Suns T1 chip—formerly code-named Niagara—comes in versions with four, six and eight cores per processor.
According to a notice on IBMs Web site, IBM software running on servers with T1 chips of four- and six-core configurations requires two software licenses, while software running on systems with eight-core T1 chips requires three licenses, according to the Armonk, N.Y., company.
In the announcement, IBM said the plan aligns the licensing with the value customers will receiving from the multicore chip, and that it removes the issue of software licensing for customers as they decide the best system to use for the applications.
Software licensing has become an increasingly important issue as technologies such as multicore processors and virtualization have gained traction in the enterprise.
Both technologies promise greater utilization of servers, enabling businesses to get more work done using the hardware. However, savings that customers might realize through greater utilization can be negated if software licensing increases depending on the number of cores each chip runs or the number of virtual machines running on each physical server.
The issue has come to the forefront over the past couple of years as both Intel and Advanced Micro Devices rolled out dual-core processors, along with road maps that project quad-core chips next year.
Most major software vendors, such as Microsoft, have opted for a per-socket licensing model for dual-core machines, with Oracle being the notable exception.
The Redwood Shores, Calif., company has a pricing scheme that attempts to put a value on the processors equal to what the customer gains by using the chips.
For example, Oracle figures in a pricing factor of .5 for Intel or AMD dual-core chips—multiply the number of cores by that figure, and thats how many processor licenses a customer will need. For T1 chips, that factor is .25; for other multicore chips, its .75.
While there may be some agreement on licenses in the current environment, with AMD and Intel offering dual-core chips, some industry analysts say the issue will again come to the fore as those chip makers and others continue to increase the number of cores per chip.
Processor manufacturers see multicore chips as a key way of improving performance without simply cranking up the chip frequency, which in turn can lead to power consumption and heat issues.
Sun already is working on Niagara II, though it is expected to contain the same number of cores as the T1. Both AMD and Intel plan for quad-core chips next year, and Intel already is talking about future chips that could have dozens or even hundreds of cores.
Currently, Azul Systems Vega 1 processor holds 24 cores, and the Mountain View, Calif., company is planning for the next-generation chip, which will hold up to 48 cores.