back to article It's time to pay attention to Sun's x86 server biz

The fresh Xeon-based servers from Sun mark the company’s most muscular play to date in the x86 realm. The four-socket 2U X4450, in particular, has Sun pushing the equivalent of a midrange SMP down into the heart of the so-called “commodity” market. This move plays well with Sun’s historic strengths in the SMP (symmetric multi- …


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  1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    2 Sunshine jobs in 2 days?

    Even by Ashley Vance standards that's pushing it! "HP’s much respected ProLiant brand should buy it plenty of time to catch up with Sun" - puhleeeease! That would be the market-leading ProLiant brand, then? The one that, as well as a full range (not just two x86 servers) has a complete solution, which includes a proper management and deployment tools that fit in with the full enterprise model? The one that competes head-to-head with IBM, trounces Dell and pushes FSC down into fourth place (still above Sun)? Oh yes, I'm sure the ProLiant design team are quaking in their boots, but it's probably from laughter after reading the Sun puff-pieces Ashley posted these last two days. I'm sure the xSeries boys and gals are just as tickled, and I can't wait to see what the Dell will reply with when they quit giggling. And please don't insult your readers' intelligence by trying to make out Sun is a tier 1 x86 vendor, unless the Sun plan is to have the competition drop dead from laughing too hard. Makes you wonder where Ashley's paycheque is coming from this month....

  2. Ashlee Vance (Written by Reg staff)

    Dear Matt

    I knew you would chime in and thought about putting a note in the story just for you.

    As you know, I dish an awful lot of ink on all the server vendors, and The Register can thankfully count all of the major server vendors as advertisers. Based on the ads popping up on my screen, it looks like IBM, NEC, Microsoft and Intel are paying the bills this month.

    I'm not afraid of giving vendors a pat on the back when they do something well. If you were to ask, they would all tell you the pats don't arrive very often.

    There's just no way to dismiss the new 2U system as anything other than a very solid system. You'll be a better man by coming to terms with that.


  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why isn't Sun a tier-1 vendor ?

    Dear Matt,

    Looks like you have an agenda here to bash Sun at any opportunity. If you don't have a propaganda, why don't you simply put down your points about merits and demerits of the systems, instead of making vague remarks and being simply disrespectful ? The x86 server design team in Sun is lead by a highly respected man who have build other great boxes in other companies, building billion dollar business for them, and each of Sun's new x86 box has his skills written all over. If you have the guts, you could go and check these boxes for yourself, and just appreciate the design. Seriously, Sun's marketing remarks and bullshitting aside, these boxes are indeed great designs from an engineering standpoint, where everything just fits right where it belongs - something you don't always see in this commodity x86 sector.

    Why wound Intel bother to send their hardware chief to Sun's product launches if they wouldn't consider Sun a tier-1 vendor ? Do you always see Intel sending Pat Gelsinger to every product launch from tier-2 companies ?

    The point is, it has been only 3 years Sun has been in the x86 business seriously and they are close to the 4th place with extremely limited suite of products and very immature management software, sales and marketing. Now that may piss off Sun's competitors who now has to take into account Sun as well when bidding for new contracts, but why would that bother you, you don't work for them, right ?

    And PLEASE, argue with proper reasoning and justification and at least please show some respect. All companies are here to make money, they are not doing social service, and we are readers who enjoy stories and love to see both sides of the puzzles. Companies outdo each other every now and then, and they out-talk each other even more often, but we as average readers can at least find some sanity.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    well done Sun, and now...

    if you have a moment or two Ashlee, how about a few words on what impact (if any) nicely-done AMD64 boxes like this will have on the sales of SPARC and Itanium enterprise-class boxes? SPARC's a bit long in the tooth but has the benefit of established apps and installed base. Itanium is trendy and new(ish) but reportedly didn't even rate a mention at IDF recently. Combine that with Intel's Hypertransport-alike CSI, and where will we be in 12-18 months time? Itanium taking over the world at last?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: Why isn't Sun a tier-1 vendor ?

