Sun Flashes New Blades

Combines Intel, AMD, and UltraSparc processors into a single chassis

June 7, 2007

4 Min Read
Network Computing logo

Sun today took the wraps off its latest blade offerings, touting the ability to cope with high-volume virtual applications and use different processors within the same chassis. (See Sun Intros Blade Platform.)

At a Washington event this morning, Sun execs unveiled the 6000 platform, a 10U high chassis containing 10 blades, and three different blade modules. Unlike Sun's existing 8000 blade system, which is limited to AMD Opteron blades, the 6000 enables users to mix and match blades with Intel processors and Sun's own UltraSparc chips.

Pricing for the 6000 chassis starts at $4,995, with pricing for the server modules starting at $3,695 for the Intel processor-based blade. The AMD Opteron-based blade is slightly more expensive at $3,995, and the UltraSparc T1 module is priced at $5,995. Both the chassis and the blades are available now.

Speaking at this morning's press conference, Sun execs highlighted the platform's increased memory capacity and I/O bandwidth. "The hottest topic today is around virtualization," said John Fowler, executive vice president of the vendor's systems division, explaining that this makes it a good fit for the likes of VMware. (See VMware Stirs Virtual Controversy, VMware: The Charging Bellwether, and Wall Street Virtually Guarded.)

Specifically, the 8000 chassis can support up to 640 Gbytes of memory and 5 terabits per second (Tbps) of I/O throughput.Despite Sun's blade fanfare, rival HP touts a similar I/O bandwidth for its BladeSystem chassis, although the platform offers a slightly smaller maximum memory of 512 Gbytes.

Where HP has the edge on Sun is in the ability to deploy servers and storage within a single chassis using its c-Class blades. (See HP Brandishes Blades, HP Adds Storage Blade, HP Announces Win, HP Gets Blade Switch, and HP Storage Sneaks Up.) At the moment, Sun's blade chassis is focused squarely on servers. (See Verari Speeds Off With $20M.)

The third player in this space is IBM, which claims a maximum theoretical bandwidth of 5.6 Tbps for its BladeCenter chassis, although the system's maximum memory is 448 Gbytes. (See IBM Bolsters Blade Strategy and IBM Delivers Computing Systems.)

At least one user was unmoved by Sun's blade brouhaha today. Daniel Grim, executive director for IT network and systems services at the University of Delaware, has deployed a wide range of Sun equipment in his data center, but has yet to commit to blades. "It just hasn't hit our sweet spot," he told Byte and Switch, adding that cost remains a major inhibitor.

To illustrate his point, Grim explains that the University recently bought 20 x2200 1U servers from Sun, paying around $1,800 a piece. "[Blades] haven't really piqued much interest for use."Other users, albeit in the high-end research sector, have been more positive about Sun's offerings. Sun exec Fowler explained today that the 6000 chassis and blades are at the core of a major high performance computing project at the Texas Advanced Computing Center, which at 500 teraflops is expected to be the world's largest supercomputer. (See Top500 List Released , DOE Gains Supercomputing Crown, and Top500 Supercomputer List Relaunched.)

Sun also used today's press conference to fire a shot across the bow of IBM with regard to blade system complexity. "If you look at the IBM Website, they have 16 different switching modules," said Andy Bechtolsheim, Sun's chief architect. "What we're working on is a much better form of I/O virtualization that will have fewer cables."

Specifically, Sun is using the PCI-Express standard as the backplane on its 6000 system, which it claims will reduce the need for users to install proprietary device drivers for different switch modules.

The vendor also provided a glimpse into its blade roadmap, briefly showing a high-end blade configuration code-named "Unibody." The system, which will be available in the fourth quarter, contains 48 blades in a single chassis, according to Bechtolsheim, and forms the basis of the work underway at the Texas Advanced Computing Center.

Sun re-entered the blade arena last year after after a 12-month hiatus. The vendor pulled the plug on its B1600 blades in 2005 because it felt the product did not meet the needs of its customers. (See Sun Glints Off Blades.)James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW)

  • Verari Systems Inc.

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights