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Sun Microsystems Inc. has begun offering customers a new UltraSPARC T1-based system for free in a 60-day try-and-buy program.

Users get two months to evaluate a new Sun Fire T2000, after which time they can buy the system or return it to Sun.

Sun President Jonathan Schwartz highlighted the deal in his Weblog this weekend, and Sun is promoting it on its Web site.

The move is designed to ramp adoption of the systems, which were introduced earlier this month and are powered by the new processor, formerly code-named “Niagara.”

The chips feature up to eight cores that can run four instruction threads simultaneously.

Sun executives are targeting the new systems at the Web-tier space, which currently is dominated by x86 system vendors such as Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

The deal is similar to ones run by Sun when the Santa Clara, Calif., company this fall rolled out its “Galaxy” systems, powered by Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s Opteron chips.

Click here to read more about Galaxy.

When Sun first launched the Niagara systems—the 2U (3.5-inch) T2000 and the 1U (1.75-inch) T1000—some executives and marketing material said the try-and-buy program was for 90 days.

A Sun spokesperson said Tuesday that they were mistaken, and that the deal was always intended to be for 60 days.

The servers are the latest in Sun’s push to revamp its server line.

Sun has been offering Opteron-based systems for more than a year, and next year will launch a new RISC-based server family—called the Advanced Product Line—in conjunction with Fujitsu Ltd., and based on Fujitsu’s upcoming dual-core SPARC64 chip.

In addition, Sun is already working on Niagara II and Niagara III, as well as another chip, “Rock,” which will feature fewer cores than Niagara. Rock is due in 2008.

Click here to read more about Niagara.

Sun executives say the UltraSPARC-based servers T1 offers five times the performance of comparable systems from HP and Dell, but with less power consumption and heat generation.

The chip’s power envelope is 70 watts, less than Opteron and Intel Corp.’s Xeon processors.

The T2000 is available now; the T1000 will come early in 2006.

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