A few weeks ago, Alan Zeichick took a look at Sun's new Ultra 20. The Ultra 40 didn't ship in time to meet his deadline, although I received an eval unit last week and decided to follow up.
Buying a new server is like buying a car. You hem and haw about power, upgrades, reliability, and so on, then buy one and put it in a rack. After moving the applications or services to it, it sits there and runs, and hopefully you need to do very little to it in the future.
A workstation is like buying a house. You hem and haw about similar things, but once the decision is made, it takes significant time to feel at home, not to mention the whole moving process.
For me, the workstation transition takes place every year or so, as I upgrade my main workstation to whatever's current. My previous
workstations include a Compaq w6000 with dual 1.7Ghz XEON CPUs that was unfortunately hamstrung by RAMBUS, an few HP Kayaks and a couple homebuilt systems. My current workstation is a dual-Opteron 248 2.2Ghz with 2GB of RAM and an nVidia GEForce FX 5600XT, with a 3Ware 8000 SATA RAID controller. This box runs Fedora Core 3 for x86_64 and is as stable and reliable as Old Faithful.
So the bar was set fairly high as I unpacked the Ultra 40. The case immediately brings to mind an Apple G5 workstation with the mesh grill up front and only a single 5.25" external drive, although there are audio, USB2, and FireWire ports available right up front. The specs of my eval unit included:
So it's fair to say that this workstation includes just about every top-end component you could expect.
The Ultra 40 came pre-loaded with Solaris 10 and all the associated bells and whistles such as Java Studio Creator, Studio Enterprise, Studio 10, NetBeans, and Sun N1 Grid Engine if you wanted to let the box play nice with others. My workstation OS tastes don't really match well with Solaris, so the first order of business was to install a few different OSes. A Fedora Core 4 installation failed within seconds, locking the box up tight, but CentOS 4.2, RedHat WS 3 (U6) And WS 4 (U2) worked fine, as did Windows XP x64.