hpcqSun Microsystems’ recently announced Ultra Enterprise 450 Work Group server is a stiff competitor for Compaq’s ProLiant servers. The Enterprise 450 levels the cost-of-ownership issue against Windows NT/Intel (Wintel) servers, offers better performance, supports PC-client environments, and offers the resiliency of Solaris and scalability across Sun’s Enterprise server product line (which supports up to 64 processors in a symmetric multiprocessor/server configuration). Compaq’s ProLiant 7000 (see article, next page) is strategically positioned against the 450, but Sun’s 450 announcement is a bold strike against Wintel.

The Enterprise 450 is a robust midrange server. It supports up to four UltraSparc II processors, which use Sun’s UPA system bus; it has a peak speed of 1.78 GBps. This compares with 540 MBps for Intel’s Pentium Pro. A fast system bus lets multiple processors access memory faster, providing more efficient symmetrical multiprocessing.

The Enterprise 450’s I/O architecture is based on the PCI bus: It has six PCI buses, including three 66-MHz PCI buses, resulting in a peak I/O bandwidth of just over 1GBps. This is more than three times the I/O bandwidth of the Pentium Pro Intel servers, which support two 33-MHz PCI buses.

The Enterprise 450 is actually priced less than Compaq’s ProLiant 6000 and 7000 servers (see the table below). And Sun has taken care of third-party application software costs, which were a huge differentiator between midrange Unix servers and Wintel servers. Sun has negotiated a new workgroup-server pricing level for one- to four-way Sun Enterprise servers that levels the pricing differentiation for applications such as Oracle and Sybase. Third-party applications for Sun’s Enterprise 450 are priced the same as identical applications for Wintel servers.

Sun’s Enterprise 450 server provides more performance than the fastest Intel servers currently available for Windows NT 4.0 (see the table). Compaq has yet to publish a TPC-C result for the ProLiant 7000 for NT, but it claims 10,547 tpm for the ProLiant 7000 with four 200-MHz Pentium Pros running SCO UnixWare. Its price/performance result ($71/tpm) was not as good as Sun’s. Compaq is expected to publish a TPC-C result for the ProLiant 7000 running NT, which should have better price/performance–and maybe even better performance.

PC users can access their files transparently from any Sun server with Sun’s Solaris for Intranets, which ships with every Sun Enterprise server. Solaris for Intranets is also available for $1290 for Solaris Intel platforms.

Introduced recently, SunLink, a module of Solaris for Intranets, supports file systems for Windows 3.11, 95, and NT; Mac; NetWare; and MS LAN Manager. Print-sharing and file-sharing services for these clients are supported by SunLink. PC users can access their Microsoft Office files from Sun’s 450 without changing anything. SunLink is included with the Enterprise 450 server, but no additional client software is needed.

Sun has completely disguised Solaris from PC users, who can install the Enterprise 450 (or any Sun Enterprise Server) using any browser. Sun’s WebStart is an easy one-button installation that has options for customized configurations. Installation is no harder than it is for Compaq’s SmartStart.

The Enterprise 450 has many, but not all, of the Reliability, Availability, and Serviceability (RAS) features found in the Enterprise 3000, 4000, 5000, and 6000 servers. It comes standard with two (and an optional third) 560-W power supplies, which are hot-swappable. Sun’s 450 also supports hot-pluggable disk drives, thermal sensing, and four levels of system diagnostics.

Sun’s SyMON provides a complete set of on-line diagnostics. If a CPU or memory module fails, the 450 detects the failure automatically, takes the failed module off-line, and continues to process. But the system does not support on-line reconfiguration (as other Sun servers do), where a failed processor or memory module can be replaced, or a new module added, and the system can reconfigure itself without being taken down.

Short of supporting NT, Sun has done almost everything it can do to take on Wintel workgroup servers: It has eliminated price as a barrier and brings most of its enterprise capabilities to the workgroup server. The Enterprise 450 should gain market share against Sun’s major Unix competition (HP and IBM), whose Unix midrange servers lag far behind. For mixed Unix and NT environments, Datapro recommends that customers evaluate both Sun and Compaq (and other Wintel platforms) for workgroup computing.