Sun Microsystems has overhauled its server portfolio in the past year or so, and much of that effort has been targeted at two ongoing trends in the IT industry -- multicore processors and virtualization. On Tuesday, Sun will announce a multipronged approach to enabling greater performance on new platforms using virtualization technologies.
Sun has gained new momentum by adding x86-based servers to its lineup, but it's still its Sparc-based systems that are generating the bulk of its server revenue. To keep those systems in a leadership position, Sun is introducing enhanced virtualization technology for its UltraSparc T1 CoolThreads servers that will let customers run up to 32 applications simultaneously on a single processor today, and up to 64 next year.
"All of a sudden we are getting a lot of companies interested in figuring out how virtualization can help them reduce their power use," says John Fowler, executive VP of Sun's system group. "Virtualization is not a panacea, and can bring its own management problems. But virtualization is an excellent part of an overall IT strategy to attack problems from severe sprawl, to power usage, to software licensing, to systems administration cost."
Key virtualization enhancements to be unveiled by Sun include the availability of logical domains, or LDoms, for use on UltraSparc T1-based servers introduced late last year. The processor, code named Niagara, has eight cores each running four threads, providing the ability to run 32 LDoms on a single processor. Sun has announced it will introduce the Niagara 2 in 2007, which will have eight threads per processor, enabling 64 LDoms.
"I don't know that people would do that on a routine basis, but we're expanding the horsepower available to slice up into virtualized environments for either multiple copies of Solaris or other applications," Fowler says.
David Young, CEO of Joyent, a provider of e-mail and storage services, says he saw immediate benefits in moving to UltraSparc T1-based systems. With a customer base doubling each of the past two years, Joyent attempted to increase capacity at a co-location facility, but was told there was no available power.
Joyent consolidated a number of older Intel-based Dell servers onto 20 Sun servers. Each Sun server saved the company more than $1,000 per year in power and cooling costs, and generated an additional $1,000 per year in rebates from the utility provider.
"If I can save $4,000 a month, that's someone I else I can hire to improve our service to our customers," he says.
Sun is also announcing that it is shipping upgraded servers in its Galaxy product line that are powered by AMD's latest Rev F Opteron processors. Those Opteron processors include embedded, or hardware-assisted, virtualization capability.
Sun plans to hold two-day collaborative workshops to help customers figure out current business requirements, match them to specific technologies, and help determine deployment alternatives.
There will also be an expansion of Sun's services for virtualization, Fowler says. The services include consulting, education, and support to help businesses architect, implement, and manage virtualized IT infrastructure.
In addition, Sun is announcing support for VMWare ESX 3.0.1 on its Sun Fire x4600 Galaxy server and Sun Blade blade server systems.