Oracle continues hardware push with Sparc-based Sun Netra servers

Oracle has announced a new blade chassis and server for its Sun Netra server line. The one blade server is Sparc-based, which seems to jibe with Oracle pushing Sparc and de-emphasizing x86.

Oracle today announced a new blade chassis and server for its Sun Netra servers built for telcos in a move that continues the company’s emphasis on Sparc-based Unix boxes.

The 10U chassis, called the Sun Netra 6000, will be able to hold 10 blade servers. The one blade server Oracle announced was the Netra T6340, an UltraSparc T2-based two-socket blade running Solaris and maxing out at 256GB of memory. It includes compliance with the Network Equipment Building System (NEBS), a certification that involves features such as extra cooling fans to accommodate the wider temperature ranges NEBS requires. Oracle announced the chassis and blade today at a telemanagement forum in France today, saying the two items are available now. The company wouldn’t disclose a price, but it will be more than the regular 6340 blade, which is listed at about $15,000.

“It makes complete sense for them to continue selling to telco,” said Jonathan Eunice, founder and principal IT advisory for Illuminata. “Unix is typically very strong in telco, and Sun has always been strong there.”

Mark Butler, the director of product management for Netra Systems, said end users can expect more Netra and other blades from Oracle in the next 12 months, but he gave no further details, such as whether there would be only Sparc-based blades or x86 ones as well.

With the announcement, Oracle continues its push into the data center. On the hardware side, Oracle is clearly emphasizing Sun’s Sparc-based servers, and deemphasizing its x86 brand of servers. On a quarterly earnings call back in December, CEO Larry Ellison pretty well said as much.

"Sun just really does not now and is never likely to have the volume to compete in the high-volume, low-margin business of just selling an Intel server with Windows on it or Linux on it one at a time," Ellison told analysts.

The move is something of a departure for Sun Microsystems, which before the Oracle acquisition was focusing more on x86 commodity servers and open source. Oracle, being the big-margin company that it is, seems ready to close off that road for the most part. However, it is working to make the Netra line as close as it can architecturally to its enterprise line, presumably in an effort to streamline design and manufacturing costs. Butler, for example, cited how the depth of the enterprise and telco chasses are the same, and that they “tried to minimize any modifications.”

Whether that will translate to any cost savings passed down to the end user is anyone’s guess.

“Everywhere – in the military, the medical industry, telco applications – historically they said they needed specialized gear,” Eunice said. “But no one really believes that anymore. There’s not much you can say against the economics of commonality.”

Mark Fontecchio can be reached at [email protected].

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