    Maybe you should read the article again before you post, because you just made yourself into a *huge idiot* in public.

    If you would read the article, the phrase tier-1 is only used once, and when it is used, it is in reference to the fact that Sun is not the only vendor but that Tyan & Supermicro have 4x socket boards as well. It says that (read this part) Tyan & Supermicro are not tier-1 providers, but that unlike those two who have a 4x socket board SUN IS A TIER-1 PROVIDER and companies purchasing would be buying from a tier-1 provider like SUN.

  6. Yaz Mackey

    What about the rest of what's needed?

    I'm not going to pile on here, but I do want to ask two of the same questions that Matt has.

    Here's where I come from. I manage several systems groups that build and manage distributed database clusters. We currently build out dozens of 2-3 node clusters based on the HP ProLiant DL 580, and these are generally maxed out with four dual-core CPUs and 64GB of memory.

    I have nothing but respect for the hardware and systems management framework of the ProLiants--and for me this goes all the way back to Compaq days.

    Ashlee, I would like to understand how these new (and upcoming) Sun x86 systems compare point-by-point in the hardware and systems management arena against the HP and IBM units.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Re: Why isn't Sun a tier-1 vendor?

    "Maybe you should read the article again before you post, because you just made yourself into a *huge idiot* in public."

    That is hilarious. If *you* were to read the comments correctly, you'd see that the question "Why isn't Sun a tier-1 vendor" is directed at Matt Bryant, not at the article. Indeed, the comment starts "Dear Matt,"

    So what's that about being a huge idiot in public?

  8. Dan

    Exciting stuff

    I always preferred xSeries to the Proliants, but these Sun boxes are starting to look serious. Clearly, they are aimed at the consolidation and virtualization markets, and given Sun's experience in the non-commodity sector, I'd definitely be auditioning these if I was buying now... thanks for the article.

  9. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Softly softly

    Hmmm.... There's an interesting looking Doughnut in the USB Plug.

    I wonder if Matt has heard of .... "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, then you win."

    Sunny Days ahead then.

  10. Nick Palmer

    RE: RE: Why isn't Sun a tier-1 vendor ?

    Given that the post to which you refer was in response to Matt Bryant's post above which specifically pours scorn on the idea of Sun being a Tier 1 vendor, perhaps you'd be better advised to review your own literacy rather than call into question other peoples'. Now who's a *huge idiot* again?

    On the systems themselves, I think they look rather inviting; that's a LOT of power in 2U; the last server I bought was a 2xQuad Xeon PowerEdge 2950, and the X4450 described here looks capable of BRUTALISING it. I do like Proliants, we run Exchange on an Opteron based DL385, but I don't have a problem with Sun's hardware, and the last time I dealt with HP's server support, it was fairly plain that unless I had several thousand users I was boring them.

  11. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    So no explanation, then?

    Ashley, you point to all the advertising from different vendors appearing on the screen, but that's a smokescreen as I suspect you have nothing to do with selling advertising space on TR, just control over what goes into your articles. I didn't question TR's independence, I questioned yours. In fact, one of the reasons I enjoy TR is because it often manages to make a point counter to the common theme of the industry (and governments or military) in a humourous and impartial manner. That is why I find it so surprising that your obvious bias is allowed. Your article appears neither impartial nor humourous.

    I have sat through many Sun sales pitches built around "feature points" before and recognise the style. The idea is you pick one feature your system has that the competitor doesn't and then you try and convince the customer it is vital and that they should therefore base all comparisons around this one feature rather than doing a proper analysis of what is actually required. I suppose I can thank you for at least warning me what the next Sun salesman is going to start with the next time I run into one.

    In the byline for your article you state "Fresh gear beats rivals" - how? Apart from one feature for the x4450 - yes, it is rack denser - how does this make it the technical revolution and instant market-leader you claim? You then briefly pass over the Sun blade strategy with again no detail, and then say they "....bring a similar level of revamped thinking..." - last time I checked the Sun blade strategy was very much "me too" and nothing new, other than forcing customers to have two different blade chassis for two- or four-core blades. Please explain how this is "revamped thinking"?

