Sun will announce its new Opteron-based server on Monday. Sun Fire V40z, will be the second based on AMD's chip since it announced its plans in November last year.

The V40z will be a 3U (13cm) rack-mountable system based on three models of Opteron: the 1.8GHz Opteron 844, the 2.2GHz Opteron 848 and the 2.4GHz Opteron 250.

It will include the Solaris 9 operating system, DDR1/333 (double data rate) memory and either one or two 10,000 revolutions per minute 73GB Ultra320 SCSI disks.

Pricing for the new systems will start at $8,495 for a dual-processor V40z with 2GB of memory and a single 73GB hard drive. A four-processor V40z based on the Opteron 848 processor with 8GB of memory and two 73GB hard drives will cost $22,995.

With the new server, Sun will become the second major vendor, after HP, to ship a four-processor Opteron system. Larger versions like Sun's V40z and HP's DL580 are better able to take advantage of the large memory provided by Opteron's 64-bit memory address space and will make AMD's processors more appealing as a platform for database and enterprise resource planning applications, analysts say.

Opteron extends the x86 instruction set used by Intel's 32-bit microprocessors, allowing support for either 32-bit or 64-bit applications.

Sun has made Opteron the centerpiece of its low-end product line, and though Sun's initial Opteron systems have not been designed by Sun, the company is working on a new generation of Opteron machines based on technology it acquired in its purchase of Kaelia in February.

Sun head Scott McNealy has admitted that his company stumbled in adopting products for the x86 market, but hopes that the Kaelia technology will put it ahead of the competition. Kaelia's head, Andreas Bechtolsheim, designed the first generation of Sun workstations using commodity components back in the 1980s, and Sun executives are counting on him to again work wonders, this time with Opteron.

"When Andy's designs come out later this year, you'll see board integration that's just worlds ahead of others," said Larry Singer, vice president of Sun's Global Information Systems Strategy Office, in a recent interview. "He doesn't invent new chips; he figures out how to take the components that are available and build better systems with them."

In addition to the upcoming Kaelia products, Sun hopes that its Solaris operating system will serve as a point of differentiation between it and other server vendors. "We will be competing with Dell, but will have tighter integration with the OS than Dell can ever think to offer, and a new business model where we'll give you the hardware for free if you subscribe to the operating system and the Java Enterprise system," Singer said.

Sun has already experimented with this free hardware model, offering its Opteron-based W1100z workstations for free to developers who subscribe to the company's $1,499-per-year Java Studio Enterprise software.