Sun Microsystems has announced a new family of Ultra workstations - the Ultra 20, Ultra 40 and Ultra 45 - two of which come bundled with the company's grid software.

The Sun workstations run on Solaris 10, which comes preloaded on the machines. They also support Microsoft's Windows XP and Linux distributions from Red Hat and Novell, according to a Sun release.

The entry-level configuration for the dual-core Ultra 20, priced from US$895, includes an Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) Opteron 64-bit Model 144 chip, 512M bytes of memory and an 80G-byte, hard-disk drive.

Priced from $2,295, the single-core or dual-core Ultra 40's entry-level configuration includes a single AMD Opteron Model 246 64-bit chip, one gigabyte of memory and an 80G-byte hard drive. The Ultra 45 is priced from $3,695 and its entry-level configuration includes a Sun UltraSparc IIIi processor, one gigabyte of memory and an 80G-byte hard drive.

Both the Ultra 40 and the Ultra 45 include a license for Sun N1 Grid Engine Software.

The Sun developer tools preloaded on all three machines include Sun Studio, Java Studio Creator, Java Studio Enterprise and the company's NetBeans Integrated Development Environment (IDE).

Early testers of the workstations include Siemens Power Generation, part of Siemens AG, which has been using the single-core and dual-core Ultra 40 machines to run structural and computational fluid dynamics simulations, according to Sun.

Sun got its start as an IT startup selling workstations back in the 1980s. The "W" in the company's SUNW stock ticker stands for "workstations," according to company lore.

Sun has been struggling to hold onto its Sparc-based workstation customers, some of whom have been defecting to alternatives based on Intel chips. Sun has come up with several ways to try and halt such migrations away from its products. These include offering workstations based on AMD's Opteron chips and launching its first own-branded UltraSparc laptop last year so that Sparc users can access their applications when they're away from the data center.