Sun adds UltraSparc to open source strategy

NEW YORK — Sun Microsystems Inc. Tuesday announced a new project to open source its newest processor starting in the first quarter of 2006.

Called the OpenSPARC project, Sun is building on its 3.4 million registered licences of the Solaris 10 operating system and 10,000 registered OpenSolaris community members by opening up the UltraSPARC T1 platform to developers worldwide. Sun’s chairman and CEO Scott McNealy made the announcement at the company’s quarterly network computing event here.

“We think we’re five years ahead in this environment,” McNealy told customers, partners and press attending Tuesday’s event. “We want to drive open source to another level. We think about building the community around this architecture and being able to take it to other applications.”

As part of the project, Sun will publish specifications for the UltraSPARC-based chip, including a verification suite and simulation models and a Solaris OS port.

Tuesday’s announcement builds on Sun’s announcement last month that it is making the Java Enterprise System, Sun N1 Management software and Sun developer tools available at no cost for development and deployment.

Following on last month’s launch of its newest processor, Sun also announced a new server line that delivers five times the performance, one-fifth of the power consumption and one-quarter of the space of its competition. The Sun Fire servers are running on its 9.6 GHz Ultrasparc T1 processor, formerly known as “Niagara,” which was launched in November. Sun launched the Sun Fire x64 server line in September, which is one-quarter of the size, half the cost, 50 to 60 per cent faster and uses one-third of the energy compared with products from IBM and Dell, according to Sun.

In his keynote address, McNealy, uncharacteristically decked out in a navy blue suit, button-down white dress shirt and red tie, said “it’s all about cool new threads today.”

The Sun Fire T1000 and T2000 feature CoolThreads technology based on an eight-core, 32-thread processor.

McNealy said Sun is trying to change the market’s post-bubble perception of the Sparc processor that it was expensive.

“We do want to get fashionable again and we think we’re on target to make that happen,” he said.

Despite McNealy’s zeal, IDC’s worldwide quarterly server tracker showed in terms of overall server market standings that while IBM, HP and Dell grew their server revenues last quarter, Sun saw a 7.6 year-over-year decline to 8.7 per cent market share compared to IBM’s 32.3 per cent.

Looking to get back in the game, the new server line was designed with next-generation Web, application and distributed database systems in mind. With that, McNealy said the reason why Sun is launching the new Sun Fire line is because it is moving out of the Stone Age.

“The information age is history,” said McNealy, adding that trends like instant messaging and blogging are changing the Internet environment. “We’re entering this new participation age.”

By 2007, McNealy said there will be half a billion new participants on the Internet while at the same time three out of four people will not be connected to the Internet. On top of these changes, McNealy said enterprises today are facing environmental issues such as energy demand, rising energy prices and climate change as well as compliance regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley.

“Technology is going to be major player in addressing these matters,” he said. “Nobody can ignore the impact the computing environment has.”

Using half the power and space of competing systems by IBM and Dell, said Sun, the Ultrasparc T1 processor offers increased performance while saving companies energy and space. In addition to building more energy efficient products, Sun also recently announced a new eco-responsibility initiative to put pressure on industry counterparts to start thinking about wasting power and resources.

One of the challenges in lowering total cost of ownership is the escalating cost of energy, said Dr. Ken Edgecombe, executive director of the High Performance Virtual Computer Laboratory (HPVCL).

“If you can get the same processing power for the same price that uses less energy it’s a huge cost savings,” said Edgecombe.

HPCVL, which is based in Kingston at Queen’s University, is a partnership among Queen’s and four other post-secondary institutions including Carleton University, the University of Ottawa, the Royal Military College of Canada and Ryerson University. The lab, a partner with Sun for six years, is running Sun Fire E25K machines and Sun 6130 StorEdge arrays in the cluster. The high performance computing environment is used by students and faculty for research projects in math and science.

Edgecombe added HPCVL will be investing $10 million in new servers, upgrades and disk and tape storage from February to September 2006.

The Sun Fire T1000 starts at US$2,995 and the T2000 starts at US$7,795, but won’t be available until next year.

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