Sun Announces New Rack Servers, Linux Partnership

McNealy reveals joint initiative with Oracle, Red Hat alliance

Sun Microsystems Inc. this week announced a new line-up of Intel-based rack-optimized servers designed to run either Solaris x86 or Linux. The Unix giant also touted a new partnership with Linux vendor Red Hat Inc.

At the same event, Sun deepened its ties with Oracle Corp. The two companies disclosed plans to support Oracle’s software on its SPARC-based Solaris, Solaris x86 and Linux hardware.

Sun was slow to embrace Linux and is relatively late to the red-hot rack-server market. Sun introduced the Sun Fire B100s Blade server — which fits into a 3U chassis and supports up to 16 blades — in February 2002. CEO Scott McNealy acknowledged during Monday’s event: “We did not exactly jump on the 32-bit low cost bandwagon early—but we're jumping on it big now.”

Sun representatives have downplayed the importance of rack servers and de-emphasized the role of Linux, consigning the open source operating system and its own Solaris x86 environment to “edge of network” applications. During Monday’s event, McNealy at last conceded that small servers have a place in today's data center. “No, we’re not abandoning the high-end, but we think that the world will be made up of high-end, midrange, and small components all integrated based on what the customer wants,” he said.

In this respect, the new Intel-based servers that Sun introduced on Monday represent a reversal-of-course for the Unix stalwart. Available at $2,450 and $2,650, respectively, Sun’s new 1U V60x and 2U V65x servers are outfitted with 2.8 GHz and 3.06 GHz Xeon MP processors and can be configured with either Solaris x86 or Red Hat Linux.

Sun’s existing Intel-powered system, the LX-50, is available for $1,995.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison joined McNealy on stage at the launch event. Together, the chiefs touted a joint initiative to market low-cost Oracle and Sun solutions based on the latter company’s servers. Oracle’s 9i Release 2 database, Real Application Clusters, Application Server, Collaboration Suite, and e-Business Suite are included in the deal. The new program will also exploit Sun’s iForce partner centers, along with Oracle’s Technology Centers, and will involve the efforts of ISVs and other solution partners.

McNealy also trumpeted a new partnership with Red Hat, saying his company will offer customers the option of running either Solaris x86 or Linux on Sun’s Intel-based systems. Red Hat will offer Sun’s Java Virtual Machine with its Enterprise Linux product. Early last month, Sun abandoned its plans to develop a Linux distribution of its own (

But the Sun CEO’s endorsement of Red Hat may have been less than full-fledged, largely because he undercut the Linux vendor on at least one occasion and twice appeared to cultivate fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) about Linux. For example, McNealy pushed the fact that Sun offers both Solaris x86 and Trusted Solaris x86 for free to customers: “If you don’t want that, you can go buy Red Hat, and they’ve got their own price list.”

The Sun chief wasn’t above FUD-slinging, either. “If there’s stolen copyright code in an operating environment,” he said, referring to SCO Group’s allegations about Linux, “somebody’s going to deal with it. I don’t know if at some point other companies are going to have to send out a note saying, ‘If you’ve got this operating environment, delete it,’ [but] we don’t think you’ll have to do that if you’re running Solaris on x86 and SPARC.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.