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Sun Abandons UltraSPARC Projects

Sun Microsystems said Friday that it will no longer pursue development on some of its next-generation UltraSPARC processors.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computer maker said specifically that its UltraSPARC V (code-named Millennium) and Gemini (based on two UltraSPARC II cores) were being abandoned in favor of keeping an eye on the company's shifting financial situation.

"Sun continues to focus its processor R&D on more radical designs that will be featured in the Niagara and Rock processor families to offer customers 15 to 30 times the application throughput they have today," a spokesperson for Sun said.

The company said its eight-core Niagara processor earmarked for entry and midrange servers and multi-core, multithreaded Rock processor are now slated to come out in the 2006-2007 timeframe. The chips are part of Sun's "Throughput Computing" strategy, which the company acquired from Afara Websystems in 2002.

The Sun spokesperson said that the engineers assigned to those processors would more than likely be transferred to other UltraSPARC projects such as UltraSPARC IV and UltraSPARC IV+.

As a RISC-based chip, Sun's UltraSPARC processors have encountered increased sales pressure from x86 designs such as Intel's Xeon and AMD's Opteron. Even Sun acknowledged the popularity of the other chips and now sells entry-level servers and Solaris operating system software based on their designs.

Sun said it will continue to rely on Texas Instruments to produce its UltraSPARC chips, just as it has for the past 18 years.

Gemini was an aggressive project designed specifically for blade and rack-mount Web and Application servers. Previewed in August 2003, the chip would have been Sun's first h-Series UltraSPARC processor and the first in its generation of CMT (Chip Multi-Threading) UltraSPARC chips.

The UltraSPARC V was part of the company's s-Series and would have been offered at 1.8GHz speeds with the capacity to expand to 3.0GHz or higher. Sun's "Project 30x" chip on its roadmap has now been named Rock. That processor is expected to be produced using 65-nanometer technology.

Last week, Sun said it would cut 3,300 jobs as part of a company-wide restructuring. At the time, CEO Scott McNealy said that the company's server line running on the UltraSPARC family was one of the bright spots on the company's balance sheet. Sun is scheduled to announce its quarterly financials next week and expects third-quarter revenue of $2.65 billion, with a net loss between $750 million and $810 million, or 23 cents to 25 cents per share.



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