UltraSPARC IV+ Lights Fire Under Sun Server

By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2005-11-07

UltraSPARC IV+ Lights Fire Under Sun Server

Armed with the new UltraSPARC IV+ processors, Sun Microsystems Inc.s Sun Fire V490 server boasts twice the performance of its predecessor, the UltraSPARC IV-based V490.

Click here to read the full review of the Sun Fire V490.


Armed with the new UltraSPARC IV+ processors, Sun Microsystems Inc.s Sun Fire V490 server boasts twice the performance of its predecessor, the UltraSPARC IV-based V490.

For IT managers with an investment in Sun hardware, the value proposition is clear: With the new chip, the V490 midrange server will double horsepower in the same form factor, with the same power consumption and at the same price.

Click here to read how the travel company Transat is boosting its infrastructure with UltraSPARC IV+-based servers.

The V490 is best suited for hosting midtier or back-end applications. Announced with the upgraded processor in September, the 5U (8.75-inch) V490 is aggressively priced at $30,995 for a basic configuration of two 1.5GHz UltraSPARC IV+ CPUs, 8GB of memory and dual 146GB hard drives. The server is also equipped with six PCI slots, hot-swappable power and cooling, and an onboard management processor.

eWEEK Labs $58,995 test unit was equipped with four 1.5GHz UltraSPARC IV+ processors, 16GB of memory and dual 146GB FC-AL (Fiber Channel-Arbitrated Loop) hard drives. The V490 system we tested also included a System Controller card and dual embedded Gigabit Ethernet.

The V490 and the Sun Fire V890 (which was upgraded at the same time) were the first Sun servers to be armed with the new UltraSPARC IV+ processor, formerly code-named Panther. The UltraSPARC IV+ 64-bit processors have a speed of 1.5GHz, while the UltraSPARC IV chips top out at 1.35GHz.

Sun is not limiting the top-of-the-line UltraSPARC IV+ to its midrange servers. Last month, the company implemented the new chip in its high-end Unix servers, including the 36-processor Sun Fire E20K and the 72-processor Sun Fire E25K.

With the UltraSPARC IV+, Sun has increased Level 3 cache to 32MB and added 2MB of Level 2 cache to reduce latency when accessing data in memory. In addition, by moving from a 130-nanometer to a 90-nanometer manufacturing process, Sun was able to maintain the same power envelope. This is important for IT managers who want to reduce the server footprint in the data center and/or increase computing resources while keeping power consumption in check.

Next Page: Chip mix.


IT managers will likely see the biggest value proposition, however, in Suns upgraded support for mixed generations and speeds of UltraSPARC IV+ and UltraSPARC IV CPU boards in the same server.

During tests, Suns CPU/Memory Uniboard technology and the binary compatibility of the Solaris 10 operating system allowed us to run an UltraSPARC IV-based Uniboard simultaneously with an UltraSPARC IV+-based Uniboard. In addition, we were able to swap the UltraSPARC IV-based Uniboard and replace it with an UltraSPARC IV+-based board with no problems.

Suns support for heterogeneous processors and speeds will allow IT managers to run a combination of CPUs as their organizations computing needs gradually grow and change, avoiding forced migrations.

It also will enable administrators to run Solaris 8 on the UltraSPARC IV, as the UltraSPARC IV+ platform supports only Solaris 9 and 10.

Users will see the biggest performance boost when running Solaris 10, whose container and Dynamic Tracing capabilities can leverage the power of the new chip. When retrieving systemwide diagnostic information using Dynamic Tracing, for example, we noticed a significant reduction in the time it took for the UltraSPARC IV+-based Sun Fire V490 to complete the task versus an UltraSPARC IV-based system.

Sun estimates that users will get as much as 3.5 times the throughput from the V490 with the dual-core UltraSPARC IV+ processor over UltraSPARC III-based systems.

Next Page: Stiff competition.


The UltraSPARC IV+ faces fierce competition from rival processors, including IBMs new Power5+ and Intel Corp.s forthcoming "Montecito" chip.

Last month, for example, IBM began offering its Power5+ chip in its low-end p5 systems. Big Blue has plans to bring the chip to its midrange and high-end servers next year.

In addition, Fujitsu Computer Systems Corp. will introduce dual-core technology in its SPARC64 processors next year.

While the new V490 is a solid server overall, we were disappointed to see that Sun has not improved the servers I/O. The new Sun Fire server has the same 9.6GB-per-second backplane Sun has been using since the V480, as well as six PCI slots (two 66MHz 64-bit slots and four 33MHz 64-bit slots). Most servers that eWEEK Labs tests these days have 133MHz PCI-X bus speed support. However, the built-in FC-AL controller allows the server to be connected to external storage arrays.

As with the UltraSPARC IV-based V490 we reviewed last year, the new Sun Fire server offers impressive serviceability features, including Suns RSC (Remote System Control). The RSC card allows IT managers to remotely access and monitor the Sun Fire system. IT managers also have the option to monitor servers using a command-line interface or a Java user interface.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

Page 5

Evaluation Shortlist

IBMs eServer p5 550 Armed with two or four of Big Blues 1.9GHz 64-bit Power5+ processors, the eServer p5 550 is packed with Level 3 cache and supports AIX, Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Novell Inc.s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (www-03.IBM.com/servers/eserver/pseries/hardware/entry/550.html)

Hewlett-Packard Co.s HP 9000 rp3410 Running HP-UX, the HP 9000 rp3410 is available with 800MHz PA-8900 processors, 1.5MB of Level 1 cache and as much as 64MB of Level 2 cache (www.hp.com/products1/servers/rackoptimized/rp3400_series/index.html)

Senior Writer Anne Chen can be contacted at anne_chen@ziffdavis.com.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.

Rocket Fuel