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Sun's New Blade System 6000

A Computing Platform for all Seasons (er... Applications)

Despite all their potential in the server space, blades have not grown anywhere near as fast as earlier expected mainly due to two reasons – the lack of interoperability between products from different vendors at the physical and even API levels and the impact from rapid rise of virtualization in increasing the utilization of existing underutilized servers hitherto running only one application per server. 

While Dell, Sun Microsystems, Fujitsu, NEC and a number of smaller players failed at first attempt to crack the blade server market due to poor product positioning by addressing only more

Now with the Blade System 6000 (code name “Constellation”) launch, Sun is eyeing to challenge the dominance of IBM and HP who together command 75% of total blade servers market more

Design Philosophy

Designed under the guidance of Andy Bechtolsheim, an industry luminary and co-founder at Sun, Blade System 6000 helps Sun to truly embrace Open Systems Architecture. Leveraging industry standard elements such as UltaraSparc, AMD and Intel multicore microprocessors; three operating systems - Solaris, Windows and Linux ; large standard memory up to 64 GB, industry standard PCI-Express I/O; 10Gb Ethernet network fabric; open management framework - an open management facility to allow fast and easy integration with popular and already available blade or rack mount management tools from many vendors; customer oriented self-help features such as hot-swap modules, front-loading disk drives and many other innovative features such as optimized cooling and airflow and technology support for next five years.

Scalability using Off-the-Shelf Components

Sun Blade 6000’s architecture built on openness to leverage industry standard infrastructure components and scalability for long-term investment protection has the potential for Sun Blades to come from behind to challenge the blade server leaders of today.

Sun pumped up the memory capability of its Blade Server 6000 using 16 DIMMs allowing customers the flexibility to use off-the-shelf 1Gb inexpensive memory chips or maximize capacity to 64 GB using 4Gb, albeit expensive, chips. Sun chose to address the memory dilemma for two reasons: First, multicore processors require more main memory to run in a balanced way. Second, server virtualization hypervisors need lots of main memory to run efficiently. Since many blade servers are also being virtualized, future demands large main memory on each blade server. All this enables the Sun Blade 6000 Modular System to run virtually any enterprise application more

The use of industry standard PCI-Express I/O adapters will allow customers to install or replace an I/O module without interfering with systems operation and the choice of dual and quad core processors maximizes customer investment by supporting future x86 microprocessors with four and eight cores.

Creating highly dense blade servers creates a side effect: severe power and cooling issues in the existing air-cooled data centers which were not designed to handle such hot spots created by dense blade servers. So instead of high density as the major design guide, Sun strove for longevity of design, scalability, use of industry standard off-the shelf components and performance as the key metrics to design for a future proof machine which has the longevity to accommodate newer emerging technologies in processors to futures proof the architecture more

Sun follows SIVA©

Standardization, Integration, Virtualization and Automation

Blade Servers Defined

A blade server is essentially a physical structure for compact motherboard modules or "blades" which have their own processors, memory, storage and I/O connections, but share physical space, power supply, cooling and other resources with fellow blades more

A universal deployment platform

Sun built one chassis for longevity while addressing requirements of various applications through flexibility to use various types of blades with characteristics to match the workload requirements whereas competitive products have the rigidity having to forklift to different chassis to accommodate different workloads.

Sun has managed to up the memory density on the Opteron and Xeon blades to a maximum of 64 Gbytes. In These improvements in memory and I/O density will keep customers who are planning to deploy VZ on these blades for virtualized environments. By adopting true industry standards, once customers see the value of sun’s blade architecture they will drive up the adoption of  Sun 6000.  Sun has not only moved to the “brave new world of open systems” but in the process Sun has beaten Dell, HP, and IBM in the use of PCI Express to differentiate its offering.

