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Sun boosts new servers with flash memory

Sun Microsystems Inc. will test whether it can sell new servers at the same it is trying to sell the company.

Sun announced today six servers based on Intel Corp.'s Nehalem processors with technology it says can significantly speed application response: flash memory.

Added between the hard-disk drive and the main memory, flash memory ranging from 25GB to 50GB is said to allow the system to bypass I/O bottlnecks for rapid processing of table sorting, for instance, and fast boot-up.

Sun is selling four new rack-mountable servers — two sockets, and two blades — one with two sockets and the other four sockets. Sun has also developed a door that can cool server racks rated up to 35kw using either water or chilled gas.

Rich Partridge, an analyst at Ideas International Inc., said Sun had been a leader in utilizing flash technology in its products and had optimized its Solaris file system, ZFS, to take advantage of it.

Partridge said he expected customers would scrutinize Sun because of the company sale rumors, but that these new servers were industry standard systems that Sun had developed in “a combination that others don't offer yet, or offer to the same extent,” he said.

Customers do buy a company's technology even if they are uncertain about its direction. For instance, Silicon Graphics Inc., a much smaller company than Sun, announced in February a $40 million deal with the U.S. Department of Defense to buy technologies it was producing based on Nehalem chips. Two months later, SGI was sold to Rackable Systems Inc.

SGI focused on the high-performance computing (HPC) market, something Sun is also aiming at, but not exclusively, with this offering. But such users may be less likely than most to pay attention to prospects of a sale and are more focused on what the technology can do, said Jean Bozman, an analyst at IDC. HPC customers “are looking for the fastest thing they can use,” Bozman said.

The prices on is rack mounted servers, the Sun Fire x2270, x4170, X4270 and X4275, range from $1,488 to $3,645. Pricing wasn't immediately available on the other products.

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