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Sun Goes Upscale With Chips

Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Sun Microsystems take a two-pronged approach to the server market: Low-end x86-based systems and high-end machines based on powerful processors. Sun this week completes a two-year overhaul of its server line with the introduction of its top-of-the-line four-core and multithreaded Niagara processor.

The UltraSparc T1, which was code-named Niagara, integrates eight Sparc-based processor cores. Each core has four independent threads, providing a total of 32 threads in a single chip. That means the chip can handle 32 operations simultaneously.

Since early 2003, Sun has extensively reworked its server line, entering the volume x86 market with systems based on Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s Opteron processor and earlier this year introducing a new line of Galaxy servers.

Sun will introduce servers based on the UltraSparc T1 processor before the end of the year. The processor potentially will be able to handle the workload of as many as five or six dual-core Opteron or Xeon chips, says Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with Insight 64. He says, "This will create interest from customers who otherwise would have avoided proprietary processors like the plague."