Sun Rolls Out Galaxy 2

Posted on September 26, 2007

As I’m sure most of you have seen by now, Sun has introduced 2 new systems to the X86 lineup: the X4150 and X4450. These systems are exciting for 3 very big reasons:

  1. These systems represent the first in the second generation of Galaxy. Remember, the M2 versions of the first Galaxy lineup were “product refreshes”. These are all new.
  2. These systems represent the first fruits of the Intel partnership. The fact that Sun’s systems architects now view the Intel processors as viable is a big nod to Intel’s hard work, partnership or not.
  3. These systems represent the first all out, full frontal attack on Dell and HP.

Let me expand on this last point. Sun has, for more years than I can recall, believed that bulk storage doesn’t belong in the rack server. (I’m considering Thumper as a storage device, not a rack server.) Drive counts have been small or in many of the SPARC systems, non-existent. Here and there we’d see a system introduced with optional disk trays (E450 and E3500 come to mind) but these systems were oddities on the landscape. The unspoken wisdom was that bulk storage belonged in a proper storage solution, such as SCSI trays or FC arrays, storage and server are separate entities and internal disk is about the OS, swap, and small local applications.

While this design philosophy resonated well within the Sun user-base, by and large, the consumers of Dell and HP systems turned up their noses and demanded higher drive counts. If you only need 1TB of disk why would you resort to an external solution when Dell and HP systems commonly offer sufficient internal storage? A silent war has brewed in the walk ways of data centers for years and years. But today it ends…. these systems offer 8 internal 2.5″ 10K RPM SAS drives. With stock disks coming in 73GB or 146GB, and the ability to purchase larger drives on the open market.

So finally we have systems to go toe-to-toe against Dell 2950 and HP DL360, two of the most prevelent X86 systems in data centers today. In the U1 space the X4150 has as many drives or more (DL360 only has 6 SAS drives), and beats out both by having double the memory capacity. On top of it all, I firmly believe (bias aside) that the LOM offered by the Sun systems is vastly superior to the Dell and HP counterparts.

The Sun Fire X4150 is where its at. (And no onboard NGE’s!)

Turning to the 2U system, the Sun Fire X4450 we find some real Sun engineering brilliance. 8 disks again, but a 4 socket system (16 cores total possible) with a mind blowing, MySQL wet-dream-come-true, astounding 128GB total memory capacity on a whopping 32 DIMMs! This is made posible by an extremely daring “bunkbed” (my term, not Sun’s) design in which the DIMMs are sitting above the CPU’s to make the most of the available airflow. Andy B and team do it again! John Fowler has got to be proud of what they accomplished. The air is feed from a bank of Delta fans that are likely to blow out your ear drums from the look of them, but not a bit of the airflow is wasted inside that chassis.

But wait, you say… who the hell needs 128GB of memory? HPC or some mega-database, but not me! Well, stop and think again… the total capacity might be 128GB, but thats not as important as the 32 DIMM slots. That means that you can buy less expensive memory because you can use more of them. 1GB DIMMs, even ECC Fully Buffered, aren’t that expensive, so load ’em up!

I’ll be the first to say that the only thing wrong with these systems is that they have Intel processors in them. Frankly, I’m still in the process of being sold on Xeon. But, fact is, everyone that I’ve talked to that has used these new Xeon’s is raving about the performance and the Quad-Core AMD’s just aren’t here today. It’ll be exciting to see the head-to-head comparisons when the AMD version of this system (its only a matter of time right?) appears.

The X4150 is shipping today and the X4450 is coming next month. Congrats to everyone at Sun and Intel involved in making these systems a reality. Jonathan’s commitment to offering choice is only expanding with each new announcement. Choice is good!

Side Note: It just occurred to me… in 1997 Sun introduced the Starfire E10K which, according to SunSolve’s Systems Handbook, had a total system capacity of 64GB of memory. Oh how far we’ve come in 10 years. It also featured 64 CPU’s and Niagara 2 is just around the corner!