Sun/Dell pact expands hardware choices for Solaris

Last week Dell Inc. announced that it would sell and support servers with Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Solaris operating system. So when a federal agency needs a Solaris server, should they buy from Dell or Sun Federal?

It comes down to your hardware needs, said Bill Vass, president and chief operating officer of Sun Federal, in an interview with GCN.

Faced with the choice of where to buy a Solaris box, you should figure out how much you want to spend and then compare the hardware choices from the two companies at that price, looking for the one with performance characteristics that match your needs, he said.

Dell would also be more desirable for shops that already heavily use, or prefer, Dell hardware.

With the announcement, Dell executives promised that they would offer the company's PowerEdge servers with Version 10 of Sun Solaris. Dell and Sun will also collaborate on system certifications based on that offering.

Although Dell will offer first-tier support, the thorny support questions will be passed along to Sun, Vass said.

With this deal, Sun Federal is, in effect, competing with Dell to offer Solaris. The subsidiary is playing up the strengths of its hardware. Vass said the more a potential customer is worried about needs such as multithreading and power consumption -- both of which tend to be more critical items in enterprise-size deployments -- the more the customer should consider buying Solaris on a Sun server rather than on a Dell model.

Vass said the company's servers with Solaris UltraSparc T2, or Niagara, processors can run up to 64 threads at one time, allowing for consolidation of tasks and lower-cost operations.

In contrast, the largest Dell PowerEdge servers come with up to four 64-bit Intel Xeon 7100 series processors, which would offer 16 threads.

Vass also claimed that because the UltraSparc runs at a lower clock speed than current x86 processors, such as the Xeon, it uses less power. In addition, servers can be packed together more tightly because they don't run as hot, saving on space.

Even Sun's Intel offerings can save on power and space, Vass said.

"Our eight-socket server running Intel is half the height of the Dell [server] and [uses] about 20 percent less power," he said.

Dell offerings would also be desirable for shops that are more comfortable working with Dell servers, he said.

The Sun/Dell deal is one of a number of recent partnerships. Earlier this year, Intel announced that its white box servers would have the option of shipping with Solaris installed, Vass said. IBM has started selling Solaris across its platforms and plans to include Solaris as an option with its PowerPC and mainframe hardware. The company will also start offering Sun's UltraSparc chips on its blade servers.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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