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November 17, 1995

SUN IS BACK ON THE ATTACK SETTING NEW PRICE-PERFORMANCE MARKS FOR ITS 64-BIT ULTRA 1 SPARC SYSTEMS

By CBR Staff Writer

Sun Microsystems Inc last week blew a new hole in the industry’s pricing model by setting tags for its 64-bit UltraSparc-driven Ultra 1 systems starting at $16,500 to $12,000 for volume deliveries while retaining binary compatibility with its existing lines (CI No 2,788). Sun Microsystems Computer Corp president Ed Zander assumed roll-out duties on behalf of Sun boss Scott McNealy, declaring Ultra’s floating-point and three-dimensional graphics power plus price-performance would seize back the workstation initiative for the company. The loss of a couple of percentage points from Sun’s (still) leading workstation market share has been attributed in part to SuperSparc’s weak performance. Zander expects Ultra to win back business, especially in the oil and gas, mechanical computer-aided design and visualisation industries and bring waverers back into the fold. He said Hewlett-Packard Co has no chance of meeting computer systems group vice-president and general manager Bernard Guidon’s promise to overhaul Sun in the workstation market by early 1997. As well as the three uniprocessor Ultra 1 models in the line, the company is also bragging about its first symmetric multiprocessing UltraSparc machine, the Ultra 2 Model 2200 with two 200MHz CPUs, tweaked to perform at 332 SPECint92 and 505 SPECfp92, or a couple of points ahead of Digital Equipment Corp’s highest-performing desktop, the 300MHz Alpha 21164-based 600 5/300 ZLXp-L2 (albeit a uniprocessor) rated at 503 SPECfp92 and 338 SPECint92. Sun, which also has a 182MHz UltraSparc in hand, said it will sample 200MHz microprocessors by year-end performing at 322 SPECint92 and 462 SPECfp92. Ultra 2 systems won’t ship in quantity until the second quarter of 1996, though limited deliveries are due sooner. It’s priced at $60,000 with 256Mb RAM, 4Gb disk, 20 screen and three-dimensional graphics against a similarly-configured DEC 5/300 at $67,000. Though Hewlett-Packard and Silicon Graphics Inc will have high-performance PA-8000 and R10000 systems out later in 1996, Sun expects to have 250MHz UltraSparc II systems in the chute by that time. Indeed Sun guru Bill Joy said that over the next year Ultra will scale from workstations under $10,000 to clustered parallel servers. UltraSparc-based commercial database symmetric multiprocessing servers are expected from next summer. The 140MHz Ultra 1 Model 140 with 32Mb main memory, 1Gb disk, TurboGX and a 17 colour monitor is rated at 215 SPECint92 and 302 SPECfp92 and costs from $16,500. The 167MHz Ultra 1 Model 170 is $23,000 with 64Mb RAM, 2Gb disk, TurboGX graphics and 20 screen. The Ultra 1 Creator3D Model 170E with 167MHz UltraSparc, 64Mb, 2Gb disk, 20 colour display and Creator3D graphics performs at 252 SPECint92 and 351 SPECfp92 and is priced at from $28,000. Sparcstation 20 users can upgrade by replacing the CPU enclosure, retaining their existing memory, disks and peripherals from $10,000.

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