Will the Is Have

By eweek  |  Posted 2001-01-22 Print this article Print

It?"> Will the Is Have It?

Although chip manufacturers regularly best each other on performance, depending on when their new generations appear, its possible IBM and Intel will emerge with a competitive advantage. Sun will still be implementing UltraSparc III on its server line as IBM readies Power4, said Jim McGaughan, spokesman at IBM Unix systems.

To Baron, the issue is real, but hes not yet ready to give the contest to Intel and IBM. Sun has designed features into UltraSparc that differ from Intels Pentium or upcoming Itanium, or IBMs Power designs.

"The main innovations that Sun has brought to the world are not its competitiveness on megahertz [clock speed]," Baron said. Sun has designed parallel instruction processing and a high-speed bus into UltraSparc III that lets the chip handle multiple tasks at a time. In addition, it has a memory controller built in that allows each UltraSparc chip to control up to 8 megabytes of system memory. On a multiprocessor system, this memory controller gives each chip the equivalent of "a very large cache," or memory pool, reserved for the data and instructions likely to be used next by the chip, Baron said.

Such a move accelerates the operation of each chip in a multiprocessor system by preventing collisions between processors seeking the same data that often cause other systems to spin their wheels, he said.

If the memory controller proves a boon to multiprocessor server design, Sun may be able to bulk up its Enterprise 10000 servers beyond 64 processors to hundreds of chips and get added performance with few penalties.

"The real merit of this device will be apparent in multiprocessor servers," Baron said, "but Sun still has to prove it."

Sun has aligned itself well with the Internet, Aberdeens Becknell said. But both Compaq and IBM are rapidly pushing big server technology downward through their midrange and thin-server product lines. New chip technology will impact which company can produce the most powerful high-end servers, and the outcome of the race remains anyones guess, she said.


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