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Sun's Niagara is SPARC on Viagra

Providing a lift for an old instruction set

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Sun talked a little more about its CPU roadmap today, christening the ultra-dense multiple core SPARC technology it acquired from Afara Websystems last year "Niagara".

It also made a commitment that could come back to haunt it, if it fails to deliver: the first Niagara systems, said Sun, will offer 15 times more throughput than today's blades by 2005.

As we exclusively revealed here, Afara Websystems was established to explore ultra dense multiple-core systems based on the SPARC instruction set. Behind Niagara is chip guru Les Kohn, who was involved in the Intel i860 and i960 chips, and NatSemi's Swordfish. He previously served a spell at Sun designing UltraSPARC I.

Kohn still hasn't returned our call from last July, but David Yen was doing the speaking on behalf of Sun today at its analyst conference in San Francisco.

"High performance microprocessors are by no means at the commodity state," insisted Yen.

On page 46 of his presentation [here, 4.6MB PDF] is a reference to a future Niagara system that's described as a "SPARC systems processor" - a server on a chip with 30x the throughput of today's blades.

Sun believes that it's new processor design can fend off competition from cheap x86 boxen because they are more efficient CMT designs. Memory latency is not improving at the same rate as clock frequencies. Intel also believes this - all its mainstream processors are or soon will be multithreaded too. But Sun thinks its threading is more efficient, or efficient enough to stop users switching.

The multithreaded UltraSPARC V will debut in 2005 on .09 micron process, Yen said. He also said that UltraSPARC 7 will feature asynchronous circuitry. But you probably knew that already

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