Sun has released eight servers powered by AMD's new quad-core Opteron processor, giving AMD's long-awaited Barcelona chip a stronger foothold in the quad-core market.

HP, Dell and IBM had already unveiled servers using the newest Opteron processors.

After several months of delays, AMD started shipping the quad-core chips to resellers in late March, joining the quad-core market dominated by Intel.

Sun's announcement includes three new servers and upgrades of five others with the quad-core chips. The various servers are optimised for virtualisation deployments, expandability and power efficiency, and blur the lines between servers optimised for storage and servers optimised for high computational performance, according to David Simmons, Sun senior product line director.

The new servers include the Sun Fire X4140, the X4240, and X4440, all x86 boxes. Four older Sun Fire servers as well as the Sun Blade X8440 servers are being upgraded with the new Opteron chips.

The Sun Fire X4140 and X4240 have eight and 16 disk drives, respectively, and can act as mini-storage systems for database, high-performance computing, business intelligence and data warehousing applications, according to Sun.

"With extremely high I/O throughput, they can also be used as storage servers in open storage infrastructures," Sun writes in a press release.

Sun claims to offer better density and high memory capacity than its rivals. The Sun Fire X4440 and X4600 M2 are half the size of rival systems yet have comparable amounts of memory, the vendor says. Because of high memory capacity, virtualisation is ideally suited to the Sun Fire X4600 M2 and the Sun blade servers, the vendor says.

All new Sun servers are available immediately, with the exception of the Sun Fire X4600 M2, which comes out at the end of this quarter. List prices for the quad-core servers range from $2,250 for the Sun Fire X4100 M2 to $14,126 for the Sun Blade X8440.

Sun is announcing its first AMD quad-core servers a bit later than its rivals, but Simmons notes that some competitor systems announced before Sun's didn't become available until this month.

HP, for example, announced an eight-socket x86 server using quad-core Opteron processors in March, but said it wouldn't ship the system until May. Dell was selling AMD quad-core servers by April.