    I also don't remember seeing two consecutive "articles" from yourself painting such a glowing picture for any other vendor. We recently had one very slim article on the Dell Veso appliance, which is arguably far more of a technical revolution than Sun's new systems, especially as it looks like it will be first to market for Hypervisor, but I don't see you banging the drum for Dell like your Sun orchestral pieces. I assume you were too busy talking to your Sun chums to ask Dell for some pretty marketing shots of the internals of the Veso?

  12. Dunstan Vavasour

    What about a LOM bake-off?

    What I think this shows is that very few people really understand BOTH the hp AND the Sun LOM offerings, and the associated management tools which wrap around these. The speeds and feeds and form factor data is easily understood. The "tier-1/tier-2" debate can safely remain in the realms of subjective prejudice. However, the relative merits of the consoling/management capabilities would bear some sort of objective bake-off.

    How about it, Ashlee?

  13. Joe Cooper

    RE: Softly Softly

    And *I* wonder if Matt has heard of .... Paragraphs.

  14. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    RE: RE: Softly Softly and Ashley

    Hehe, just for Joe I'm considering writing any future comments in one block of text, with no punctuation or capitalisation, in true flamer style. :P

    And Ashley, if you expected a heckling comment, ask your colleagues if they get similar ones from me. You'll find not. In fact, with a view to understanding why, try reading some of your colleagues' pieces such as Austin Modine's "Green Dell gets greener..." article. It is informative and humourous, building on the common ploy of technology companies to jump on the Green bandwagon and recognising that most at the coalface view such programs with scepticism. I'm no green warrior, but I do support carbon reduction programs. Does Austin's article make me want to type an irate comment saying we should take green issues more seriously? No, because it manages to strike the right balance, and is loaded with good lines. "So green they crap leprechauns" - excellent!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: RE: RE: Softly Softly and Ashley

    So what it all boils down to, is that a joke or two in Ashlee's articles is all that is needed to save us all from your Sun bashing antics?

    In that case: Ashlee, I'm sure many people who have read these comments would happily write you some jokes, if it allowed your next article to spark a sensible interesting debate, instead of a childish 'blindly-sticking-to-your-guns-about-how-it -must-be-a-bad-system-because-sun-made-it' half assed winge, based on no real facts or comparisons of the new products.

    Matt, face it;

    They have made a nice box, a well engineered box, a box that seems to fit a decent hole in the x86 market. If your going to argue, at least man up, stop being such a tit, and check out the system first! Maybe then you could share some valid points with the readers.. hmm?

    *reckons Matt got fired from sun for something or other and is bitter*

  16. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    RE: RE: RE: RE: Softly Softly - did you actually read any of the comments!?!?!?

    Dear Annonymous Sun Marketing Droid,

    So, everyone that disagrees with you must be a disgruntled ex-Sun employee? Going by marketshare, Sun must have at one time employed about five times as many people as IBM! I have met this "them-and-us, and they're all h8rs" attitude from Guillemont Park employees before, but I have never been employed by Sun. I usually find the best sport can be had by discussing RedHat near them, it invariably produces froth and fury!

    You can find a technical reposte in Ash's previous marticle (for the Sun droids that obviously don't get out much, that's marketing-passed-off-as-an-article), "Sun crams four sockets worth of Xeons into 2U box", where I suggest that the new Sun boxes - whilst interesting - are not going to provide anything that makes them the x86 golden-bullet Ash implies. This thread has been more of a complaint at Ash producing two Sun marticles in two days.

    As for your comment on the servers filling "a decent hole in the x86 market", what hole? The one already filled by existing boxes from other vendors that have a long and respected history of producing x86 servers? Please elaborate on this fabled superniche market. Or, if you really believe that these Sun systems make all other x86 racked servers obsolete, I may have a deal for you around some real estate in the Everglades....

