Sun Claims UltraSPARC T1 CPU Speedy, Eco-Friendly

Sun Microsystems introduces its "Niagara" multithreading CPU, claiming it is not only fast but uses less than half the power of comparable Intel and IBM server chips.

SAN FRANCISCO—Sun Microsystems Inc. Monday introduced the UltraSPARC T1 multithreading CPU, formerly code-named Niagara, that it claims is not only fast, but is good for the environment.

Thats because UltraSPARC T1 with "CoolThreads" technology uses less than 70 watts of power, at a time when most multicore processors including Intel Corp.s Xeon and IBMs Power processor lines use about 150 watts, according to Sun officials. The new chips are scheduled start shipping in a new line of Sun Fire servers before the end of 2005.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read a review about the new UltraSPARC IV+ CPU that will drive the Sun Fire V490.

Sun introduced the chips here Monday at its summit to discuss eco-responsible computing that would enable the computer industry to consume less energy while delivering continuing gains in performance.

The summit, which included Sun system designers and representatives from the Natural Resources Defense Council, the U.S. Green Building Council, Stanford University and the Rocky Mountain Institute, also examined ways to improve recycling of computer components and materials as well as how to build computers with less harmful materials.

The eight-core CPU runs four threads per core so that each CPU can run 32 parallel threads to support high throughput database operations or Internet searches, according to Greg Papadopoulos, Sun executive vice president and chief technology officer.

Sun also claims that the technology has the potential to cut the number of installed Web services in data centers around the world by 50 percent, causing a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from oil- and coal-fueled power that would be the equivalent to planting 1 million acres of trees.

Papadopoulos also contends that the introduction of the UltraSPARC T1 represents a sea change in chip design in which nearly all of a servers cache, I/O components and memory architecture are being built into the chip.

"Microprocessors are about to die," Papadopoulos said, in the same way that the microprocessor rendered discrete mainframe processors obsolete. UltraSPARC T1, he said, "is the first credible server on a chip," which will greatly simplify server designs and speed up their performance.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read why Sun expects to shake up the server market with its UltraSPARC T1 processor.

The T1 is the result of five years of chip design work aimed at making the most of multicore and multithreading technology, said David Yen, executive vice president with Sun Microsystems Scalable Systems Group. He contends that the design is as significant as the development of RISC processors and will have as profound an effect on hardware design as Suns Java software technology had on Internet application development.

The T1 is the first microprocessor design to build four memory controllers, transferring data between memory and the processing cores to ensure that data is transmitted into the chip as fast as it can be processed, according to Papadopoulos.

The communication rack is also built directly into the chip, meaning internal communications tasks have a shorter distance to travel across metal, which speeds up performance and reduces energy consumption.

The new chip design also reduces energy consumption because it reduces the amount of memory and processing latency that has been typical in most previous chip designs, according to Marc Tremblay, chief architect with Sun Scalable Systems Group.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read an interview with Sun CEO Scott McNealy about why the power-efficient UltraSPARC T1 is important to his companys future.

Most chips consume just slightly less of the amount of power when they are sitting idle as when they are running at peak capacity, Tremblay said. "Total heat dissipated … barely goes down when the processor is inactive," he noted. "It was disappointing that the idle time is not more power-efficient." As a result, a design goal for the T1 was to size the power supply in a way that better accounted for the peaks and valleys of processors throughput.

Also, because of the T1s reduced energy, the amount of rack space in data centers used for cooling can be reduced, Sun officials said.

This is important because 80 percent of all data centers are already constrained by heat and power demands. About 40 percent of current data centers are facing a need to upgrade their cooling and ventilating plants to cope with increasing power consumption and heat generation.

Since the explosion of Internet use over the past five years, data center hardware heat load density has more than quadrupled.

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John Pallatto

John Pallatto

John Pallatto has been editor in chief of QuinStreet Inc.'s since October 2012. He has more than 40 years of experience as a professional journalist working at a daily newspaper and...