Sun Adds Features for Performance, Stability


Sun Microsystems Inc. has added a number of enhancements to its midrange and enterprise server lines that improve the performance or stability of the machines.

Today, Sun said it now offers a 1.05 GHz UltraSparc III processor on its midrange and enterprise servers. According to Alison Harapat, product line manager for enterprise systems at Sun, servers with the faster processor can see a 15% performance boost compared to machines with the older 900 MHz processor.

Customers can of course purchase new machines using the new processor, but they can also upgrade some older machines to use the new chip. In the past, customers needed to isolate different processor speeds, but the introduction of the 1.05 GHz processor brings the ability to mix-and-match processor speeds. “They can actually reside in the same domain,” Harapat says.

Sun’s midrange and enterprise lines offer the ability to divide server resources into a number of Dynamic System Domains, which are similar to logical partitions on the mainframe in a number of ways. Each domain contains a unique installation of Solaris and is fault-isolated, so if one domain crashes, other domains on the same server can continue running. Moreover, domains can be resized and reconfigured while the system is running.

Previously, only like processors could run in the same domain; the new capability gives enterprises the ability to add faster processors to an existing domain and bring them online without rebooting the machine. Sun’s midrange and enterprise servers use “uniboards,” which carry up to four processors, plus memory, that can be hot-swapped. Harapat says this capability ensures customers’ server investments remain viable through multiple iterations of processors.

Sun isn’t the only Unix vendor to give its servers a speed bump. Hewlett-Packard Co. said last week it had begun to integrate its latest PA-8700+ PA-RISC processor into its midrange and entry-level machines. The 875 MHz chip was introduced into the high-end Superdome line earlier this summer.

Last week, Sun also added two new features to its Sun Fire 3800, 4800, and 5800 “midframe” machines to enhance the stability and uptime of the systems.

The first feature, Autorecovery, is an automated failover feature. Customers can download new firmware for the machines’ system controllers that allow the controller to detect a failing domain and switch over to a redundant domain that is online. “It’s closer to High Availability, like you would see in a telecommunications environment,” says Chris Kruell, group marketing manager at Sun.

Failover clustering is an established practice in Unix environments, but machines needed special software installed in the domain to handle failover events. The system controller and its firmware is independent of any operating system installations, so the new feature introduces a greater degree of reliability into the system.

The second new feature, proactive self-recovery, collects data from key components, such as processors, memory, and power supplies and monitors activity. If the system detects unusual behavior, it compares it against profiles of good and bad states and diagnoses the issue.

About the Author

Chris McConnell is Product and Technology Editor for Enterprise Systems.