Datacenter Server’s Catch-Up Game With Sun

A day after Microsoft Corp. president and CEO Steve Ballmer confidently talked of snaring part of Sun Microsystems Inc.’s enterprise server market share, Sun demonstrated that its technology will remain a swiftly moving target.

Sun on Wednesday launched its long-awaited, and overdue, UltraSPARC III processors in speeds up to 900 MHz, exceeding industry observers’ expectations for the clockspeed of the first round of the chips.

The speed more than doubles the clockspeed available in the UltraSPARC II processors that currently run Sun’s top line of workstations and servers and Solaris operating system.

Microsoft on Tuesday launched Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, its first operating system designed to compete with Sun and other Unix/RISC combinations from vendors such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Compaq in the enterprise data center.

“The UltraSPARC III chip is the engine that will power the next generation of Sun systems,” John Shoemaker, executive vice president of Sun’s system products group, said in a statement.

Sun made a modest initial rollout on Wednesday, putting the new processors in high-end workstations and workgroup servers. Sun will put UltraSPARC IIIs in mid-range servers later with enterprise servers to follow.

The UltraSPARC III is Sun’s gigahertz-class processor with a 1.5 GHz UltraSPARC III planned for the end of 2001. Sun’s roadmap currently calls for the UltraSPARC IV at 1.8 GHz by the end of 2002 with the UltraSPARC V at 2.1 GHz in late 2003.

Meanwhile, the UltraSPARC III represents Sun’s second generation 64-bit processor with all the refinements and maturity a second-generation product brings. The Microsoft world is still waiting on Intel’s delivery of Itanium to enter the 64-bit processing era.

As Microsoft pushes its software to scale across 32 processors and 64 GB of memory in a single system, Sun is pushing its operating system and hardware to scale into the range of “hundreds of processors sharing a single coherent memory domain.”

With a system running 64 of its older 400 MHz UltraSPARC II processors, Sun currently holds the single-system performance lead on the closely watched Transaction Processing Performance Council’s TPC-C benchmark for OLTP scalability. -- Scott Bekker

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.