Sun counts on AMD's Opteron to grow workstation business

Santa Clara (CA) - Sun today launched three new workstation models: There are two AMD Opteron models, which, the company hopes, will increase its target market. The third new workstation is based on the Sparc processor and isn't expected to reach many new customers: Instead, Sun believes the Ultra 45 will keep its existing 64-bit crowd happy.

Believe it or not, there is still a market for workstations out there and, according to Sun, it may gain traction again. Ranging from high-performance PC that are often used as entry-level workstations to high-end computers equipped with enormous amounts of storage, memory or graphics power to master very specific tasks, a new generation of workstations is set to differentiate itself from the everyday PC.

Sun claims that it still leads the Unix-based workstation market with a global share of about 60%. Rajesh Shakkarwar, senior marketing director of workstation products at Sun, told TG Daily that the company does not believe that its traditional workstation focus - Sparc-based systems - will an opportunity for growth anymore. Instead, Sun will use AMD's Opteron processor to attract new customers. "You can view this as a two-pronged approach," he said. "We are not forgetting our Sparc base. It is a stable, mature market. But x86 is moving rapidly to 64 bit and grows quickly."

Sun's new workstations include the Ultra 40, which can be ordered with up to two Opteron single- or dual-core processors, the Ultra 20 (one socket for an Opteron processor) and the Ultra 45, which offers space for up to tow Ultra Sparc IIIi CPUs. Prices start at $895 for the 20, $2295 for the 40 and $3695 for the 45. All models come preinstalled with Solaris 10.

Shakkarwar said that Sun's decision to offer Opteron-based systems is mainly based to the performance advantages the platform offers through its memory controller. The company also expects the technology to scale well over time. Sun and Intel never have been friends, but Shakkarwar mentioned that Sun would consider Intel processors for its workstations, if the chip manufacturer can offer "competitive products."