Sun rolls out new workstation line, hijacks PC bus and ups storage offer (August 1997)

While Microsoft is fooling around taking a minority stake in Apple Computer, Sun is defending its corner with the release of new super strength workstations, the flagship Ultra 30 line of single-processor workstations.

The Ultra 30 Model 250 and Ultra 30 Model 300 feature new levels of CPU and graphics performance; up to 2MB external processor caches; enhanced UPA memory performance; and 40MB/second UltraSCSI disks. These systems are the first Sun workstations to feature Sun's new multiple-channel 33 and 66MHz PCI I/O buses borrowed from the PC world, and opening the Sun machines to the mass market of low cost, high performance peripherals. The Ultra 30 machines are available with a 250MHz or 300MHz UltraSPARC-II processor and support the Solaris operating environment. The Ultra 30 workstations are Sun's highest performance uniprocessor systems. The Ultra 30 Model 250 with 1MB external cache delivers a SPECint95 (integer) of 10 and a SPECfp95 (floating point) of 14.9, while the Ultra 30 Model 300 with a 2MB external cache delivers a SPECint95 of 12.1 and a SPECfp95 of 18.3. The new machines maintain full binary compatibility with application software - existing applications will run on the new machines with no modification to software.

Far better than PC

"The new Ultra 30 workstations clearly illustrate the difference between Sun's power workstations and PC workstations, highlighting the fact that a systems company like Sun is far better at creating high performance workstations than PC workstation vendors like Compaq who primarily assemble technology" a bullish Ken Okin, general manager of Sun's Workstation Products division stated. Sun claims data transfer rates to the processor "three times faster than PC workstations" and support up to 2GB of DIMM memory, "far surpassing the memory performance of current PC workstations". The UPA architecture also enables data transfer to the graphics accelerator at up to 800MB/sec., "many times" faster than PCs. Sun's high-capacity memory/graphics system benefits workstation users by accelerating throughput for compute-intensive and graphics or image-oriented tasks. In addition, the Ultra 30's new modular design protects customer investment by enabling users to upgrade to faster processors easily and cost-effectively with a simple module swap.


Of particular interest to E&P applications is the new generation of Creator Graphics technology to which offers 100 percent compatibility with other current products in the Ultra Creator line, thus protecting customers' investment in applications. Creator Graphics is now significantly faster, supports higher resolution monitors and offers enhancements for video playback performance. Sun is also announcing a new 24" monitor featuring an enhanced High Definition Television (HDTV) aspect ratio (16:10) which enables users to view over two full-size 8 1/2 x 11 pages at a resolution of 1920 by 1200 pixels. The Ultra 30 workstations support up to two 24" monitors. The new Ultra 30 Model 250 and Model 300 workstations are available for immediate delivery. Quantity one (1) pricing begins at $16,495 for the Model 250 and at $21,495 for the Model 300.

New bus and Gigabit Ethernet announced

The Ultra 30 builds upon Sun's traditional architecture with the addition of support for the industry-standard PCI I/O bus. Sun, known for its technical innovation, has not only embraced this standard but has strengthened it with the introduction of a 64-bit 66MHz PCI I/O bus for sustained high performance I/O. Sun will continue full support for its successful SBus interface options and systems while migrating future products to PCI I/O. Sun's Sbus, designed in 1989, will continue to be supported, but the way forward for Sun users is now PCI. Another industry first is the Ultra 30 workstations' support of the leading network connectivity solution, Gigabit Ethernet. With the Ultra 30's high-speed internal system architecture and Sun's PCI Gigabit Ethernet network interface card available this August, the Ultra 30 family offers superior network performance compared to existing PCI-based PCs using either 100baseT or Gigabit Ethernet network technologies. An ATM interface is to be added "at a later date".

Storage core business for Sun

Claiming 2 Petabytes of RAID storage installed worldwide, Sun is focusing on the near line storage market with extensions to its existing line of tape backup products using Digital Linear Tape (DLT - see PDM Vol.2 No.3). The Sun ETL 7/3500 and the Sun ETL 4/1800 are described as Sun's "most reliable, highest performance and capacity solutions" for back up of applications such as: active use databases greater than 200 GB in size; archival of important historical, financial or legal data; and Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM). HSM is of interest to the E&P community since is provides an alternative route to storing "awkward" data types such as large blocked seismic data. A single Sun ETL 7/3500 library can back up more than one terabyte (TB) of data in only eight hours in native mode. The libraries offer up to seven TB of capacity with 2:1 compression, accessible via up to seven parallel DLT7000 tape drives, providing a data transfer rate of up to 70 megabytes per second with 2:1 compression. In addition, the libraries reduce the ongoing cost of storage media by providing two million mean cycles between failure (MCBF) and a two year warranty on all library components to ensure reliable operation. The Sun ETL 7/3500 tape library has an entry price of $85,000 and the Sun ETL 4/1800 library has an entry price of $72,000.

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