Sun Rolls Out UltraSPARC T1-based Servers

Sun plans to roll out its first servers based on the new multicore UltraSPARC T1 today. The company has its sights set on gaining market share in sectors dominated by x86 machines.

Formerly code-named Niagara, Sun has been playing up the new eight-core processor for more than a year and officially introduced it as the UltraSPARC T1 in November.

Based on the new processor, the Sun Fire T1000 and T2000 servers are the latest addition to Sun’s server portfolio makeover. Sun now offers low-end x86 servers and high-end UltraSPARC servers to cash in at all levels of the server market.

Eco-Friendly Servers

The UltraSPARC T1 uses Sun’s patented CoolThreats chip multi-threading technology that leverages the threaded nature of Solaris 10. Sun also touts the new processor as “eco-responsible.”

At just 70 watts, Sun claims the SPARC-based CoolThread processor uses less than half the energy if Intel Xeon or IBM Power processors. Sun said the transactional throughput is designed to save customers millions of dollars on skyrocketing datacenter power, cooling and space costs.

Charles King, Principal Analyst at Pund-IT Research, told TechNewsWorld that Sun’s hyper focus on “eco-responsibility” initially struck him as somewhat odd after the November announcement, but considering the huge increases in fuel and natural gas costs he said the issue of power consumption is one that may get customers’ attention.

“Sun is proposing a new benchmark for servers that’s based on power consumption, ecological friendliness and actual performance,” King said. “As far as I know Sun is the first company that’s actually proposed this sort of thing. Whether or not it’s going to be picked up by anybody else is another issue.”

Eight Cores, 32 Threads

The UltraSPARC TI processor has eight cores, each with four threads, for a total of 32 threads that work simultaneously. Sun said this allows many tasks are performed in parallel with no waiting.

Sun has put the rack on a chip. The company said internal communications tasks right on the chip means less metal to move across for better energy efficiency and higher performance.

Sun also put four memory controllers on the chip, which routes data between the processing cores and the memory to allow data to be transferred into the chip as fast as it can be processed.

“Five years ago, our engineers realized the constraints of current processor design and went back to the drawing board in developing the CoolThreads technology. This resulting SPARC-based innovation is as significant as RISC processors and could have a similar impact as Java has had on the market,” said David Yen, executive vice-president, Sun Microsystems Scalable Systems Group.

Completely New Architecture

Analysts said Sun has an advantage because UltraSPARC T1 is an entirely new architecture. But that could also be a disadvantage because it may require extensive optimization of Solaris applications.

“If it requires a significant amount of work to optimize Solaris applications for the new servers, then some ISVs are going to need to figure out whether the investment of their time and effort would pay off for them,” King said. “It’s obvious that Sun needs to make something happen. They’ve got an awful lot riding on this and the upcoming Rock processors.”

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