Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu are updating their jointly developed line of servers with the SPARC64 VII, a new version of the SPARC processor that offers four processing cores, a larger L2 cache and a total of eight instructional threads, and looks to compete against IBM's Power processors and Intel's Itanium chip.
Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu are updating their jointly developed line of
midrange and high-end servers with a quad-core version of the SPARC64
The two companies will launch four new systems Jul. 14 that are built on the
SPARC64 VII processors, which have four
processing cores, better clock speed-2.4GHz or 2.5GHz-and 6MB of Level 2 cache.
The updated SPARC chip also has a total of eight instructional threads, two
with each core, which allow multiple threads to work at the same time in
parallel to support database applications.
the first significant update to the SPARC line since 2007,
when Sun and
Fujitsu announced systems built around the previous generation of SPARC64
chips. However, the SPARC64 VI and VII use
the same sockets on the board, which allows uses to mix and match chips with a
single system or within a larger chassis.
The new SPARC64 VII is also built on a
new 65-nanometer manufacturing process, whereas the older generation of chips
were built on 90-nm, said Richard McCormack, senior vice president of marketing
for Fujitsu. This should also provide a performance boost for the new systems
and also improve energy efficiency, since the dual-core SPARC chips ran at 120
watts, while the quad-core version runs at 135 watts.
"What this all means is that we now have a brand-new processor core
that really helps the midrange and high-end customers choose if they want to
expand their machines by going to a larger chassis or simply make a CPU swap in
their current chassis to drive up the performance in the machine,"
The updated SPARC64 VII should not be
confused with Sun's
other line of processors under the title of UltraSPARC T1 and T2
both Niagara-which the company has been rolling out with
some success since their first introduction in 2005.
Sun has tried to position the UltraSPARC family as more of a commodity
that can handle general-purpose or Web 2.0 applications and Web
infrastructure, the older SPARC lines remains wedded to traditional back-end
support and high-performance computing applications.
new SPARC systems also come at a time when Sun's high-end Unix business
been struggling to gain against IBM with its
Power-based systems and Hewlett-Packard, which uses Intel's Itanium chip.
Although this market was worth about $4 billion in the first quarter of 2008,
Sun seems to have lost some ground to IBM.
While Sun has found a partner in Fujitsu to help offset the cost of
developing high-end SPARC chips for this market, the industry is increasingly
turning to x86-based hardware, which has also reduced sales.
To offset some the losses to its high-end server business, Sun
has started cutting employees
and the recent downturn in the company's
stock has some people thinking that that Sun could be bought. The
Register believes that buyer could eventually be Fujitsu,
which makes sense
since both companies already share a good deal of chip and system development.
Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, said the line of
SPARC-based systems will help with Sun's traditional customer base. The
question that now has to be answered is whether the company's new
hardware will translate into the new customers it needs to help increase
its business when sales are sagging.
"With the older SPARC systems, the IT staff really understand the
platform and when you have enterprise-class platform[s] like SPARC or IBM
Power systems, it's always good to have a staff that knows the ins and outs and
management features, and it makes sense for these companies to keep buying and
replacing older systems," King said.
Despite the recent downturn, Sun and Fujitsu will revamp several of their
systems to support the quad-core UltraSPARC64 VII.
The updates to the SPARC line include two midrange, rack-mount systems, the
M4000 and the M5000, which can support up to four and eight dual- or quad-core
On the high-end side of the SPARC line, Sun and Fujitsu have revamped the
M8000 server to support 16 SPARC processors and the M9000 system to support up
to 32 SPARC chips. All four systems support the latest versions of Sun's
Solaris operating system and work with a number of SAN
(storage area network) and NAS (network-attached storage) storage arrays.
The announcement of the new servers also means that several systems with
Sun's Sun Fire line will reach end of life and no longer be sold. These systems
include the Sun Fire V125, V215, V245 and V445.
The starting price for the new M4000 with the
quad-core SPARC64 VII processor begins at about $34,980 and the prices for
the other three systems increase from there.