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Sun's missing Xeon-killer discovered

UltraSPARC IIIi shimmies into view

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An exhaustive trek around the Mexican restaurants of Austin, TX and Sunnyvale, CA has revealed the whereabouts of Sun's missing microprocessor, the UltraSPARC IIIi. The year-late Xeon-killer may finally be about to emerge from the kitchen.

Nicknamed Jalapeno, the IIIi was first revealed here, and officially unveiled over a year ago at MicroProcessor Forum [specs, interview here], where Sun told us that it was to be pitched more against Xeon than McKinley. Sources close to Sun told us the processor was expected to enter volume production early this year. As long ago as last June multiple sources indicated that the first machines to use Jalapeno would be the 2-way Enchilada and the 4-way Chalupa workgroup servers.

As it is, the III-based Cherrystone and Daktari servers launched last October seem to have held their ground - aided by a spectacular collapse in HP's low-range UNIX line - with the latter, the V880 8-way proving to be a solid seller.

But with Pentium 4 reaching 3Ghz, Sun can only rely on competitors' mistakes for so long. Earlier this week the front page of Sun's website showed a picture of a gigantic red Fist in a boxing glove, which hasn't gone unnoticed.

Reports from the field indicate that two Enchilada servers - the Sun Fire V210, a 2-way, 1U rack with 1 PCI slot and the V240 (2-way, 2U, 4 PCI slots) are being prepped, with Gbit Ethernet standard. The IIIi features a new internal bus, JBUS. The four-way Chalupa server will take its long overdue place between the low-end and the V880, and will be called (unsurprisingly) the V440.

There's also a one-CPU IIIi on the baking tray: the Taco.

At a Sun conference here in September, David Yen disclosed that UltraSPARC IV had taped out, and revealed VI and VII work in a detailed overview of the SPARC roadmap. The IV is set to debut next year as a two-core processor.

We discovered one compatibility bombshell in the course of our research: but it has nothing to do with microprocessors. Texan and Californian versions of Mexican food are very different indeed, and burritos are a Californian invention. But you probably already knew that. ®

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