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Oracle sneaks out carrier grade Sparc blade, Xeon rack

Where's that Nehalem-EX beastie?

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Oracle has hardened up the Sun Blade 6000 blade server to support telcos and other service providers, creating the Sun Netra 6000 chassis and its companion Netra T6340 blade server, based on the current Sparc T2+ processors designed by Sun and made by Texas Instruments.

Oracle has been a pretty quiet server vendor since acquiring Sun Microsystems in late January. However, even if Sun's vast army of public relations people are no longer around to remind everyone what the company's hardware engineers are up to, they're apparently still working — as evidenced by Tuesday's announcement at the TM Forum Management World conference for service providers in Nice, France, on Tuesday.

The Netra 6000 chassis is certified at the NEBS Level 3, which means it has been through more rigid testing than the mere NEBS Level 3 compliance that a lot of ruggedized server makers use. This has always been Sun's practice, and it helped the company make billions peddling Sparc iron to telcos and service providers over the past 15 years.

The Netra 6000 chassis is a 10U rack-mounted unit that can hold up to ten Sun blade servers. The Sun blades have externalized I/O and link to I/O modules in the back of the chassis through a midplane; a variety of PCI Express, SAS, and Ethernet I/O ports are available in different I/O modules. While Netra servers often come with DC power - which is important for telecommunications companies that have long used DC instead of AC - the Netra 6000 chassis is an AC unit.

Instead of adhering to the AdvancedTCA (ATCA) form factor favored by the telco industry for its DC gear, as the prior Netra Sparc and x64 blade servers did, this one is using the same form factor as the regular enterprise blades. The Netra T6340 blade that slides into the Netra 6000 chassis is based on the first iteration of the T6340 blade server that Sun announced back in October 2008, which uses the older eight-core, 64-thread 1.4GHz Sparc T2+ chips instead of the current 1.6GHz Sparc T2 and T2+ chips that Sun snuck out last July for its rack and blade servers.

Why Oracle is not offering the faster Sparc T2+ chips in this two-socket Netra T6340 blade is a bit of a mystery, but so is the fact that Oracle is calling it a Netra server at all. Netra now means NEBS-compliant without DC power or ATCA blade form factors, apparently.

In any event, the Netra T6340 blade supports up to 256GB of fully buffered DDR2 main memory. The Sparc T2+ chips have a floating-point math unit on each of their eight-threaded cores and onboard cryptographic units that support ten popular encryption algorithms.

The Netra T6340 blade requires Oracle's Solaris 10 with the 10/09 update. Oracle did not provide pricing information for the Netra 6000 chassis or the Netra T6340 blade server in its announcement. The blade chassis and server is not on the current Oracle store for Sun products. Oracle did not respond to requests for pricing at press time.

Somewhere between the middle of March when Intel rolled out its "Westmere-EP" Xeon 5600 processors and today, Oracle also slipped out a revamped X2270 rack-mounted server that supports these new six-core processors. As El Reg previously reported, Oracle has been un-Sun-like with its tight lips as Intel launched the entry Xeon 5600s and high-end eight-core Xeon 7500s in March. In theory, the Sun Blade X6270 and X6275 blade servers and Sun Fire X2270, X4170, X4270, and X4275 rack-mounted servers can all use the new Xeon 5600 processors.

So far, as it turns out, only X2270 M2, a two-socket rack-based server in a 1U form factor, has been updated for the Xeon 5600s, as far as the Oracle site is concerned. The feeds and speeds of the machine - up to 96GB of DDR3 main memory and four 3.5-inch SATA disks - remain the same.

Oracle is selling the new X2270 M2 in three different configurations. A small config comes with a single 2GHz, quad-core Xeon E5620, 4GB of memory, and a single 2TB 7200 RPM disk; it costs $3,962. A medium config comes with two of the 2.8GHz, six-core Xeon X5660 processors, 24GB of memory, and a 2 B disk, for $8,326. A hefty config has two 2.93GHz, six-core Xeon X5670s, 96GB of memory, and four 2TB disks for a whopping $24,093. You can get Solaris 10 preinstalled for the machine for free, but it does not come as a default install as it used to. Oracle Enterprise Linux, Oracle's clone of Red Hat's Enterprise Linux, is supported on the machine but is not pre-installed as an option. Microsoft's Windows and VMware's ESX Server hypervisor are certified to run on the box.

No word yet on when Oracle might get a kicker for the Sun Fire X4450 out the door. The X4550 is a four-socket box using the old six-core Xeon 7400 processors, which hooked into the chipset through the old frontside bus. Oracle obliquely admitted at the Intel launch to be working on an eight-socket machine using the new eight-core Xeon 7500, but has said nothing about this machine specifically. The word on the street is that this eight-socket rack server from Oracle using the Nehalem-EX beasties might surface sometime in June. Oracle has been talking about how its Solaris 10 operating system has been heavily tuned to run well on eight-socket Xeon 7500 servers, too. ®

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