Sun puts 1.05GHz US-III+ in midrange, enterprise servers
15% more performance
The fastest UltraSparc-III processor that has been available in all of Sun's entry, midrange and enterprise machines has been the 900MHz version of the UltraSparc-III+ chip.
Sun says that commercial and technical customers can expect about 15% more performance by moving to the new processors. Chris Kruell, group manager of Sun's Computer Systems Group, said that the faster chips were available in the Sun Fire 3800 (eight-way), 4800 (12-way), 6800 (24-way), 12000 (36-way), and 15000 (72-way) machines. Kruell says that customers with existing 900MHz processors can swap out all of the processors in their machines for the faster processors as part of a normal upgrade, or they can add incremental processors to their existing machines. The uniboard server card design at the heart of all of the Sun Fire Serengeti machines (the ones listed above) allows server boards with different processor speeds to be mixed in the same server and allows those processors to run at their full speeds.
Most servers do not allow this, and have to gear down the faster processors to the lower speed to make them run. The PrimePower Unix server line from Fujitsu Siemens, which also supports Sun's Solaris operating system, allows different processor speeds to run in the same machine, but within a domain they have to all be the same speed. Kruell says that Sun goes one better and allows processor boards within a single domain to support multiple speeds. In either case, Sun or Fujitsu Siemens, all of the processors on a server cell board have to be at the same speed.
Solaris 8 or Solaris 9 are supported on the Sun Fire line of machines. Customers with Sun Fire servers using earlier 750MHz UltraSparc-III processors cannot add 900MHz or 1.05GHz processors to their complexes.
Sun is charging a pretty hefty premium for the faster processors, at least based on list prices. A Sun Fire 4800 with eight 900MHz processors and 32 GB of memory costs $285,595 according to Sun. The same machine using 1.05GHz UltraSparc-III+ processors provides about 15% more oomph, but at $365,595, costs 28.2% more than the machine using 900MHz processors. Similarly, a 16 processor Sun Fire 6800 with 64GB of main memory using 900MHz processors costs $709,195 at list price, but the same machine with the 1.05GHz processors costs $869,195, an increase of 22.6% over the price of the model with 900MHz processors.
Sources familiar with Sun's plans say that the company will launch 1.2GHz UltraSparc-III processors soon, which will also be supported in these machines. Exactly how soon is unclear. Sun is under pressure to crank up the clock, like all server vendors. These faster UltraSparc-III+ processors will snap right into existing machines. The intent is to eventually ship 1.2GHz and faster UltraSparc-IV processors, which are pin-compatible with the UltraSparc-IIIs, into existing machines, but this could change depending on market conditions and other factors.