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Sun Aims to Compete on Price, Performance, and Choice with New Product Lineup

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With the launch of several new hardware offerings this week — including a new version of its Starter Cluster for Bioinformatics — Sun Microsystems has vowed that it can outperform any of its competitors in the HPC market in terms of price/performance.

The product suite, which includes the company’s Sun Fire V40z server, new W1100z and W2100z workstations, and updates and lower pricing for the Sun Fire V20z server, also offers life science customers a range of HPC configurations that were not previously available from the company, according to Loralyn Mears, Sun’s segment manager for life sciences market development. Customers can opt for x86 or SPARC chip architectures; the Solaris, Red Hat, or Windows operating systems; and 32-bit or 64-bit platforms, she said — options that the company considers to be important for its life science customer base.

The company has also upgraded the Sun Fire Starter Cluster for Bioinformatics that it originally launched in March [BioInform 04-05-04]. The cluster is now based on the company’s V20z Opteron-based server, rather than Intel’s Xeon, and includes either Red Hat Enterprise or Solaris x86; N1 Grid Engine v6; a 12-port SMC Tiger 1000 Base-T Switch (up from 8 ports); and 2 146 GB SCSI drives in the head node with 36 GB SCSI drives in each compute node. The bundle also comes with Incogen’s VIBE workflow software, Gene-IT’s GenomeQuest sequence search software, BioTeam’s iNquiry application suite, and the BioBox suite of public bioinformatics tools co-developed by Sun and the Asia-Pacific Bioinformatics Network.

The new version of the cluster is priced a bit higher than the original release — an increase of around $3,000, to a list price of $25,317 — but Mears said the higher price is due to the new version’s additional features, supported operating systems, and additional memory.

Sun has, however, lowered the starting price of its V20z server by 33 percent, to $995. The company is also offering a promotion package for the V20z product line that includes a three-year support contract with a choice of entry-level or premium hardware configurations for $495.

In addition, the Sun Fire V40z server is available with Solaris and Java Enterprise System starting at $8,495. This system outperformed comparable Xeon MP servers by 76 percent, according to a SpecWeb benchmark. Mears said that this system is also priced 40 percent lower than comparable systems.

Finally, the company plans to extend its reach in the workstation market with two new Opteron-based systems — the W1100z and W2100z — that start at $1,995 and $4,695, respectively. The workstations come with the Java Desktop System running on either Solaris x86 or Linux. In a Blast benchmark, Sun said that the workstations running Solaris x86 performed 61 percent better than a Dell 650 Precision Xeon-based workstation running Red Hat Linux. The company said that the workstations also outperformed several other Xeon- and Opteron-based systems on a number of other benchmarks.

Mears said that Sun is currently working with several of its life science software partners, including Accelrys, to offer support for Solaris x86 on the new line of workstations. An initial run of the Charmm algorithm on the W1100 “just smoked,” she said.

— BT

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