tremendous pressure to clarify its plans, and it will surely have to do so soon. But Fowler made it clear that this week was not going to be that time. ®

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