|[San Francisco | Reuters News Service, 12 September 2005] - Sun Microsystems has introduced industry-standard servers that it said will more than triple the amount of the computer server market it can address as the computer maker seeks to rebuild momentum lost to rivals since the dot-com bust nearly five years ago.
The servers, named X2100, X4100 and X4200, use Opteron microprocessors - the brains of computers - from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Intel's principal rival in the microprocessor business.
The new servers, which can house up to two dual-core Opteron chips, are in addition to two-processor and four-processor Opteron servers that Sun already sells. The company said the X2100, X4100 and X4200 are cheaper, faster, use less power and take up less space than comparable servers made by rival companies, such as Dell and HP.
"We decided to get much more serious about the industry-standard server market," said John Fowler, who runs Sun's network systems group, which includes the new products.
Industry-standard servers, also known as x86 servers, are those that use either Intel, AMD or Intel-compatible chips as their data processing engines. Sun, along with rival IBM, also sells higher-end servers that use their own in-house designed processors.
The servers run Sun's Solaris operating system, which the company recently open-sourced to the software developer community, as well as commercially available versions of Linux, the freely available operating systems, among other operating systems.
"Sun now supports 10 operating systems because that's what the market expects," said Andy Bechtolsheim, chief architect and senior VP in Sun's network systems group.
Bechtolsheim is a well-regarded hardware designer as well as a Sun co-founder who returned to the Santa Clara, California-based company in 2004, after Sun bought his start-up Kealia, which was working on next-generation designs for servers using Opteron.
Until 2002, Sun had for years resisted using chips from either Intel or AMD, choosing to stick with its own UltraSparc processors, which it still uses in its more expensive servers found most often in the corporate data centres of telecommunications companies, financial services firms and in the government.
But with the move to using AMD chips, Sun acknowledged the industry-shift to lower-priced, industry-standard servers that picked up serious momentum after the dot-com and telecommunications investment bubbles burst in late 2000.
"Solaris until recently was running only on Sparc, and, as a result, frankly, we didn't have the best cost-performance in the market," Bechtolsheim said. "We now have the fastest and lowest cost operating system on the market."
Even so, Sun said it is aiming to be more agnostic regarding which operating systems it will allow to run on its servers. In addition to commercial variants of Linux, Microsoft's Windows will run on Sun's industry-standard servers.
"We're getting a lot less religious about the operating system to find the areas where we can grow," Bechtolsheim said.
The X2100 server starts at $745, the X4100 starts at $2 195, and the X4200 at $2 595, Sun said. The X4100 and X4200 had been code-named Galaxy and were designed by Bechtolsheim.
More Galaxy servers are on the way, Fowler said, including an eight-processor server using Opteron processors. With the new servers announced on Sunday, Fowler said that Sun estimates it now has products that can address $17.6 billion of the industry-standard server market, compared with $5.6 billion before their introduction.
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