  17. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    ... and jokes.....

    Ash, if you're going to add more humour, please don't let the Sun marketing droids write the jokes for you. Ever since Scott McNealy left there just hasn't been the same level of comedy, though Schwatrz has made some strategy howlers over Linux, SPARC, Microsoft..... ;)

  18. Ashlee Vance (Written by Reg staff)

    Oh Matt


    You're quite prolific today. I'm impressed.

    Thanks so much for bringing up the Dell Veso appliance. You're right. I did not write two stories about it. I did about six and talked about the technology a great deal in two of my hardware broadcasts. (See links below)

    We, in fact, wrote more about Dell's move here than any other publication that I'm aware of. I was quite complimentary of Dell's decision to move ahead of rivals here and praised the company for its quick action.

    You claim, however, that Dell's box is somehow more revolutionary than Sun's. Well, that's just not true. Dell is only installing a hypervisor into a new Opteron-based server. There's no other magic than that. As I mentioned in the Sun piece, anyone, even you, could slap a disk into the USB port and accomplish the same thing.

    I haven't published photos or specs yet on the Veso system because Dell isn't talking about it yet. I've dug up as many specs as I could.


  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why bother with this Matt troll ?

    Hey Ash,

    Whom are you trying to explain. The troll who does not understand what it takes to make a good server with fresh ideas, one who has no appreciation for interesting stuffs like what it takes to cool a server with 2 120W cpus with 32 red hot FB-DIMMs with 8 disks and 6 IO slots in a small 2U chassis, or the one who finds DELL and Vmware's political power play of installing the ESX hypervisor on bare metal so that VMware can get a foothold in the market before microsoft ships their integrated hypervisor next year more innovative ?

    Why bother replying to this troll ? His posts has almost zero technical content, just the same rant of HP Proliant are GOD, IBM is unbeatable, DELL is that...and everyone else is worth mentioning except Sun !! We enjoy your article Ashlee, and while I do notice occasional appreciation of new Sun gears in your article, with good reason of course, I am willing to shrug that off as regular journalistic bias, after all reporters are human and if they have to write articles that does not upset some #$*%-!#@ tom,dick and harry, interesting articles will never appear.

  20. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    RE: Oh Matt

    More smoke, Ash? The Dell articles listed are spread over several months and don't strictly deal with just the Dell Veso. Yet you managed two articles in two days hyping the Sun's latest x86 efforts like they were some radical technology breakthrough. In fact, I cannot see any new tech in them that is not available already from other vendors. And all this as the editor for The Register US. I assume that when IBM releases the next System X refresh, or HP does a refresh of any ProLiant, they will receive the same free personal advertising, whether they actually bring anything new to the game or not?

    Surprisingly, you missed the opportunity to do so for the new HP c3000 blade chassis, that task was given to Austin Modine, and only a single article. And only one Clay Rider (not even a Register hack) article for IBM's x3755 in August last, which was arguably as big a move for IBM as the x4450 is for Sun, but again no mention of the box from yourself until IBM announced they were to support Solaris on it. Is your marticle service going to be available to FSC, Egenera, EMC, Uncle Tom Cobbley....? Do they have to have a Sun interest before they can gain your attention?

  21. Ashlee Vance (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: RE: Oh Matt

    Watch out for the windmills, Matt.


  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    These will sell

    All they need now is a good channel program & Resellers will sell these all day long!

  23. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    Troll Watch

    " who has no appreciation for interesting stuffs like what it takes to cool a server with 2 120W cpus with 32 red hot FB-DIMMs with 8 disks and 6 IO slots in a small 2U chassis...." Well, at least I got the tech specs right - the x4450 is a four-socket server. And that kind of cooling work is nothing new, it's already done in blades (and that Tyan 1U 4-socket server - must keep in with the Tyan trolls, it's a union thing!!). So please explain what fresh ideas Sun has brought to the table, or I will have to bait you with statements like "RedHat Linux is a far more flexible and cost-effective solution than Solaris"....

