Sun Microsystems is launching the second of its systems powered by its multicore UltraSPARC T1 processor and has taped out the chips successor, which is due to appear in systems in the second half of 2007.
The Santa Clara, Calif., company released the first of the systems—the Sun Fire T2000—in November and said the T1000 would follow in a few months. The system is generally available now, according to Fadi Azhari, director of outbound marketing with Suns Scalable Systems Group, with a starting price of $3,245.
The T1 chip is a key player in Suns push to revamp its server offerings. The processor offers up to eight cores, with each core running up to four instruction threads simultaneously.
Sun officials have targeted the processor—which offers high throughput and, at about 70 watts, low power consumption—at high-transaction and Web-based workloads, saying it enables the company to compete for business that it couldnt have before with its traditional UltraSPARC architecture.
However, critics and competitors have called the T1—formerly code-named Niagara—a niche player without wide appeal.
Azhari disagrees, pointing out a number of wins that Sun has had with the platform, including Sina.com, a Web portal in China that he said is replacing Dell servers with T1000 systems.
He also said Sun has seen success through its 60-day try-and-buy program. Sun has gotten more than 1,000 orders through the program, and about half of those have come from new customers.
Sun hopes to expand the customer base when systems running on Niagara II—now called the UltraSPARC T2—start appearing in 2007. The chip will double the number of threads—from 32 to 64—and double the performance of the current processor, Azhari said, and also will be used in multiple-processor systems, the company has said.
"The chip we taped out has a similar architecture to the current chip," said Paul Durzan, group marketing manager for Niagara products.
Taping out the chip means that Sun has sent the initial design of the T2 to its manufacturer, Texas Instruments. The chip will be taped out several times before its ready for final production, Azhari said.
Sun is looking at the Niagara architecture and another processor due in 2008—code-named Rock—to help revive its server fortunes. In addition, the company is growing its family of "Galaxy" servers powered by Advanced Micro Devices Opteron chip to carve out business in the x86 server market.
Also, Sun is partnering with Fujitsu on a line of servers based on Fujitsus upcoming dual-core SPARC64 "Olympus" chip. The new server family, dubbed the Advanced Product Line, is due out later this year.
Despite the work in building out the Niagara and Rock offerings, Suns high-end server system group was the target last week of budget cuts, including the laying off of about 7 percent—or about 200—of its work force.