Sun Tests the Waters with Niagara

As the company's Throughput Computing initiative gathers steam, Sun is using its "Niagara" and UltraSPARC IV processors to sweep into the server market.

Sun is looking to build software support for its upcoming "Niagara" processors.

Scheduled for debut in early 2006, Niagara will be the first major step for Sun Microsystems Inc. in its Throughput Computing initiative, with eight cores that will each be able to run up to eight instruction threads simultaneously.

Sun, which last month demonstrated a system running Niagara chips, now has several dozen in-house, many of them used by the Santa Clara, Calif. companys software unit to "engineer the system software to further increase the opportunities" presented by Niagaras capabilities, according to David Yen, executive vice president of Suns Scalable Systems Group.

Sun also is working with a few customers, having them run their applications on the systems, and in the second half of the year will make Niagara-based systems available to ISVs to enable them to test their software on the chip, Yen said.

"When we roll out Niagara-based products, we want people to feel comfortable," he said.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead more about Suns Niagara processors here.

Niagara is a key part of Suns multipronged approach to the server market. While the company moves ahead on development of Niagara and other chips that will follow it—in particular, Niagara II and "Rock"—it continues to upgrade its current line of servers. Niagara II will be built on the 65-nanometer process, Yen said.

Yen wouldnt give a detailed timetable for that processor, but said that he didnt think the 65-nanometer technology would be mature enough for production rollouts until later 2006 or early 2007. Rock is due out in 2008.

This week, Sun is starting to ship the rest of its Sun Fire server line with the faster 1.35GHz UltraSPARC IV processor. Last month the company introduced the speed bump in four-way Sun Fire v490 and eight-way v890 servers. Now the rest of the systems will feature the faster chip, Yen said. In addition, Sun now also is shipping all of its systems with its new Solaris 10 operating system.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about Suns UltraSPARC IV processor.

Later this year, Sun will start rolling out the UltraSPARC IV+ and IIIi+ chips, both built on the 90-nanometer process. These chips will feature more on-die cache and faster frequencies than the current IIIi and IV chips, Yen said. Like the UltraSPARC IV, the IV+ also will be dual-core, featuring two IIIi cores on a single die. He declined to give more details, but said that with the enhancements, the IV+ will have twice the performance of the IV.

Sun also is partnering with Fujitsu Ltd. in jointly developing and marketing SPARC-based systems, a move designed to help the company accommodate its plans not only for Niagara and Rock but also to grow its new line of x86 systems powered by Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s 64-bit Opteron processors.

The first servers in the Advanced Product Line—the name given the systems in the Sun-Fujitsu partnership—are due out in mid-2006. The new systems will be based on the next Sparc64 processor from Fujitsu, a multi-core processor codenamed "Olympus." In the meantime, Sun has begun reselling Fujitsus PrimePower systems.

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