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Sunbasher(was: Troll) watch

    Read the Tyan spec, you are comparing 4X 95W cpu with 16X DDR2 DIMMs with the 4X 120W CPUs and 32X FB-DIMMs for the Sun server - you know what that means ? Don't expect you have the wisdom, but still hoping....You just keep up your rant that HP is KING because they are the leader and Sun can never do anything better - that begs the question why you so much of a Sun basher.

    Cooling in a blade is pretty different than a closed rack server - but I don't expect you would know that. But there too, Sun blade systems can cool 12 10U blades each with 4X opteron and 32 DDR2. But I don't think you want to know that, do you ?

    "RedHat Linux is a far more flexible and cost-effective solution than Solaris" - Can't expect any other than a troll to put that bait, specially with all the OSes supported on the Sun servers, that comment has no relevance.


  25. John Stirling


    I think you're all silly.

    Actually the only revolutionary IT news is that someone wants to buy the COMMODORE brand, and reintroduce Amiga. It wIlL RocK and leave these others dead, even at 7 Mhz and 720k discs it's superior nature will trIUmPH.


  26. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    <Yawn> RE: Anti-troll droid

    You really should try reading the prior comments and a few tech articles before going into a frothing rant and hurling insults. I have already said the Sun boxes are interesting kit, just not the technical golden-bullets as implied by Ash's marticle. The x4450 uses Intel Xeon 7200 or 7300 CPUs. Please read up on the HP c-class blades, you will find that the BL680c 4-socket blade also uses the same (has done for a while). And cooling in blades is harder than racked servers, not the other way round, as blades are more dense. So your argument is both technically moot and displays your ignorance of other vendor's kit. In fact, if you had of known anything, you would have known that HP gives customers the option of either Opteron (BL685c) or Xeon (BL680) 4-socket blades, in the same chassis as Opteron (BL465c) and Xeon (BL460c) 2-socket blades, and in a choice of either a 10U (c7000) or 6U (c3000) enclosure. So, that's eight 4-socket dual-core servers or four 4-socket servers in the space you can put two x4450s or one x4450s, and less than the Sun b8000 chassis. That seems more dense and more flexible than Sun blades or x4450s. I'd put down comparisons for the IBM blades as well, but I really think you need to develop the ability to research other vendor's kit for yourself. Consider class dismissed, but please complete your IBM homework before you post any more replies. To paraphrase Ashlee, you'll be a better man for it.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For f###'s sake Matt!!!

    Jeez Matt, please just stop & look at your posts. Get a life, go to the pub, get laid, just stop bitching FFS!

    Whatever it takes just lighten up a bit and look in the mirror. You look to me like your plugging HP as well as you have accused the author of plugging Sun's kit. If your not trying to take it from me you seem to have an agenda.

    Personally I don't give a toss about either, will you just let it go and stop making an arse of yourself ? OK, how's about I agree with you, I hereby state I think all the HP kit is great unlike all that evil purple and silver Sun shite, we'll stand together against the Purple army of Sun marketing droids matt, come on, it's me and you buddy!!

    Seriously, let it go, you don't need the last word, do you ?

    I do!!! ;-)


  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How about some reading comprehension Matt ?

    Go read the HP blade spec and you would know who is ignorant. It's quite plain and simple you are an ardent HP supporter. Go read the HP blade spec, and check how they compare with the x4450. No one expects you know anything about doing an unbiased comparison, but go do it for your own sake - who knows it may help you to become a more learned man :-)

  29. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    RE: Irate Anonymous Sun Marketing Droid.

