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The Sun Ultra 45 is the latest in the long line of dual-processor SPARC workstations from Sun Microsystems, directly replacing the Blade 2500. It incorporates a number of new technologies and conveniences, and is one of the fastest Unix workstations on the market, competing with IBM's Power5 systems, and totally dominating the SGI Tezro.

Update as of 24OCT2008: Alas, it appears the Ultra 45, along with its lesser kin the Sun Ultra 25, have been discontinued, and with them, the entire SPARC workstation line, except for Tadpole's exceedingly expensive SPARC laptops. SPARC on the desktop is dead; long live SPARC!

Specifications

  • Production dates: 2006 - 2008
  • Application architecture: sun4
  • System architecture: sun4u
  • Processor: 2 1.6GHz UltraSPARC IIIi CPUs. Single-processor configuration available.
  • RAM: 8 184-pin DIMM slots, 4 per CPU. Dual-channel PC3200 registered ECC DDR SDRAM. Can use standard PC DIMMs, provided they are both registered and ECC.
  • Graphics: 2 PCI Express x16 slots, 1 PCI Express x4 slot, 2 133MHz PCI-X slots. Only the XVR-100 and XVR-2500 are offered as pre-built options, but the other cards are available.
  • PCI-E graphics options: XVR-2500 dual-headed visualization card or XVR-300 2D.
  • PCI/PCI-X graphics options: PGX32, PGX64, XVR-100, Expert3D Lite, Expert3D PCI, XVR-500, XVR-600, XVR-1200.
  • Floppy: None. USB available.
  • Hard Drives: 4 internal bays for SATA or Serial attached SCSI disks, up to at least 1TB disks supported. RAID supported in software.
  • Audio capabilities: Integrated Crystal Semiconductor CD-quality audio with onboard jacks, front and back-panel.
  • Expansion:
    • 1 5.25" drive bay. Filled by a module which includes front-panel USB, front-panel audio and a slimline, slot-loading DVD-RW.
    • 3 PCI-E expansion slots, 2 x16 and one x4.
    • 2 PCI-X 64-bit/133MHz expansion slots
  • External ports:
    • 2 RS232 high-speed serial ports, DB-9 male.
    • 2 RJ45 gigabit ethernet (Broadcom) ports.
    • 4 USB 2.0 ports
    • Front and rear analog audio jacks

What the Ultra 45 can do

The Ultra 45 is Sun's foremost workstation, designed for scientific and engineering work, simulation, virtual reality, medical imaging, digital effects, video processing, software development and meteorological work. Depending on how it's configured, it can handle nearly any workload that can be reasonably handled by a single desktop system. With SGI no longer producing workstations, and neither HP nor IBM offering much in the way of heavy graphics, the Ultra 45 is now one of the few players left in the traditional graphics workstation field. It's currently finding the heaviest uses in the mechanical engineering and CAD fields, along with meteorology, medical imaging and Sun's traditional market of oil and gas engineering. It's also seeing considerable use as a workgroup server and as a high-end developer and system administrator workstation.

What operating systems will run on it?

Currently Solaris and OpenSolaris are the only OSes with full support for the Ultra 45's hardware. Linux has partial support, but not enough to actually use most of its best features.

Finding one, and how much you can expect to pay

This is Sun's newest workstation, and hasn't been on the market particularly long, so the probability of finding one second-hand is very very small. They can no longer be bought new through Sun. Prices through the few value-added resellers that still have some in stock are apt to be astronomical.

This is serious hardware for serious users, and is still far too expensive for the enthusiast market, but it has more expansion and upgrade headroom than almost any previous Sun machine. Expect this to be one of the best values in a few years' time when the prices finally fall to reasonable levels.

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