Sun, Fujitsu Unveil New SPARC64 Chips as Oracle Challenges IBM

The enhanced SPARC64 VII processors from Sun and Fujitsu offer 25 percent better performance than previous version as well as an upgraded memory controller. The announcement of the new chips comes as Oracle and Sun host Oracle OpenWorld and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison challenges IBM in the hardware business. Oracle is still awaiting approval from European regulators on its proposed $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun.

Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu are rolling out new SPARC64 VII processors and an enhanced memory controller that officials with both companies say will offer enterprises a 25 percent performance boost over previous versions of the chips.

The new quad-core SPARC64 processors, announced Oct. 13, provide mainframe-class computing at a lower cost than IBM technologies, according to John Fowler, executive vice president of Sun's Systems Group.

The announcement comes less than two days after Oracle CEO Larry Ellison told an audience at the Oracle OpenWorld show in San Francisco that Oracle-which is in the process of buying Sun for $7.4 billion-will keep Sun's hardware business and is targeting IBM.

Fowler and other Sun executives were on stage at the keynote address Oct. 11, marking the first time the two companies have jointly hosted Oracle OpenWorld.

Oracle's bid to buy Sun was delayed when the European Commission, the antitrust arm of the European Union, announced in August that it was expanding its investigation of the deal. Executives for both companies hope to get the EC's blessing by the end of the year.

The new SPARC64 chips and enhanced memory controller mark one of the few new-product announcements Sun has made since Oracle announced in April its intention of buying the company.

The SPARC Enterprise M4000 and M5000 processors run at 2.53GHz, while the M8000 and M9000 run at 2.88GHz, according to Sun and Fujitsu. All four offer greater single-thread and overall system performance, while the upgraded memory controller in the M8000 and M9000 improves throughput in systems running memory-intensive workloads.

"Our SPARC Enterprise services with the Solaris OS offer a compelling combination of mainframe-class performance and reliability as well as virtualization and consolidation capabilities in an open system," Fowler said in a statement. "The update we're announcing today makes it possible for customers to increase performance of mission-critical enterprise applications while capitalizing on existing infrastructure investments with upgrades at half the cost of IBM."

Sun and Fujitsu officials noted that, as with previous processors, the new chips can run in older SPARC Enterprise servers, and also offer virtualization capabilities through Dynamic Domains and Solaris Containers.

They also stressed the integration of Oracle's Database with Sun's Solaris 10's dynamic memory management capabilities, and noted the SPARC Enterprise servers' performances on several benchmarks.

Ellison has tweaked IBM before, reiterating in a full-page newspaper advertisement in September that Oracle plans to keep Sun's hardware business and increasing investments in innovating and selling the products. The ad also challenged IBM, saying Oracle was looking forward to competing with the technology giant.

IBM and Hewlett-Packard both have aggressively pursued Sun hardware customers who may be have questions around Oracle's commitment to the Sun hardware business.