12 August 2002 Systems and software vendor Sun Microsystems has confirmed it will use Intel processors for the first time in a range of low end servers, ending its long held strategy of only using its own microprocessors in its general purpose computers.
At the LinuxWorld conference in San Francisco, California Sun will unveil its Cobalt LX50 server, which will run its Solaris Unix operating system, as well as open source Linux operating systems, on Intel microprocessors. Earlier Cobalt branded devices have used Intel or processors from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), but these are designed for specialist purposes such as email serving.
Sun’s move is partially a result of strong customer demand for low-cost servers. Servers that run on Intel cost about half the price of devices that use Sun’s SPARC chips, according to analysts. In addition, the Linux operating system is effectively free, with users paying for manuals and support services and also able to modify the software without incurring additional charges.
Sun’s decision signifies a strategic defeat for the company. Previously, Sun CEO Scott McNealy has said that Sun’s UltraSPARC processors and Solaris software were the best platform for every kind of server.
McNealy has been adamant that Sun would never follow rivals Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Compaq (pre-merger) in using Intel processors for general purpose machines. By partnering with Intel, both companies had relinquished their technological independence and capability for innovation, McNealy has frequently said.
Sun was the last major hardware vendor solely to build general purpose servers based on non-Intel chips. IBM, Dell, HP and Unisys all supply Intel-based servers. IBM develops its own Power chips, but its commitment to its own processors has frequently been questioned.
Sun’s LX50 Server will run a single Intel Pentium III processor at 1.4 gigahertz and will cost $2,795 (€2,860). A two-processor machine will cost $5,295 (€5,420).