Sun is expanding its UltraSparc IV processor into the low end of the company's server line with two new systems. The Sun Fire V490 and V890 will be formally announced later this month, the company has confirmed.

They are similar to its Sun Fire V480 and V880 servers, based on single-core UltraSparc III processors, but have been redesigned in order to accommodate the cooling and power requirements of the dual-core UltraSparc IV, said Andy Ingram, vice president of marketing for Sun's processor and network products group.

Users will find that the systems behave the same way as their UltraSparc III counterparts but with "twice the throughput," he said. "What you're going to get with the V890 is the footprint and price point of an 8-way with the throughput of a 16-way," he said. The new systems will be priced in the same range as the V880 and V480, Ingram said, but declined to give specific information.

They cannot be ordered on Sun's website as yet, but the new servers have been shipping since August.

When Sun launched its first UltraSparc IV systems in February, it focused on big systems with between 12 and 72 processors. It introduced the new processor on its high-end Sun Fire E25K and E20K servers as well as the midrange Sun Fire E2900, E4900 and E6900 systems.

The UltraSparc IV is available in both 1.05GHz and 1.2GHz configurations. Sun plans to offer a "speed bump" within nine months, and within 18 months, will begin shipping systems with the next generation of the processor, UltraSparc IV+, Ingram said.

The UltraSparc IV+ will mark the end of the road for Sun's conventional UltraSparc designs as it switches to the multi-core "throughput computing" chips it is now developing that execute a large number of operations, or threads, simultaneously.

By 2006 - around the time Sun's first generation of its throughput processors, codenamed Niagara, are expected - the company will also begin shipping systems based on an upcoming generation of Fujitsu's Sparc64 processor, codenamed Olympus. Olympus will also be a multi-core processor, but it is expected to have twice the performance of the UltraSparc IV+, Ingram said. Olympus will fill the role that Sun had expected to be served by UltraSparc V processor, which Sun scrapped in April of this year, he said.

With the launch of the two new systems, Sun is bringing UltraSparc IV to a section of the market that has become extremely important to the company, said Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata. "They've kind of done the enterprise systems, now they're doing the high end of the volume space," he said. "Those have been pretty important classes of products for them. In fact, it's probably one of the few really bright spots in the UltraSparc line over the last year or so. So obviously it makes perfect sense that they are now available."

Haff expects Sun to eventually bring the UltraSparc IV to its single-processor and dual-processor Sun Fire systems as well, though Sun has not said when it plans to do this. Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) benchmarks for the V890 system are online.