Schwartz: Niagara 2 Is a General-Purpose Chip

Sun's CEO says the new Niagara 2 processor will find a home among the company's traditional customer base.

MENLO PARK, Calif.—Now that Sun Microsystems has unveiled what it says is the worlds fastest microprocessor the company is looking for an audience to buy this multicore, multithreaded chip.

For Jonathan Schwartz, Suns CEO and president, the company is planning on marketing the UltraSPARC T2 in two ways.

First, it is positioning the UltraSPARC T2 processor, also known as Niagara 2, as a general-purpose chip that will find a home in systems that serve a number of the companys traditional markets, including financial services, oil companies, Web businesses and the telecommunications industry.

In his talk at the Aug. 7 event here, Schwartz described these companies as "commodity businesses" and said Sun will pursue these vertical markets and offer SPARC technology in servers, as well as in areas beyond traditional computing, including network appliances and storage products.

At the same time, Schwartz said Sun will expand its OpenSPARC initiative to include the Niagara 2 processor. The company plans to release the core design files and test suites through the GNU General Public License. The idea behind the open-source approach, which is similar to what the company has done with its Solaris operating system, is to allow hardware and software developers to build upon the chips architecture. It will also create an ecosystem around the processor.


Read more here about Suns hopes for Niagara 2.

Since Sun opened up its Solaris code in 2005, Schwartz said the operating system has been downloaded more than 9 million times, and more than half of those are running on systems from IBM, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and others.

Sun has also released the specification for the original UltraSPARC T1 processor.

"This is a big change in the way our business has run in the past and it gives us a chance to build innovation and create more market opportunities," Schwartz said.

Along with building new systems—rack-mount and blade servers—around the Niagara 2 processor, which will begin to ship in volume later this year, Sun is also looking for partners to extol the virtues of the chip.

In addition to offering support for its own Solaris operating system, the company will offer support for Ubuntu Linux. At a question-and-answer session after the event, Schwartz said he wants to see Sun partner with other major vendors, including HP, which he said has been a significant adopter of Solaris.

The adoption of SPARC technology is also a way to grow the companys newly created Microelectronics Division, which began licensing Sun technology earlier this year.

The Niagara 2 processor has the same number of cores—eight—as the original Niagara processor, but the companys engineers have doubled the amount of instructional threads for a total of 64 on the chip. The company has also added a number of networking, I/O and security features. On the virtualization front, the chip will support Suns Logical Domain technology, which will allow a system to dynamically provision and run up to 64 instances of the operating system.

Sun will initially launch two versions of the Niagara 2 processor—one that runs at 1.2GHz and the other that runs at 1.4GHz.


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