The Palo Alto, Calif., company is shipping the 36-way Sun Fire E20K and 72-way E25K servers with the new 1.5GHz processor, which officials say offers 20 percent more speed and up to five times the performance of its predecessor for the same price and within the same power envelope.
As with the previous systems upgraded with the new processor, Suns CPU/Memory Uniboard and the binary compatibility of the companys Unix operating system, Solaris 10, will enable customers already running servers with UltraSPARC III or IV to switch out the Uniboards with few, if any, changes to the high-end servers themselves, said David Yen, executive vice president of Suns Scalable Systems Group.
It also enables systems running UltraSPARC III, IV and IV+ to operate in the same chassis.
"Our goal was to minimize, if not eliminate, any disruption that needed to be created in an upgrade," Yen said. "By taking advantage of the hot-plug compatibility, [customers] can do an upgrade on the fly."
The upgrading of Suns high-end server line is the latest in a number of moves Sun and its competitors are making in the competitive Unix space. Sun first introduced the new chip Sept. 20 in its Sun Fire V490, V890, E2900, E4900 and E6900 servers.
Earlier this month, IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., rolled out its Power5+ RISC chip in its low-end p5 systems, and plans to bring it to the midrange and high-end next year. In addition, Fujitsu Computer Systems Corp., of Sunnyvale, Calif., next year will introduce dual-core technology in its SPARC64 processors.
For its part, Intel Corp. later this year will unveil the first of its dual-core Itanium processors. The Santa Clara, Calif., chip maker is targeting the 64-bit processors at the RISC space.
Yen said the backward compatibility of the technology is a key advantage for Sun, given businesses desire for investment protection.
"We look much more competitive now than we did two or three years ago," he said. "It shows a long-term commitment to customers, that were taking care of them, and that is making us much more competitive in deals."
UltraSPARC IV+ offers users an increased Level 3 cache and the Level 2 cache on the chip—a move designed to reduce latency when accessing data in memory. Enhancements to the chips pipeline also enabled Sun engineers to improve performance, and the transition to a 90-nanometer manufacturing process allowed Sun to keep the same power envelope, officials said.
With 72 UltraSPARC IV+ processors, the E25K can execute up to 144 instruction threads simultaneously, according to Sun. The upgraded systems are targeted at such workloads as high-volume databases, decision support and customer management.
The UltraSPARC IV+ also is part of Suns aggressive plan to expand its overall server offerings. The company is pushing into the x86 market with a line of Sun Fire systems running Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s Opteron processor, and last money unveiled the first of its "Galaxy" systems based on the chip.
In addition, Sun is partnering with Fujitsu Ltd. on a new line of RISC-based systems, called the Advanced Product Line, based on the next generation SPARC64 chip, codenamed "Olympus," and due out in mid-2006.
Early next year, Sun will start shipping systems based on its "Niagara" processors, which will feature as many as eight cores on a single chip, each of which will be able to run up to four instruction threads simultaneously. It also is working on "Niagara II" and "Rock," processors due in 2007 and 2008, respectively.
Sun also is planning speed bumps for UltraSPARC IV+, and is working on an upgrade to UltraSPARC IIIi, the UltraSPARC IIIi+.