A year after splitting its stock in a bid to calm nervous investor once-high-flying tech giant Sun Microsystems this week is even worse off financially than it was then, with its stock trading in the $5 range. But the company at least has some new technology to brag about: It's newly available Solaris-based SPARC Enterprise T5440 server offers tremendous performance while delivering "radical" energy efficiency.

"The Solaris-based SPARC Enterprise T5440 server offers incredible performance on a completely different curve in a footprint that's half the size of the competition," says Sun executive vice president John Fowler. "It's faster, smaller, greener, better. And with the built-in virtualization of Solaris, they can save even more."

Sun says that the T5440 is 80 percent less expensive than competitive offerings from HP and IBM but delivers up to 4 times the performance. The system has set seven performance records on industry standard benchmarks, including some in the HPC (High Performance Computing) market that Microsoft is now competing in with its recently released Windows HPC Server 2008 product. List prices start at about $45,000.

Of course, with Microsoft continuing its strong showing in all segments of the server market, and Linux mopping up a good portion of the low-end of the market, it's surprising to see Sun still pushing its proprietary UNIX system over more open systems. The company says, however, that customers are discovering that popular server applications run better on Solaris than they do on Linux. And with 13 million licenses of Solaris 10 sold over the past three years, Sun says that its version of UNIX outsells all other UNIX and Linux distributions. (Sun claims that 70 percent of its licenses are downloaded directly from Sun.com and are not bundled with new hardware.)

That said, Sun still trails IBM in the UNIX server market, 29 percent to 35 percent. HP is in third, with 26 percent.