Sun Readies New Niagara Systems

New servers from Sun and Fujitsu support two UltraSPARC T2 Processors.

Sun Microsystems is rolling out its latest hardware based on its UltraSPARC T2 chip.

On April 9, Sun will officially begin selling two new servers, the SPARC Enterprise T5140 and the T5240, which use the latest UltraSPARC processor, formerly called Niagara 2. The difference between these servers and the systems Sun introduced in October 2007 is that the T5140 and T5240 support two processors each, giving Sun additional leverage in the MP (multiprocessor) market.

The UltraSPARC T2 chips that Sun had been developing for these MP servers were originally code-named Victoria Falls. These UltraSPARC chips contain an extra piece of circuitry that creates what Sun calls "cache coherency," which gives the chips the ability to communicate with each other and allows for load balancing, said Mat Keep, product manager for Sun's Niagara Systems group.

In addition to Sun, Fujitsu will also launch a group of similar systems based on the Niagara 2 chip. Sun and Fujitsu jointly develop SPARC chips, although Sun has taken the lead on the UltraSPARC line.

The presence of two UltraSPARC chips means users can access a total of 128 instructional threads and up to 16 processing cores within each machine. When Sun introduced the chips in August, the company decided to emphasize its CMT (chip multithreading technology) capabilities and floating-point performance compared with clock speed.

Later in 2008, Sun will add to its Niagara-based line by offering a two-socket blade server and then a four-socket system that will offer up to 256 compute threads, said John Fowler, Sun's executive vice president for systems.

Sun said it believes the new UltraSPARC-based systems offer an alternative to commodity x86 servers using processors from either Intel or Advanced Micro Devices. Instead of increasing the clock speeds-the UltraSPARC T2 runs at 1.4GHz-Sun focused on increasing the performance by adding more cores and more threads to lower latency and improve bandwidth.

"We have added SMP [symmetric multiprocessing] capabilities so you can add two of them into a single system, so within one rack unit or a two-rack-unit-high enclosure you are going to have 128 simultaneous compute threads," Keep said. "What that means in comparison to other compatible systems is that you'll have two-and-a-half to five times the performance compared to a two-socket, Intel-based system and price performance that is five times better."