Feeds

Sun shelves UltraSPARC VI in favor of The Rock

Call it what you will

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Security for virtualized datacentres

Sun Microsystems has excised the UltraSPARC VI processor from its roadmap, deciding to go instead with the "Rock."

Sun is looking for the freshly announced "Rock" family of chips to combine the best features of its standard UltraSPARC processor line and its low-end multicore processor line. The Rock processors will be stacked with numerous processor cores and be able to perform application specific functions. Need a Rock to handle packet processing, compute processing or encryption? They're all there.

"This gives us the best of both worlds," said David Yen, Sun's processor chief, at a conference here today.

Sun will continue to advance its UltraSPARC IV and V processors along with the multicore Gemini and Niagara chips. The standard UltraSPARC products tend to have better overall performance and are designed to crunch single software threads. By contrast, the Niagara line runs at a lower frequency but spreads software threads across numerous cores. The standard chips are typically used for databases and other business software, while the Niagara line is aimed at Web and application servers.

When the Rock family arrives some day far in the future, Sun hopes to find a pleasant middle ground. Details are fairly thin at this point, but Yen did say the Rock processors could be tuned to handle specific functions. Sun would ship compute chips along with ones designed to run Java, TCP/IP traffic or security functions.

Why take this approach?

Well, first off, Sun seems to be making a pretty clear business decision. It often takes grief for continuing with UltraSPARC production given the heavy research and development cost this requires. When Sun first showed two, divergent processor lines, analysts shuddered even more.

With this approach Sun can spread its investment along a wider array of similar products.

Also, don't forger those Fujitsu rumors from last year. Sun could very well team with Fujitsu on a fast, single thread chip, if need be. Sun might chip in some money to create a variant of Fujitsu's SPARC64 processor but would not have to do the total design. We hear such a scenario may be announced sooner rather than later.

Secondly, Sun thinks this strategy fits in well with where "the network" is heading. Millions upon millions of cell phones, thin clients and RFID tag readers will be feeding massive amounts of data to the network, Sun argues. This will require processors able to handle a variety of small tasks well.

Sun thinks both Intel and IBM will be limited in the way they can respond to these new workloads. Intel because hyperthreading will not allow different types of software threads to be split up on one processor core, and IBM because its Power chips do not have enough cores for specialization.

Analysts, however, warn that moving away from the general purpose realm is a risky approach. IBM tried in the past to tune its chips for databases and other software, but often a chip is left idle and cannot be used for other tasks.

In any case, this answers a nagging question about how Sun would continue on with UltraSPARC and whether it was worth the effort. At least the company has a plan, and, as always, it's different from rivals. ®

Related Stories

Sun to blast off Gemini in 2004
Sun and Fujitsu: a relationship with Sparc
Sun bets future on US IV and Opteron boxes

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
It's Big, it's Blue... it's simply FABLESS! IBM's chip-free future
Or why the reversal of globalisation ain't gonna 'appen
IBM storage revenues sink: 'We are disappointed,' says CEO
Time to put the storage biz up for sale?
'Hmm, why CAN'T I run a water pipe through that rack of media servers?'
Leaving Las Vegas for Armenia kludging and Dubai dune bashing
Microsoft and Dell’s cloud in a box: Instant Azure for the data centre
A less painful way to run Microsoft’s private cloud
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
Windows 10: Forget Cloudobile, put Security and Privacy First
But - dammit - It would be insane to say 'don't collect, because NSA'
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.