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January 14, 1997updated 05 Sep 2016 12:07pm


By CBR Staff Writer

The next few days are going to be busy for Sun Microsystems Inc. Its second quarter results are due tomorrow and next week the company introduces new high-end commercial servers from its acquisition of Silicon Graphics Inc’s Cray SuperServer line, plus new storage subsystems, as well as fault-tolerant technologies from its IMP buy. The Cray-derived symmetric multiprocessing servers will accommodate up to 64 UltraSparc RISCs where Sun’s current high-end tops out at 30-ways. To spread out its news Sun yesterday introduced the first of its 64-bit UltraSparc II RISC designs, spruced up the lacklustre SparcStation 5 with Fujistu Electronics’ 32-bit TurboSparc follow-on to the microSparc II and a new cut of its WorkShop software development environment.

SMCC, not SME, introduces UltraSparc II

Interestingly it was Sun Microsystems Computer Co’s server group and not SME, the company’s Sun Microelectronics chip arm, which did the UltraSparc II honors, plugging 20 of the shiny new 250MHz parts, each with 1Mb cache, into an Ultra Enterprise 6000 server, powering the thing up to perform 18,438 TPC-C transactions per minute at a cost of $139 per tpmC running Sybase SQL Server 11.0.3. SME didn’t even know its hardware cousin was introducing a product based on its UltraSparc II chip until we called to ask why it wasn’t blowing its own trumpet, which it is fond of doing. There’s apparently some dysfunction between the SME and the other division. Sun claims the UltraSparc II-based system configuration outpaces all other single-node SMP configurations which have been put through their TPC-C paces – as opposed to clustered arrangements – including an eight-way DEC AlphaServer 8400 5/350 which does 14,227 tpmC. Sun claims the box outperforms single- node HP and IBM SMP systems by 50% and 200% respectively – and most clustered systems too. DEC’s AlphaServer 8400 5/350 cluster still sits atop the Transaction Processing Performance Council’s list of highest performing systems at 30,390 tpmC. The TPC-C benchmark simulates an on-line transaction processing order system for a warehouse. Compaq Computer Corp and other systems running NT and Microsoft SQL Server 6.5 dominate in TPC-C price/performance, though of the ten cheapest configurations benchmarked, only one can perform at more than 8,000 transactions per minute. The 250MHz part is the first cut of Sun’s UltraSparc II design, coming in above the 140MHz, 170MHz and 200MHz UltraSparc Is. The microprocessor is supposed to deliver around 50% better performance that its 167MHz UltraSparc I. An Ultra Enterprise 4001 server with a single 250MHz processor performs 9.74 SPECint95 and 11.7 SPECfp95 (29.3 SPECfp95 with 12 CPUs.) The 250MHz CPU modules will be available this month for all Ultra Enterprise 3000, 4000, 5000 and 6000 series servers and cost from $16,000, upgrades are from $12,000.

Fending off WiNTel

After slashing prices of its 64-bit UltraSparc workstations late last year in a bid to fend off the challenge from a new breed of Windows NT-based workstations built upon standard Intel Corp CPUs and peripherals being peddled by Compaq, HP, Intergraph and others, Sun’s also breathing some new life into its lackluster SparcStation 5 desktop. The mid-range unit currently sports Fujitsu Microelectronics Inc’s 32-bit 110MHz microSparc II RISCs and is being made over with Fujitsu’s new 170MHz microSparc II- compatible TurboSparc. Although said to offer twice the performance of the 110MHz models that 170MHz workstation’s performance is still rather weakly at some 3 SPECint95 and 2.75 SPECfp95. Priced at from $4,700 with 32Mb RAM and 2Gb disk it’s about a third cheaper than the 110MHz line. Upgrades from existing SparcStation 4s and 5s cost from $1,900. To further improve SparcStation 5’s attraction over the Wintel crowd, Sun is also offering the workstations bundled with its 133MHz 5X86-based SunPC Sbus card which enables users to run MS-DOS and Windows alongside Solaris, at $7,000 with a 20 color screen. An additional is raft of internet and Netscape web publishing software comes free with the box – it’s $100 to existing customers. Sun also claims to have enhanced the performance of its Netra NFS server by 17% with a new 1.1 version of the packaged NFS server software which includes Syntax’s TotalNet software for accessing multiple clients, plus new 4Gb disk drives. The Netra NFS 1.1 servers are priced from $24,100.

Sun increases workstation lead

According to market researcher IDC, Sun pulled further ahead of rivals HP, SGI, DEC and IBM in the Unix workstation market where it is king. IDC says Sun had a 41% 1996 market share in terms of number of units shipped (292,000), versus 38.1% in 1995. Second placed HP’s share fell from 21.7% (154,220) in 1995 to 19% (134,995) last year. DEC’s share also declined, while IBM and SGI improved their workstation sales. In revenue terms Sun’s share of the market climbed by 1.3% to 32%, representing $3.7bn or around half of the company’s total revenue. While IDC expects Sun to pick up server business from IBM and HP’s mid-range server markets as it expands its consulting and services capabilities it nevertheless expects the two to continue to dominate that space. Sun currently lags HP in the Unix server marketplace. IDC also expects NCR, now free of Ma Bell, to achieve renewed and profitable growth. Sun’s second quarter numbers are due tomorrow. First Call’s average of 23 brokers’ estimates suggests the company will report earnings of $0.42 per share, up 31% on the $0.32 it did in the same period last year.

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SunSoft revs WorkShop tools

Not wanting to miss the occasion, Sun’s software arm, SunSoft, is kicking a cuts of its WorkShop software development environment into the festivities. Sun Visual WorkShop C++ 3.0, Performance WorkShop Fortran 3.0 and WorkShop Teamware 2.0 for code management are each now available priced at from $3,500 per seat for the WorkShops and $1,300 per seat for TeamWare. The new WorkShops can now make use of multiple processors distributed over a network and include additional graphical browsing tools, a wider choice of editors and a fast GUI application builder.

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