The Solaris on Intel initiative effectively died yesterday as one of its biggest advocates, Fujitsu Siemens, endorsed a non-Intel server architecture.
Fujitsu Siemens is shipping Solaris servers running one to eight Sparc processors, which will be joined by 32-64 processor servers in the first half of next year and a 128 processor model in the second half of 2000.
But these are not Sparc as in the belated Sun Ultrasparc III; this is a Sparc chip designed by Fujitsu Japan.
Fujitsu Siemens, together with other Unix vendors like HP and SGI, have been ringing the death knell for their Risc platforms, plotting a roadmap converging on Intel's IA-64 architecture. But continuing delays to the IA-64 line and a lack of confidence that Intel's chips will be successful in the high-end enterprise space has left vendors scrabbling to prolong the life of their Risc server lines.
Until yesterday the German giant had been telling its Reliant Unix on MIPS customers that the future was Solaris on Intel's IA-64. One insider claimed Siemens had been planning a Risc line, before the Siemens Fujitsu merger was on the horizon.
The vendor admits that it has been hard to convince additional customers to buy RM, but it does not expect IA-64 to be ready for enterprise computing until 2002.
Dr Joseph Reger, vice president strategic marketing of Fujitsu Siemens, said: "This is not a stopgap, it is not a temporary solution. [This Sparc server line] is here to stay."
Despite the announcement, the vendor claimed that it had not moved away from supporting its RM line until 2002, nor had it moved from Solaris on IA-64 as the migration path for those customers.
"Existing customers are not expected to replace RM with Solaris on Sparc. This is for new customers," he claimed.
Fujitsu Siemens will use a Fujitsu designed variant, GP7000F, instead of the Sun chip which has been plagued by delays. And according to analysts Gartner, Ultrasparc III servers should not be expected before the second half of next year.
Meanwhile, Fujitsu Siemens is claiming a 30 per cent performance advantage over Sun's ageing Ultrasparc II architecture. These claims are made with a GP7000F 300MHz and the vendor has plans to progress to 1000MHz by Christmas next year.
Reger is also promising potential customers an easy upgrade to 1000MHz, unless there are any unforeseen technical hitches - unlike the box swap that faces Sun's customers as they move to Ultrasparc III.
Next year's 32-way uniform memory architecture (UMA) box and the 64-way non-uniform memory architecture (NUMA) box can be dynamically partitioned using a crossbar switch technology borrowed from the Siemens BS200/BSD mainframe (which, incidentally, the company is still intending to migrate to Intel architecture).
Partitioning allows customers to run different databases and applications on the same machine, but the Sparc machines will only enable partitioning of Solaris. For partitioning of Solaris with NT, Linux and BSD customers will have to wait for a high-end Intel IA-64 machine.
IBM/SCO Monterey will begrudgingly be offered on IA-64, but only as a shrink-wrapped operating system, not as part of the enterprise offerings. Reger admits however that Monterey is more enterprise-like today than the infantile Linux.
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