Sun Adds Features for Performance, Stability

Several enhancements are made to Sun's midrange and enterprise server lines.

Sun Microsystems Inc. has made several enhancements to its midrange and enterprise server lines that improve the performance and stability of the machines.

Sun said it now offers a 1.05GHz 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 percent performance boost compared to machines with the older 900MHz processor.

Customers can, of course, purchase new machines using the new processor, but they can also upgrade many older machines to use the new chip. In the past, customers needed to isolate different processor speeds, but the introduction of the 1.05GHz 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 several 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, keeping customers’ server investments viable, according to Harpat.

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

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

The second new feature, Proactive Self Diagnostics, collects data from key components, such as processors, memory and power supplies, and monitors activity. The system compares unusual behavior against profiles of good and bad states and diagnoses the issue.