With the three fastest processor platforms, three operating systems, high memory and I/O bandwidth, Sun is providing its users with a system that allows customers to upgrade to virtualized blade platforms without the expense or technical compromises presented by some of its competitors more

Targeted Markets

BladeSystem 6000 is aimed squarely at the mainstream volume server market, a fully functional replacement of what you might expect from a rackmount server.

In the near term, Sun is not expected to steal customers from competitors with the new system. Instead, the company is more likely to sway their own customers who have been hesitant to buy the company's previous blade offerings. IMEX expects sales of the Sun Blade 6000 to come initially from replacing the Sun Rack Servers followed by incursions into competitive territories at the expense of IBM and HP blade servers. Overall Sun Blades will have the effect of helping grow the total blade server market.

The blade system is being positioned for virtualization and high performance computing (HPC), it as the ideal architecture for VMware, from both a memory and I/O capacity perspective. Data centers housing large databases will also benefit from Sun's Blade 6000 Modular System.

Sun has smartly differentiated its new blade system through the Sun Refresh Service program, a subscription-based offering that provides a refresh of blade system 6000 hardware, including updated processors and memory, at 42 months after the initial purchase. The refresh falls in line with most enterprises' standard sever refresh cycle (typically 3-4 years). This has the effect of locking customers into Sun Blades and peripherals for a long time more

Blade System Architecture

That memory capacity is great for server virtualization. It's a tremendous fit for virtualization. Large memory is important because users can quickly swap in different applications. These blades hold more memory to meet the needs of multi-core processors and for server virtualization hypervisors. Further, by providing space for 16 DIMMs on its blade servers, Sun can leverage aggressive pricing on memory. By using 2-Gbyte DIMMs, customers can get the same memory of other blades which require 4-Gbyte DIMMs. The 4-Gbyte DIMMs are much more expensive.

Each Server Module has two dedicated I/O slots. The ability to combine the different platforms in the same enclosure is important. This lets you upgrade the compute side without impacting the I/O. Other blades including the IBM BladeCenter and the HP c-Class use more

Data Management

The Chassis Monitoring Module (loaded in the rear of the unit) provides a direct remote connection to the service processor of each blade server, as well as provides an optional aggregate point for the monitoring of chassis fans and power supplies via the vendor's own Integrated Lights Out Management (ILOM) module more.

Easy migration from existing Servers

The 6000 is managed transparently so that 10 blades in an enclosure look like 10 independent servers, similar to traditional rack-mount servers. The system also sports increased memory capacity and I/O bandwidth. . As a result, the system is geared to run virtually any enterprise application,

Sun’s endeavors to make its new blade platform as open as possible including the use of an Open PCI Express backplane so the users can easily incorporate industry standard storage interfaces such as 10 Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel and Infinband  Not only does the Sun Blade 6000 support three processor platforms, it also provides support for Solaris, Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems.

Sun also provides compatibility with third-party management tools, not just only Sun's so there is less of a propriety lock-in. It allows customers to implement out-of-the-box integration with customers' current management structures such as Altiris, BMC, CA, HP's Insight Manager, Microsoft MOM, IBM Tivoli or Sun N1 more

T6250 – Intel Processor based Blades

The X6250 blade is a two-socket blade server that plugs into the Blade 6000 chassis and uses a range of Intel quad-core chips as well as a single dual-core chip. This blade also uses Fully Buffered DIMM (FB-DIMM) main memory, not the DDR2 main memory used in the Opteron-based Galaxy and Constellation machines.

Sun Blade X6250; an Intel Xeon driven blade supporting 1 or 2 quad or dual core 5000 series processors (up to 8 cores per module). Like the AMD blade, the Intel blade has 16 DIMM slots for up to 64 GB of memory per server module.

