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Volume 5, Number 20 -- May 20, 2008

New and Updated Barcelona Boxes Debut from Sun

Published: May 20, 2008

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

In an effort to expand its footprint in the X64 server space and use every advantage it can bring to bear on customer sales, server and operating system maker Sun Microsystems last week officially rolled out an updated "Galaxy" X64 server line based on the "Barcelona" quad-core Opteron 2000 and 8000 series. The revamping of the Galaxy line includes three new machines, two of which are akin to existing designs already launched using Intel Xeon processors, as well as updates to two existing Galaxy products.

The two Opteron servers are the Sun Fire X4140, a 1U, two-socket box, and the X4440, a 2U, four socket box. According to David Simmons, senior product line director for X64 servers at Sun, the machines are basically the same chassis as the already-launched Sun Fire X4150 and X4450 servers. The big difference is that the Opteron machines use chipsets from nVidia while the Xeon boxes use chipsets from Intel itself. The X4140 and X4150 machines have room for up to eight 2.5-inch SAS drives (six with a DVD drive), and have four Gigabit Ethernet ports and three PCI-Express slots; the X4140 supports up to 64 GB of main memory using 4 GB DIMMs. The X4440 is a taller two-socket box that has the same eight or 10 2.5-inch SAS drive slots, but it supports up to 128 GB of main memory using 4 GB DIMMs. That extra space is for cooling the memory and presumably to allow faster and hotter chips to run more comfortably.

The truly new box that Sun announced last week, the X4240, is a variant of the X4440 chassis that puts a tiny air intake grill front and center at the top of the machine and then allows customers to plug as many as 16 of the 2.5-inch SAS drives into the front of the chassis. (The X4440 has the grill across the whole top of the box.) Other than this, the motherboard seems to be the same as used in the X4440.


The Sun X4240 "Galaxy" Quad-Core Opteron Server

According to Simmons, Sun has been quietly taking orders and shipping for these three Barcelona boxes for a number of weeks, but as we go to press, Sun's online store does not yet include pricing for the new boxes when using the quad-core chips; pricing is available for dual-core "Santa Rosa" Rev F Opterons, but few people will care for these chips now that the Barcelonas are shipping for real. (I am working on a massive X64 server comparison right now and will lay it all out for you as soon as I get done.)

Sun is also plunking the Barcelona chips, which are socket-compatible with the dual-core Rev F chips, into a number of existing machines. The stripped down X2200 M2 server, which is a bare-bones two-socket box that uses the Opteron 2000 series chips, can now use Barcelonas. This machine is a few years old, but the design is still a good one for customers who do not need a lot of disk storage. (It only has two 3.5-inch SATA drive bays.)

Also, the high-end X4600 M2 server, which was updated for the dual-core Opteron 8000 Rev F chips last year, is getting a new set of processor/main memory cards for the Barcelona chips. The X4600 is interesting in that it is a NUMA cluster created from one to eight single-processor daughter cards that plug into the motherboard--the only server design of its kind. Simmons says that Sun is currently building daughter cards using the Barcelona chips and DDR2 main memory, and that this machine should ship before the end of the second quarter. The X4600 M2 is a 4U rack server that has four SAS drives and a DVD stacked vertically on the right side of the box and the rest of the front open to let in lots of air. The update of this machine, which Simmons called "Vortex," will also be available to customers who bought the prior two generations of X4600 machines through field upgrades. Customers can do the upgrades themselves, or they can pay Sun or its reseller partners to do it.

The X4500 "Thumper" storage server was not updated with Barcelona chips last week, and that may not be necessary considering that ZFS and the other storage features of Solaris Unix do not consume a lot of computing resources compared to applications. Sun has not yet delivered a plain-old four-socket Barcelona box, but that is coming later this year, and has not yet updated the X2100 with quad-core Opterons, since AMD is not yet shipping the quad-core "Budapest" Opteron 1000 companions to the Barcelonas (but is expected to by the end of the second quarter). Sun does not yet offer a single-socket X2100 equivalent that using Intel processors, and Sun has shown very little inclination to do so.

The company also does not offer tower-style servers, but may want to reconsider that notion if it really wants to take on Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM in the small and medium business space. Imagine if Sun took its tight packaging and energy efficiency to a tower box. . . .

All of the Galaxy servers support Solaris 10 Unix, Linuxes from Red Hat and Novell, and Windows Server 2003 from Microsoft. Windows Server 2008 does not seem to be certified yet on the Galaxy boxes, but that is sure to change pretty quickly and does not mean Windows Server 2008 will not run on the machines.


RELATED STORIES

AMD Revises Opteron Roadmaps, Pushes Out Rev Gs

Server Makers Start Shipping Barcelona Boxes

AMD to Slash 10 Percent of Workforce Amid Sales Shortfall

AMD Says Barcelona Bug Is Fixed, Almost Ready to Ramp

AMD Stalled by a Bug in Barcelona Opterons

Intel Announces First "Penryn" Xeon Processors

AMD Gets Aggressive About Watts with Quad-Core Barcelonas



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