RealTime IT News

Sun Gains a New Licensee for Niagara 2

Sun Microsystems today announced it has licensed its UltraSparc T2 CMT (chip multi-threading) processor, a.k.a. Niagara 2, to Themis Computer, a maker of blade systems for the embedded market.

On the surface, this seems like just another OEM licensing deal, but one analyst thinks it could have enormous potential consequences in the server consolidation drive that many IT shops are on.

Themis Computer develops high-performance Virtual Machine Environment (VME) and Compact PCI single-board computers for industries such as telecommunications, military/aerospace, and industrial embedded applications like medical imaging. It can hold up to 19 blades in one rack chassis.

It's been a long-time Sun (NASDAQ: JAVA) OEM, but its previous systems were based on the Sun UltraSparc 3i, a processor introduced in 2003. Needless to say, it's a bit behind the technology curve.

"The 3i has one core and is near end of meaningful life. The UltraSparc T2 has 8 cores. That's a huge deal," Bill Kehret, president and CEO of Themis, told InternetNews.com. "It's not just eight times the performance of 3i because of the cores, it's significantly more than that."

Kehret said Themis held on to the old design because it was not keen on Sun's UltraSparc T1, which had only one floating point core, shared by all eight processing cores. The T2 has a high performance FP core for each of the eight cores, making for considerably improved FP performance.

Themis wanted a much higher performing processor for its military contracts, since they could not afford datacenter sprawl, least of all on a Naval vessel. Even aircraft carriers have their space constraints.

"Some while back, the military decided to ask what would happen if you took an enterprise solution and put it on a ship," said Kehret. "That's been happening, and they asked how would we consolidate all these different ecosystems on a ship. What Themis wanted to do was say here's an ecosystem, why can't we bring these pieces of technology together?"

Much more than consolidation

But it's more than just consolidation, said Nathan Brookwood, research fellow with Insight64. He noted that Themis is a licensee of IBM's BladeCenter blade chassis, which, unlike other blade chassis from HP, Dell or Sun, is an open architecture.

Combining a Themis blade in an IBM BladeCenter means one chassis can hold Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) and AMD (NYSE: AMD) x86 processors, IBM (NYSE: IBM) POWER and Cell processors and Sun's UltraSparc all in one chassis, an incredible consolidation story.

"You can do that for apps that only run on certain platforms, like Sparc apps on the Sparc blade and Intel apps on an Intel or AMD blade," he said.

"In the past, you would have to have separate boxes for each of those platforms. Now you can just mix and match blades to cover all those architectures. That's a huge story. This is really a very big story for BladeCenter."

Fadi Azhari, director of marketing for Sun Microelectronics, said the Themis blades will come out this August, starting at $15,000, and Sun is looking for more design wins. "We are looking to increases the market footprint of our differentiated IP of the UltraSparc T2 and Solaris as well," he said.