Sun Shines with the Ultra 24 Workstation

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print

Sun's latest workstation eclipses rivals with outstanding performance.

Sun Microsystems has been long known for high-performance workstations built around UltraSparc processors and, more recently, Advanced Micro Devices processors. But with the introduction of the Ultra 24 Workstation, the company is showing a commitment to Intel's high-performance processors.

Does this mean that Sun will eschew AMD and UltraSparc? Hardly! But now Sun resellers have another option when it comes to high-performance workstations.

The Ultra 24 is all about performance. I reviewed a top-of-the-line configuration sporting an Intel Core 2 Extreme CPU (Q6850), 8GB of DDR2 RAM, an Nvidia Quadro FX5600 graphics card, a DVD R/W drive and a pair of 250GB SATA (Serial ATA) hard drives. That configuration has a sticker price of $6,232—a big chunk of change for a PC—but a fair price for one of the fastest workstations that can be had today.

Of course, models with lower-end components are available for those trying to keep costs down. An entry-level unit configured with a Core 2 Duo E4400 2.0GHz CPU, 512MB of memory, a 250GB SATA HDD, an Nvidia NVS290 graphics card and a DVD-ROM will retail for $995.

All Ultra 24 Workstations come standard with a 10/100/1000 BaseT Ethernet port, two 1394 Firewire ports, high-definition audio, six USB 2.0 ports, two full-length PCI slots, four PCI-Express slots and a Solaris license. Solaris 10 and Sun development tools are preinstalled on each system.

Read more here about how Sun has rounded out its Intel offerings with the Ultra 24.

Users will be impressed by the construction of the machine. High-quality materials are used, including a heavy-duty steel case. The machine runs surprisingly quietly, even though high-speed and high-performance fans are installed. On bootup, when all of the fans are active, the unit sounds as loud as a vacuum cleaner, but quickly quiets down once all of the cooling fans are idled.

The system was tested using Solaris 10, Ubuntu 7.10 and Windows Vista Enterprise. Under this configuration I found performance to be without equal, scoring an overall rating of 1,269 on Passmark's PerformanceTest 6.1 while running Windows Vista Enterprise.

Although no benchmarks were performed with Solaris and Ubuntu, it was clear that the system offers such a high level of performance that any user should be satisfied. It is worth noting that Windows Vista Enterprise (32-bit) only supports a maximum of 4GB of RAM, so for those looking to use that OS, it may be well worthwhile to save some money and order 4GB of RAM and not 8GB.

During testing, energy usage peaked at 269 watts; the system used 155 watts at idle.

For comparison, an older whitebox workstation equipped with an Intel Core 2 Quad 2.66GHz CPU, 4GB of DDR2 RAM and an Nvidia Geoforce 7950GT graphics card was tested and scored a maximum overall rating of 1,053 with Passmark. That system used 244 watts while under load and used 140 watts while idle.

Sun undoubtedly has a winner with the Ultra 24 series of workstations, and other vendors will be hard-pressed to outperform it. What's more, the Ultra 24 proves that quality is still a valuable asset when it comes to workstations. The unit is built like a tank, yet offers toolless access to components. The company has successfully balanced quality with ease of service, while still offering unquestionable performance.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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