[A french version of this article has been published on LeMagit.fr]
Following its acquisition by Oracle, Sun is about to ditch its historical relationship with AMD. According to multiples sources reached by LeMagIT, Opteron servers have disapeared from Oracle’s x86 roadmap and the manufacturer seems decided to embrace an all Intel product line based on Xeon 5600 and Xeon7500 chips. Even at the hign end of its line, Oracle is about to replace its flagship X4640 by a new octo-socket server based on Xeon 7500 CPUs.
If information gathered by LeMagIT from various resellers and customers is true, Oracle is about to rationalize its x86 server line to rely only on CPUs made by Intel, namely the Xeon 5600 and 7500 chips. Oracle has hitherto been very secretive about its intentions in the x86 server market. The company recently demonstrated an 8 socket server based on Xeon 7500 chips during Intel’s US launch, but has kept mum on its intention for the rest of its line.
Historically, Sun and AMD have had a priviledged relationship that dates back to the early work done by Andy Bechtolsheim and its team on Opteron Servers. But with Bechtholsheim gone, and the difficult situation that followed AMD’s botched launch of its Barcelona quadcore CPUs, Sun has growned increasingly confortable with Intel chips to the point that Oracle has reportedly severed ties with AMD.
It is probable that the already strained relationship between AMD and Sun did not weigh much faced to Intel’s latest server chips and the depth of its marketing and engieniering funds. In fact, several AMD officials that Lemagit has talked to recently acknowledged quietly that they knew little about Oracle’s plans, a far cry from 2 ar 3 years ago, when both companies were working hand in hand. Several Sun’s Customers reached by LeMagIT have recently been told by their resellers that AMD Servers are no longer on Oracle’s Roadmap and that they won’t be able to order more.
The switch to Intel chips is also about to affect the OpenStorage line historically build on AMD chips. The new (unannounced) Sun OpenStorage 7320 is expected to be based on a revised version of the Sun Fire X4170 server powered by Xeon 5600 chips, while the Sun Storage 7420 (unannounced) will built on the soon to be announced Sun Fire X4470 (a Quad-socket Intel Xeon 7500 server). These new storage array will support the new SAS 6 Gbit/s standard (today’s models uses the 3 Gbit/s version).
A new Octo-socket server based on Xeon 7500 chips
The current high-end x86 server from Sun, the 8 socket Sun Fire X4640 (AMD Opteron-based), is also about to be displaced. Oracle is about to launch a new 8 socket server which could be named Sun Fire X4800 (Under Sun’s usual naming scheme the machine should have been called the X4670). The X4800 will use an original design where all the processors are on separate daughter cards with their memory (a concept already used in today’s Opteron based X4640). This design will allow the administrator to hot-add and hot-remove CPU and memory resources to the server under Solaris and Windows Server 2800 R2 SP1.
Oracle makes no mystery that it has optimized Solaris x86 to take advantage of the advanced features of the Intel Xeon 7500 (see this white paper about optimizations made by Intel and Oracle). It is those optimizations that will allow the X4470/Solaris tandem to support the hot-add and hot-remove of processors and memory ressources. The job done jointly by Intel and Oracle on Solaris will also improve the diagnostic and self-healing capabilities of the OS thanks to the integration of the Fault Management Architecture (FMA) of Solaris with the diagnostic capabilities of the Xeon 7500.
With these advanced capabilities, the X4800 could be a formidable competitor for some of the sparc machine that Oracle has on offer. It could also be a worthwhile competitor for some of the recent Power7 machines launched by IBM and for the soon to be launched Tukwila Servers from HP.