Sun Takes Aim At The Mainframe
Ability to scale to 64 chips is key to SMP system
By _Mary Hayes_
Issue date: Jan. 13, 1997
Sun Microsystems on Jan. 22 intends to meet big-iron vendors head on by
introducing a series of mainframe-alternative products, including what the
company claims will be the most powerful Unix-based server on the market.
Sun will unveil the UltraEnterprise 10000, a symmetric multiprocessing
system that scales up to 64 250-MHz UltraSparc processors and handles more
than 20 terabytes of data. It borrows technology from Cray Research's
Solaris-based CS6400, which Sun acquired last year, and offers
mainframe-style partitioning. The system is designed for a networked
environment and runs popular Unix-based shrink-wrapped applications.
Says Ed Zander, president of Sun Microsystems Computer Co., "CIOs and IT
managers looking to off-load mainframes are going to find this is the machine
to run mission-critical, 24-by-7 applications."
Sun is also rolling out a series of storage products and integration
services in tandem with the UltraEnterprise 10000, or E10000. Pricing for the
E10000 starts at about $500,000 for a basic configuration.
The IT arm of American Airlines, Dallas-based Sabre Decision Technologies,
is installing an E10000 for a new application that uses mathematical
optimization techniques to analyze availability of 4,000 flights a day and to
price tickets based on demand, says Sabre VP Richard Ratliff. This could
help American add $100 million a year in ticket revenue. "The mainframe was
an option," says Ratliff. "[But] we wanted to build software we could run
anywhere in the world, and we wanted it to run on a good, cost-effective
"Clearly, Sun wants to be positioned as a solution provider from the desktop
up to the highest echelon of the computer environment," says analyst Jerry
Sheridan of Dataquest Inc. in San Jose, Calif. "I think it's too enthusiastic
to say they want to become the next IBM, but they can stand shoulder to
shoulder and say they offer comparable products."
But Dan Kaberon, manager of computer resource management with Hewitt
Associates LLC, a 401(k) administrator in Lincolnshire, Ill., doesn't believe
Unix servers can displace mainframes. "Trying to replace the [IBM] System
390 is stupid," he says.
Prospective customers say the clearest benefit of the E10000 is that
enterprise customers can run very large Unix applications without clustering
servers. Says Ratliff, "Our particular application works better with a
Sam Baty, CIO with Browning Ferris Industries Inc., a waste management
company in Houston, is evaluating the E10000 for SAP applications. "The
scalability is better than anything out there," he says.
The highlight of Sun's server architecture is Dynamic System Domain, which
lets users partition the system into multiple servers without rebooting. It
also prevents a software failure in one partition from affecting other
domains. The E10000 also uses a crossbar interconnect, Gigapane-XB, which
offers input/output bandwidth of up to 6.4 Gbytes per second.
Sun expects to offer upgrade boards with 300-MHz chips by year's end. With
additional reporting by _Martin J. Garvey_
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