The UltraSPARC chip's features are critical to solving the virtualization and consolidation issues common in data centers.
Sun Microsystems is looking to add some more spark to its Microelectronics
In the last year, Sun created the microelectronics unit to not only develop
the company's own microprocessor technology but also as a way to license
and sell its silicon technology to other vendors and customers.
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Sun is announcing a new partner June 2, Themis Computer, which will buy
T2 processors, formerly called Niagara 2,
for a new line of blade systems
called T2BC. Themis, which specializes in selling hardware to the military,
other government agencies and telecommunication companies, already licenses
Sun's Solaris operating system.
The agreement with Themis represents one of the first design wins for Sun as
the company tries selling its UltraSPARC line outside of the company for the
first time, said Michael Knudsen, Sun's vice president of marketing for
Other companies, Knudsen said, have expressed interest in the processor's
enhanced floating point capabilities-the T2 has one floating point execution
unit with each of its eight cores-and its ability to support 10 Gigabit
Ethernet ports for networking. These features were all improvements on the
UltraSPARC T1 design.
Bill Kehret, president and CEO of Themis,
said these features are critical to solving the types of virtualization and
consolidation issues that are common in today's data centers. Since Themis also
builds systems that are used in rugged environments, Kehret said Solaris and
the UltraSPARC line fit his customers' needs.
Sun is not the only major vendor to begin selling its once proprietary products
in the market to increase its profits and attract new customers. IBM
has been selling its Power Architecture to third-party vendors for year. (IBM
also sells other designs and Themis is using IBM's
BladeCenter chassis design to house its new T2BC servers.)
Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, said customers will be
interested in the processor's multithreading capabilities and its power
efficiency, which is superior to that of some of the other microprocessors that
are available in the market.
At the same time, King said, Sun needs to show that its UltraSPARC
technology is more than a niche chip for Sun's own products.
"I'd say that Sun's effort to develop OEMs for its UltraSPARC chips is
about creating new revenue streams and demonstrating that the SPARC platform
can support more than Sun's own efforts," King wrote in an e-mail.
"Creating, maintaining and evolving a processor
platform is costly, and new OEM partners could help Sun defray those costs and
even become increasingly profitable," King added. "The effort is
similar to-and I believe hopes to mirror-IBM's
around the Power processors, though Power is an inherently more flexible
architecture than SPARC."