Fujitsu Plans Multicore Push

The new SPARC64 VI will first appear in the new systems jointly developed with Sun Microsystems that are due in mid-2006.

Fujitsu Ltd. is preparing for an aggressive push into the multicore arena with its SPARC64 processor.

SPARC64 VI will be the Tokyo-based technology companys first dual-core processor, and will first appear in the new systems—called the Advanced Product Line—jointly developed with Sun Microsystems Inc. that are due in mid-2006, according to a presentation given by Takumi Maruyama, manager of enterprise server development at Fujitsu, at the Fall Processor Forum 2005 show, in San Jose, Calif.

That will be followed by SPARC64 VI+, a four-core processor scheduled to appear in systems starting at the beginning of 2008.

Richard McCormack, senior vice president of product and solutions marketing at Fujitsu Computer Solutions Corp.—the North American subsidiary of Fujitsu—said the combination of multiple processing cores and higher frequencies will bring high-end customers improved performance without burdening them with larger power and cooling issues.

Fujitsu will be the latest chip maker to make the jump to multicore processing—where a single piece of silicon holds two or more processing cores. Both Sun and IBM have had dual-core capabilities in their RISC-based chips for several years, and both Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Intel Corp. have introduced them into their x86 chips this year.

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McCormack said the combination of customers demanding the technology and software vendors restructuring their licensing to accommodate systems running multicore processors makes this a particularly good time for Fujitsu to jump into the fray.

"Our timing is pretty good for coming out with our dual-core processors," he said.

SPARC64 VI will be built on Fujitsus 90-nanometer manufacturing process, and will top out at 2.4GHz, a jump up from the current 2.1GHz SPARC64 V.

In addition to the two cores and faster frequencies, SPARC64 VI also will offer other features, including vertical multithreading. Multithreading enables the chip to process multiple threads of instructions simultaneously.

However, where other multithreading technologies have the threads sharing common resources, vertical multithreading has the two threads switching on events and having access to all the processor resources, reducing latency, Fujitsus Maruyama said in an e-mail.

SPARC64 VI also will offer a number of reliability and available features, including more than 2,200 "checkers," or devices that enable the chip to monitor itself. SPARC64 V has about 800 checkers, McCormack said. The processor also will offer greater use of error correcting codes, or ECC.

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Fujitsu is releasing fewer details about SPARC64 VI+, though McCormack said it will be released with a top frequency of between 2.7GHz and 3GHz. The chip will be built using Fujitsus 65-nm process, and will be interface compatible with VI—an investment protection feature similar to Suns UltraSPARC III, VI and VI+ chips.

Users who want the improved performance of the new chip but without having to pay for an entirely new system can simply swap out the chips, McCormack said.

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