Quite a launch today. The Galaxy launch had its moments, too – it got people ready to treat Sun seriously as an x86 systems vendor, and the machines were quite nice. But, at the end of the day, they were 1U and 2U Opteron servers, and those aren’t exactly hard to find.

Today’s launch, however, is quite a different story: three significantly different products all landing at once, and all quite different from anything that you can get from other vendors. Galaxy 4 (a.k.a Sun Fire x4600) is, I suppose, the most straightforward of them: 8 Opteron sockets in a 4U box. Dual core now; when quad core comes out, you’ll be able to slide out the two-core CPU modules and slide in the four-core modules. 64GB of memory now, 128GB later. If you need a lot of compute power, it should do the trick; we sold a bunch of prerelease units (plus some Thumpers) to Tokyo Tech, and now it’s the fastest supercomputer in Asia.

The one that I understand the least is Andromeda (Sun Blade 8000). I’ve simply never worked in the sort of data center environment where blades’ virtues are at a premium, so I can’t say I entirely understand the pros (and cons, I suppose, but I don’t really know what they might be, other than perhaps its 19U height) of this versus our competitors’ designs. As a good object oriented programmer, though, the separation of I/O and processing elements sounds pretty interesting, with both sides independently replaceable and manageable. And they’ve done a lot of work towards increasing the lifespan of the chassis and various design elements, so it shouldn’t go obsolete on you soon: it should live up to the blade promise of simplified management combined with ease of growth. And once we, say, release Niagara blades for it (I haven’t heard any details about that, but it’s got to be coming), the ecosystem will get even richer. (And all you fan fetishists will enjoy standing behind it and feeling the wind blow through your hair.)

But by far my favorite is Thumper. (Sun Fire x4500.) I’ve been using prototype versions of the hardware for the last two years, and I still love to take off the cover and look at all those disks. (Jonathan put up a picture.) 24TB of storage in a 4U box; to put it another way, if you take four racks full of Thumpers, you have a petabyte of data. That is a lot of storage in not very much space.

And you also get a couple of dual-core Opterons in each box. (Or: you have 160 quite powerful cores to comb through your petabyte of data.) Next to Galaxy 4’s 8 sockets, a mere two-socket server doesn’t sound like so much, but let me assure you that it’s quite a lot of compute power to manage, mine, and process that data. I’m not creative enough to envision all the uses that the world will find for that, but early reports are already surprising me with their ideas, and we’ve certainly had a lot of fun playing with them.

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