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IBM-free Sun unwraps Nehalem EP servers

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Sun Microsystems is today finally expected to unwrap two blades, four racks, and a tower workstation based on Intel's quad-core Nehalem EP Xeon 5500 processors.

The launch follows a delay that pushed out this next generation of Galaxy servers by two weeks - probably caused by the hubbub surrounding that much discussed, planned, then canceled IBM acquisition.

The Sun x64 server launch rounds out the top four server makers in the world, who account for 85 per cent of worldwide revenues across all server architectures. We already covered the Nehalem EP servers from Hewlett-Packard (here), Dell (there), and IBM (right here) in detail, as well as the chip launch itself two weeks ago.

Sun's two blade servers, the X6270 and X6275, and a new Ultra 27 workstation are available starting today. The rack servers - the X2270, X4170, X4270, and X4275 - are expected to be available by April 30, according to Dimitrios Dovas, director of product management at Sun's Systems Group. All of the machines are based on Intel's Tylersburg Xeon 5520 chipset and use custom motherboards designed by Sun.

Collectively, the servers are being referred to as "open network systems," which is akin to the storage servers code-named Amber Road and being based on x64 boxes, lots of disks, Solaris 10 and ZFS being called "unified storage systems". The open part in the server's name refers to the fact, presumably, that they run Solaris, Windows, or Linux, or virtualization environments that can support any mix of them at the same time.

The X6270 is a two-socket blade that fits into the Sun Blade 6048 chassis (which holds a dozen blades per shelf and 48 per rack) and the Sun Blade 6000 chassis (a 10U box that can hold ten blades), while the more innovative X6275 crams two whole two-socket servers side-by-side onto a single blade. We told you about the X6275 back in November, when Sun was showing it off at the SC08 supercomputing show.

There are some big differences between the two blades. The X6270 supports 60 watt, 80 watt, and 90 watt Xeon parts (but not the fastest 130 watt part), and has 18 DDR3 memory slots for a maximum capacity of 144GB of main memory using 8GB modules. Of course, as is the case with other vendors, these 8GB modules are not generally available yet, so 4GB DIMMs and 72GB of maximum memory is what Sun can sell you today.

The X6270 blade has room for four 2.5-inch SAS or SATA drives, and using an outboard RAID expansion module that tucks into the 6000 and 6048 chasses, the SAS drives can be setup as a RAID array. The blade has four PCI-Express 2.0 x8 slots, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and four SAS ports. The blade also has an optional 16GB CompactFlash memory module, which Dovas says will eventually be added to other Galaxy servers. This blade is aimed at commercial customers for the most part.

The X6275 blade is being pushed predominantly to high-performance computing customers as part of Sun's Constellation InfiniBand cluster. Each half of the X6275 blade has 12 memory slots, for a maximum capacity of 96GB using 8GB DIMMs, plus two PCI-Express x8 slots, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and two quad data rate (40Gb/sec) InfiniBand ports.

The blade also includes one or two on-board flash modules, each with a 24GB capacity, that Sun is getting from Intel. These modules do not appear to be the Open Flash modules that Sun was showing off in early March that it co-designed with Samsung and is proposing as a standard. It wasn't clear at press time exactly what Intel SSD was being used.

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