The Blade 6000 is the first Sun box that will sport Intel processors, too, and is the result of a partnership between Sun and Intel that was announced in January. Under that deal, Sun is using Intel's Xeon chips in its "Galaxy" rack-mount and Constellation blade servers, and Intel is embracing Solaris as a Unix of choice on the X64 platform

Intel decided to exit the Blade Market in June 2007 where it had a development partnership with IBM and had targeted supplying OEMs and Channel. (see IMEX Research - Blade Servers Industry Report 2007). more

X6250 Configurations





Very Large

Target Market


highest single-threaded performance





Processor Model



1.86 GHz

Xeon 5320




1.86 GHz

Xeon 5310



3 GHz

Xeon 5160




2.33 GHz

Xeon 5320




2.66 GHz

Xeon 5355


Main Memory

2 GB    


8 GB


8 GB


32 GB


32 GB


Thermionics Design Pt.

80^+20 watts

80+20 watts








Sun is also selling a blade using slower low-voltage Clovertown L5310 parts, which run at 1.6 GHz but have a Thermionics Design Point of only 50 watts…more

Go to Market Strategy

Try & Buy Incentives

Sun is expanding its channel programs to include the Sun Blade 6000, including its 60-day try-and-buy program, Startup Essentials, to let customers get started with the lowest cost, and a starter kit. The starter kit makes a Sun Blade 6000 enclosure and one or two server blades available to customers with application kits for software like VMware and Oracle, all at a 25 percent discount. more

Built to last - Scalability Built In

By creating a next generation computer architecture and blade systems design that lasts for next 5 years, integrates industry standard elements to achieve lower costs through volume economics, virtualizes these elements to these elements to meet the latency and bandwidth requirements posed by different workloads yet remains easily upgradeable to leverages availability of newer and emerging technologies, Sun has achieved remarkable success in achieving future-proofing in its BladeSystem 6000 designs. Users can continue to add more (processing) cores, networking and storage. Virtualization and database clusters will have an easy time with Sun’s high-capacity blades. Sun claims of a future-proof chassis with an ability to more

Sun Services

Sun Refresh Service: Building an "Always Fresh" Datacenter

The Sun Refresh Service now includes the Sun Blade X6220 Server Module, allowing customers to reach maximum performance and efficiency from their datacenters on an ongoing basis at half the cost of traditional acquisition methods. The subscription service program includes installation of the Sun Blade 6000 Modular System with server modules, plus three refreshes of server modules over a 42-month period. Customers receive automatic upgrades to the latest blade architecture as soon as it becomes available more.

Sun Futures       

The race is just beginning. HP's been gaining a little momentum at IBM's expense.Most people haven't made choices and blades are a small per percentage of the overall [server] market. This is a significant opportunity for sun to carve a portion of the blade server market that is growing at over 30% cagr per year and is targeted to reach $10.7 billion in revenues by 2011.

Sun is also planning to "blade" the next version of its UltraSparc processor, the UltraSparc II, slated for release later this year. The current Opteron processors can also be upgraded to AMD's quad-core "Barcelona" processor - these chips will plug right into the Constellation X6220 boards.- when it's released in late 2007. Sun is ready for Barcelona, and AMD needs to get the chip out the door. Apple is planning to use the ZFS file system from OpenSolaris in future versions of their OS more

About IMEX Research

IMEX is a research and consulting company in technology markets with expertise in the fields of Blade Servers/Modular Computing, Network Storage (NAS/SAN/iSCSI), High Availability systems (Computing and Telecom), and Optimal Four-tiered Computing Infrastructure (Access, Web, Application and DB/Transaction Tiers).

The company tracks technologies, market dynamics and industry directions and provides its clients with market opportunities by market segments, forecasts and shares, insights on enabling technologies and standards, competitive positioning of start ups and incumbent suppliers and their strategies.

IMEX also provides consulting and advisory services in product and business planning, competitive analysis, product specs and key feature-sets, go-to-market strategies including pricing structures and distribution channels (OEMs, VARS/SI, Service Providers, Distributors by Vertical Markets-Telecomm, Financials, Health Care etc.) as well as due diligence and recommendations for affiliations and acquisitions more


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