Sun Microsystems has unveiled its next generation of workstations, called the Ultra 30. The Ultra 30s have the first Sun workstations to use the industry-standard PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) interface rather than Sun's own SBus.
In an effort to contain the growth of Intel-based systems by vendors like Dell and Compaq, Sun will also unveil a line of workstations priced under $US5000 sometime "this winter", according to Sun's Robert Novak.
Billed as Sun's highest performance single processor workstations, the Ultra 30 comes in 250 and 300MHz configurations. They feature what Sun calls an industry-first dual channel, 64-bit 66MHz PCI I/O bus, designed to support Sun's 1.6Gb/sec Ultra Port Architecture (UPA).
On the networking side, the switch to PCI slots will let Sun's customers choose from a wide variety of third-party network interface cards, provided they support Solaris - and to that end Sun will also announce a list of more than 20 third-party vendors working on PCI cards for Solaris. Sun itself will sell a variety of these cards, such as Fast Ethernet.
According to analysts, the switch to PCI comes none too soon. "I think they're behind the curve," says Jim Garden, director for technical services with Technology Business Research.
The SBus is not completely dead, however. Novak doesn't rule out the possibility of more SBus-based server products from Sun, but he predicts that his company "probably will not continue to develop new Workstation platforms that will be SBus based". And though Sun is promising full support for the SBus interface, Novak says this will only continue for a few more years as Sun completes the transition to PCI.