Sun Unleashes ‘Thumper’

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Sun Microsystems on Tuesday unveiled a storage system, blade system and a high-end server at a big media event at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.

All powered by AMD’s Opteron processor, Sun’s new systems start with the X4500, a four-way data server codenamed “Thumper” that is designed for high performance computing (HPC), virtualization and Web-tier applications.

Sun said it will pack the system with the highest density of storage available and “incredibly high data throughput” (2GB per second).

Up to 27 terabytes of storage are available in a 7-inch rack space. Even the entry-level system starts with a whopping 24 terabytes of storage.

The X4500 (prices starting at $32,995) grew out of project Sun had to build a video server and it can easily perform that function, said Andy Bechtolsheim, chief architect and co-founder of Sun Microsystems.

“We’ve also seen interest from people running open source databases, encryption and many other applications related to high performance computing,” he said.

The advantage for running open source, relatively unstructured databases is quicker search times. “At 2 gigabytes per second, you can scan the whole box in a few hours, something that would have taken days with other systems,” said Bechtolsheim.

“When I was first shown the potential behind project Thumper, it blew my mind,” said John Fowler, Sun’s executive vice president of the Systems Group. “Integrating storage and server solutions creates an efficient way of deploying high-bandwidth applications.”

“Storage has been incredibly siloed since the rise of the standalone storage products,” said Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff. “It’s a very intriguing product. What customers buy is applications and Sun needs to partner with some folks to show what this system can do.”

Bechtolsheim said the Tokyo Institute of Technology is already using fifty of the X4500s to, among other things, work with large media files in parallel. “This is the kind of system you need to collect every click on the Internet,” said Bechtolsheim.

Tim O’Reilly, the CEO of O’Reilly Media, was impressed enough with the X4500 to say, “This is the Web 2.0 server.” O’Reilly’s company coined the term “Web 2.0”.

Early access and beta customers such as Tokyo Institute of Technology, the University of Southern California and VeriSign have already tested the Sun Fire X4500 data server in their data centers. A number of Sun partners and independent software vendors have expressed their support for the new data server, including Agnostic Media, Front Porch, Greenplum, SAS and Symantec.

Sun said Solaris 10 features such as Solaris ZFS and Solaris Predictive Self-Healing for AMD Opteron-powered platforms simplify data management, detect and correct data corruption and boost reliability.

The Sun Fire X4500 server can also run many commercial Linux distributions.

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