Sun is planning a Linux and Opteron series of blade servers to be released next year. The open source operating system and AMD processor will be added to its Netra server line.

The blade systems, which will become available in limited quantities in the first half of 2005, will be based on the AdvancedTCA telecommunications equipment spec developed by the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturing Group, said Mark Butler, marketing manager for Netra systems and networking products with Sun.

Sun also plans to ship a version of the blade system based on its UltraSparc processor and Solaris operating system, which will be priced similarly to the Opteron systems. The company has declined to reveal the new server's pricing or product name however.

"We've been working in the standards groups for a number of years now," Butler said, "So we sort of understand what both their desires and requirements are. We see there is definitely a strong interest in having Sparc and Opteron blades in this environment," he said.

The AdvancedTCA specification is a follow-up to the CompactPCI standard used in Sun's Netra CT 410 and Netra CT 810 servers. It defines the physical dimensions, connectors, and power distribution of a server, among other things.

Sun has not yet made a decision on which Linux distribution it will ship, although Novell's Suse Linux and MontaVista's Linux were both contenders, the Sun spokesman said.

Since announcing support for the Opteron processor in November of last year, Sun has fast become one of its strongest champions. The company now sells a variety of Opteron servers and workstations and is developing readying an eight-processor server in addition to the Netra blade.

Supporting Linux on Opteron makes "perfect sense", according to Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff. "Telecos haven't totally switched over from their legacy systems, but Linux has certainly gained a lot of popularity there," he said. "This is Sun trying to recapture another market where they've lost a considerable amount of share to x86," he said, referring to the Intel x86 instruction set used by Opteron.

Sun does sell one other AMD-based blade system: the Sun Fire B100x, which uses the Mobile Athlon XP 1800+ processor. It was announced in December last year.