Sun, Fujitsu to merge Sparc server products

Combined APL systems will be based on Fujitsu's upcoming Sparc64 VI processor

Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu plan to combine their Sparc-based server product lines by 2006, expanding a long-standing partnership between the two companies.

The combined product line, code-named APL (Advanced Product Line), will replace the Sun Fire and Fujitsu PrimePower product lines.

“We’re going to be bringing a whole series of low- and midrange and high-end products to the market,” Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy said.

Sun and Fujitsu have collaborated for years on the design of the UltraSparc chip architecture used in both companies’ servers. The new plan is an “expansion and acceleration” of a 20-year strategic relationship between the companies, McNealy said.

The deal with Fujitsu will allow Sun to focus on its next generation of throughput computing chip designs while taking advantage of Fujitsu’s processor-development efforts at the same time.

The APL systems will be based on Fujitsu’s upcoming Sparc64 VI processor, and the complete line of servers will be manufactured by both Sun and Fujitsu but in different geographic regions.

The companies will maintain separate sales forces, marketing groups, and product brands, McNealy said.

Sun will continue to develop the multi-core throughput computing processors it has been developing since its 2002 acquisition of Afara WebSystems and will manufacture systems based on these chips. Fujitsu will have the option of selling systems based on the throughput processors, McNealy said. Sun’s throughput computing processors are code-named Niagara and Rock.

Sun recently transferred the bulk of its UltraSparc V development team to its throughput computing efforts, raising questions about the role throughput processors would play in future product plans. With last week’s Fujitsu announcement, Sun now has an additional processor, Fujitsu’s Sparc64, on which it can build future servers.

Sun’s current line of UltraSparc III and IV systems will feature updates to continue driving those chips between now and 2006, McNealy said.

“The deal makes so much sense that it was almost surprising that it hadn’t happened yet,” said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata. “Sun’s increased x86 focus may be a good business decision in its own right but only raises more questions about how it could profitably continue Sparc development. The companies are complementary in technologies.”

Sun’s first Niagara systems are expected to begin shipping in 2006. Systems based on its Rock architecture will follow in 2007, Sun representatives said.