Sun announces cheaper hardware

Sun announces cheaper hardware

Sun Microsystems will continue its fight for the volume systems market with three new products, including a new four-way server priced under $20,000.

The Sun Fire V440 is one of three new systems the hardware vendor unveiled at its Sun Network show in San Francisco. Also released is the Sun Blade 1500 workstation, and the first update to Sun's line of tower servers since the late 1990s: The Sun Fire V250.

The V440 is a rack mounted system that will have less memory and less powerful processors than Sun's current entry-level four-way offering, the V480. But with list pricing of around $18,000, it would also be much less expensive, the vice-president of marketing and strategy for Sun's volume system products, Souheil Saliba, said.

"The 480 and the 440 address two different spaces," he said, "The 440 is essentially half the price point of the 480."

One of the chief differences between the two systems will be at the microprocessor level. The V440 will use the UltraSparc IIIi processor with 1MB of L2 cache per processor. The V480 uses the UltraSparc III with 8MB of cache per chip.

Volume systems are an increasingly important market for Sun, as IT managers are shifting their buying from Sun's traditional midrange and high-end systems to less expensive machines like the V480 and V440, according to IDC analyst, Jean Bozman.

"IT managers are generally adding to their infrastructure by adding servers that way because there's so much pressure on IT budgets," she said.

"Volume servers are selling well in general, and Sun has had success in the volume server space."

The V480 had sold well since its introduction in June of 2002, Bozman said.

But Sun's developing software strategy would play an increasingly important role in helping the computer to compete with rivals such as Dell, she said.

"Clearly they have to provide competitive prices," Bozman said. "At the same time, they're saying that a lot of the value that you get in these systems will come from the system software."

Sun's new V250 tower server would represent the computer maker's first major upgrade to its line of tower servers since the late 1990s, Saliba said.

"We did not bring out a follow-on to the E250 and E450," he said. "It turned out that that was probably not the best thing to do." Continued demand for the E250 and E450 as a workgroup server in Asian and European countries caused Sun to reconsider its withdrawal from the tower market, Saliba said.

Product business manager for Sun Microsystems Australia, Laurie Wong, said that companies with branch environments found rack servers inappropriate and would herald the return of the tower.

Pricing for the V250 will start at $5380.

Sun will also unveil a low-end technical workstation, called the Sun Blade 1500. This system will use the UltraSparc IIIi processor and be priced at under $5380.

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