Sun Announces Midframe Servers, IBM Roars Back

In March, Sun announced a new line of servers based on the Ultra Sparc III processor. The server line, named Sun Fire, is intended to redefine the profile of traditional midrange servers and lower the costs of uptime. Sun believes the line will put competitive pressure on HP, IBM and Compaq.

Sun calls the server line “Midframe” servers -- because they incorporate features from the traditional mainframe (robust and reliable) -- the four new systems will, according to Sun, deliver greater system availability, application performance, flexibility and investment protection. Standard features include redundant component interconnection technology (provided by the Sun Fireplane), the ability to dynamically split one system into multiple systems, duplicate hardware components and "on-the-fly" processor upgrades.

Like Sun’s Enterprise midrange servers, all the Sun Fire systems share a common system architecture and have interchangeable components. The server family includes the Sun Fire 3800, the Sun Fire 4800, the Sun Fire 4810 and the Sun Fire 6800. Pricing ranges from $73,195 to $250,995.

"It's more bad news for the competition. After a year in which IBM and HP threw everything they could at us, including old products with new names and new products with "super" names, we still took marketshare away from them. This time we're tearing into what those re-branded mainframe makers thought was their safe haven -- continuous up time, round-the-clock availability and investment protection -- and bringing it to customers who understand the value of a dollar," claims Scott McNealy, Sun’s Chairman and CEO.

IBM is calling Sun’s new midrange boxes “Big Iron envy,” claiming the new technology has no chance against IBM’s mainframe technology, citing in particular the z900 server and the fact that IBM now has Linux running on the mainframe. Meanwhile, IBM continues to hype its zOS, a new mainframe operating system.

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