RealTime IT News

Sun SPARCs Latest Chip

Sun Microsystems is expected to herald the arrival of its latest dual-core UltraSPARC processor today.

Code-named "Panther," the company claims the second generation of its dual-core design, known as the UltraSPARC IV+, is twice as fast running applications than its existing UltraSPARC IV family. The processor, which was spared by Sun during its acquired from Afara Websystems. At the heart of this new strategy is Chip Multithreading (CMT), a design concept that allows the processor to execute tens of threads simultaneously.

Although x86 vendors are only now migrating to dual-core chips, Sun is well ahead of the curve. The UltraSPARC IV+ is a second-generation dual-core design. IBM is also established in the category with its Power processors.

AMD and Intel are still lagging behind with their Opteron and Xeon chips, respectively.

The new chips are the first dual-core processors made for Sun using 90-nanometer process technology by its longtime manufacturer Texas Instruments . Sun said its UltraSPARC IV+ uses expanded caches and buffers, a better branch prediction mechanism, augmented prefetching capabilities and new computational abilities to keep performance high. The processor also includes a new 3-level cache hierarchy, with a fast on-chip 2MB, second-level cache and a large 32MB off-chip, third-level cache.

The new server chips are also expected to include an array of new RAS features, as Sun's customers are having to incorporate storage in their systems.

"Sun is showing the market that it is serious about delivering on the promise of Throughput Computing," Kevin Krewell, principal analyst for In-Stat/MDR, said in a statement. "We are impatiently awaiting the revolutionary Niagara processor to hit the market in 2006. This will be a huge departure from conventional processor design that will subsequently alter the face of network computing infrastructure as we know it."

Dale Greenley, UltraSPARC IV+ director of engineering, is expected to highlight the chip's capabilities at the In-Stat/MDR's Fall Processor Forum in Silicon Valley this week.

In addition to Panther, Sun's roadmap includes a co-development partnership with Tokyo-based Fujitsu. Starting in 2006, the two companies that supply SPARC-based servers are expected to begin rolling out their joint Advanced Product Line (APL), also known as Olympus. APL is a server product line that combines mid- to high-end traditional SMP (Symmetric Multi-Processing) systems made by Fujitsu with low- to mid-range servers from Sun.

As previously reported, the three-year initiative wraps a 20-year partnership around next-generation, 64-bit RISC chips. The joint effort is expected to produce servers that scale from one to multiple processors.

The Fujitsu APL systems will use its Olympus processor with its Jupiter system Interconnects. Sun is basing its APL systems on its Niagara processor, which is a glue-less Chip Multithreading system that has been pre-configured to address 14 separate case usage models such as network-centric, data-centric, compute-centric and workstations. All APL-branded servers are expected to run Solaris 10. The only subtle differences expected are in hardware such as faceplates and colors to distinguish the systems.