Sun's New Opteron-based Workstations

5 Feb, 2006 By: Sara Ferris

Dual-core and dual-processor capable option offers choice of operating systems

Sun Microsystems Ultra 40
Sun Microsystems' new Ultra 40 workstation can accommodate two dual-core Opteron 64-bit processors. If that's not enough computing power, it comes with software that enables multiple Sun workstations to work together in a grid configuration.
Last Monday, Sun Microsystems announced new workstations based on AMD Opteron single- and dual-core processors. Rajesh Shakkarwar, a senior director at Sun, briefed Cadalyst on the details. He notes that the Sun/AMD alliance is proving fruitful -- Sun has shipped more 64-bit Opteron systems than any other vendor.

Of particular interest to users of CAD and engineering software is the Ultra 40 ($2,295+), which is dual-core and dual-processor capable and offers a choice of operating systems: Solaris 10, Linux and Windows 64-bit XP. Shakkarwar notes that Sun is seeing more interest in Solaris now that PTC plans to port Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 3 to that operating system later this spring. The starting price covers one AMD Opteron 246 processor, 1GB memory, one 80GB serial ATA hard drive, an entry-level NVIDIA Quadro graphics card and the Solaris 10 operating system.

The Ultra 20 is an entry-level dual-core unit with a starting price of $895, which buys you one AMD Opteron 144 processor, 512MB memory, an 80GB serial ATA hard drive and an ATI 2D graphics card.

The Ultra 45 is a SPARC-based UNIX system. Both the Ultra 40 and 45 ship with Sun N1 Grid Engine 6 software, which enables multiple workstations to work simultaneously on demanding tasks such as analyses and renderings. The number of workstations that can be incorporated into a grid is limitless.

Early-access customer Siemens Power Generation has been testing single- and dual-core Sun Ultra 40 workstations on its structural and computational fluid dynamics simulations.

"We are extremely impressed with the functionality and stability of the Sun Ultra 40 Workstation," said Wayne Johnson, senior system engineer of Siemens Power Generation. "Running both the Solaris 10 OS and Linux on the Sun Ultra 40 Workstation has vastly improved our performance and analysis times, which enables us to do more in less time and has resulted in more robust designs with shorter design cycles. I can see how the features and benefits of the new Sun workstations will be invaluable to any company involved with MCAD or visualization."

The Ultra 40 features four PCI Express slots, with support for NVIDIA SLI technology that enables two graphics cards to work as one. An assortment of NVIDIA Quadro cards is available, ranging from 2D to ultrahigh-end 3D. Shakkarwar says that SLI is still in the early stages of adoption, with most interest coming from the oil and gas exploration market segment.

According to Sun, the Ultra 40 is as much as 39% quieter than the HP xw9300 workstation. The power supply is 1000W.

In Sun's testing, the Ultra 40 workstation, with two Opteron 254 processors, posted record score on the Pro/ENGINEER OCUS benchmark, and the Ultra 20 aced the SPEC APC SolidWorks 2005 benchmark.

About the Author: Sara Ferris

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