    Actually, seeing as you are still posting anonymously, I've decided to christen you Johnny. I'm saddened to see the quality of Sun droids is dropping off, Johnny, the models of yesteryear could at least mount a defence. But you can't hold a technical discussion, you simply revert to plan B and go to insults. Mind you, at least this time you did at least try for humour, of a limited kind (see, Ashlee, I warned you not to let the Sun droids write the jokes, they just can't do intentional humour.) Thank you for the concern over my sexlife, but I assure you it is quite replete. I assume that was a Freudian slip and something that is very high on your list of personal concerns? Don't worry, some day you'll get a date drunk enough and you'll get to pop your cherry, though please don't rely on your sense of humour otherwise you'd best use Rohypnol.

    Johnny, The Register is a website for the technically-minded, and the comments usually contain a mix of humour and technical discussion. You seem incapable of either. You didn't even fall for the trap in my last post, no doubt because it passed far above your head. So, you can't debate, your vocabulary needs expanding beyond the four-letter arena, and you have no tech knowledge. A simple example of this is that the new Sun x86 servers are not purple. Even the new APL servers are mainly silver with a sliver of blue. Johnny, you can't stand the heat, and you obviously can't cook, so please leave the kitchen.

    But I digress. This started over a question of Ashlee's impartiality. Ashlee, you still haven't produced anything to support your suggestion that the Sun kit in question deserves the byline "Fresh gear beats rivals".

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here's Johnny!!!

    Matt oh Matt, you went for the bait (and the poor sucker that I am means I'm responding) but I really do have to highlight your delusions, honestly, its for the best, your Doctor would agree. As much as this comedy tragedy provides amusement it's also a bit cruel to leave you in the paranoid dreamworld your sharing with us. I'll let you into a little secret (Shhhhh....) :

    There's more than one Johnny!

    I honestly only posted once & Matt, I really don't care about small fry x86. I work with Storage software so I'm not at all interested entering into a 16 year old geek fest comparison about CPU clock speeds or DDR3 or some crap. Lets face it, these are all small fry servers compared to the oomph in the latest IBM Power 6, a Superdome or a F25k without even mentioning the x86 general lack of redundancy features for live CPU / Mem / IO replacement and so forth. Different price, different market, probably a different purpose.

    You just hacked me off (and seemingly did so to plenty of the 'other' johhny's as well) with your hypocrisy, slating the author and then plugging away merrily for HP.

    I feel you answered the question re: if its really you who has the agenda, beating away for HP or the reseller unit your attached to ? Maybe this is like the Matrix for you, except its Matt surrounded by all the evil Johhny's that just can't be beaten! Can you do a superman Matt and fly vertically up ? That'd be cool!!

    So come on Matt, I challenge you to leave your nightmare infested world and don't take the last word. I'm a bad man and greedy one as well & I want it, come on Matt, leave this one for Johhny!!!!

    Won't tell anyone else you backed down, no-one but the Johhny's and Matt need know......



  31. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    Still no technical argument then?

    Dear Johnny, so you work in storage software? Strange that you'd get so riled up about a "Sun-bashing troll".... Try again. Oh, and please try a technical argument instead of more amatuer psychology. In fact, just try formulating an argumnet of any form as a start.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HP droid Matty goes here again

    Look who is preaching. Where are your arguments Mattyboy ? You keep avoiding arguments all over your posts. When comparing side by side rack servers, you say the HP 580 G5 is in a different category because it has 6 more disks and 5 more IO slots. When it comes to rack server density you shift to blades. And you find the DELL virtualization oriented server more innovative !! No doubt you have an agenda here, and that is bashing Sun and marketing for HP. The x4450 is just a rack denser and that's all ? If you want to argue, keep your arguments specific and precise.

    Well, nothing more is expected from a HP marketing fanboy, but keep trying.

  33. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    Matty's not a droid, Droid.

    Yeah, I marketed for HP by mentioning the Dell Veso, and IBM and FSC.... Darn, Mr Hurd is going to ask for my paycheques back!

    I'll give you a clue on the blades front - you can consolidate SAN and LAN into much less space than racked servers....

    I have posted the arguments, you have just posted insults. You are getting to be less than boring, I suggest you go sample some /. to learn about tech debates. Add it to your ever-expanding homework list.

    Class dismissed!

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