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Sun shoots for Galaxy

AMD Opteron-based machines gets some big channel support from EDS Canada, but an industry analyst raises issues of backward compatibily with 32- and 64-bit systems

Sun Microsystems Inc. has extended its reach into 64-bit computing with the launch of a server line for the enterprise it says is faster, smaller, more energy-efficient and less expensive than its competitor’s machines.Called Galaxy and powered by Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s Opteron chip, Sun is touting the servers as the fastest systems in the world.
“This is a horse race and things will change,” said David Lawler, director of network systems group at Sun. “We have the same suppliers as our competition, but we have to architect our product better than others’.”

A three-city tour
Lawler was one of three presenters an event in Toronto, the third stop on Sun’s Canadian marketing tour.
Sun and AMD, however, must exercise caution when getting users to switch from 32- to 64-bit systems, said Alan Freedman, research director for infrastructure hardware at IDC Canada.
“Sun and AMD have learned their lesson,” said Freedman. “Customers had to make a complete sway in the past.”
With that in mind, Galaxy servers are backward-compatible, meaning they can run 32-bit code natively on x64 systems, allowing customers to hang on to older applications until they are ready to upgrade. However, Freedman said that customers will eventually have to adopt 64-bit drivers to see performance improvements in their applications.
Sun is targeting the systems — which include the x2100, the x4100 and the x4200 servers — at enterprise-level customers such as consulting firm EDS Canada. EDS provides mainframe, data centre, help-desk and desktop services, application maintenance and development, business process outsourcing and transformation services to businesses worldwide.
EDS’s services strategy has evolved over the years from a custom management module to a leveraged facility in the last couple of years and, most recently to a utility model, said David Woelfle, chief architect at EDS Canada.
“Our clients want us to take the capital out of the equation,” said Woelfle. “With x64 we now have the opportunity to get to a modular approach to get rid of proprietary systems.”
With the launch of Galaxy, Sun is offering support across multiple platforms other than its own Solaris operating system.
These include Linux distributions from Red Hat and Suse, VMware, and Microsoft Windows.
In April 2004 Sun and Microsoft signed a historic 10-year collaboration deal and have since announced several projects including single sign-on and Web services management.
Sun’s support for a variety of platforms was one of the main reasons EDS Canada chose to go with its products, said Woelfle.
“Sun’s support for OSes allows us to take advantage of the z-OS workload as an alternative to running on a mainframe,” said Woelfle, adding that he doesn’t anticipate Sparc going away any time soon.
And neither is Hewlett-Packard’s PA-RISC, which was replaced by its Itanium line. RISC-based machines continue to account for 34 per cent of the hardware infrastructure market, said Freedman.
“There’s still a market for RISC Unix servers, but the transition is underway,” he said.
By 2009, however, the majority of x86 revenues will come from 64-bit systems, he said.