Feeds

Sun shelves UltraSPARC VI in favor of The Rock

Call it what you will

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Top three mobile application threats

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

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Kingston DataTraveler MicroDuo: Turn your phone into a 72GB beast
USB-usiness in the front, micro-USB party in the back
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Inside the Hekaton: SQL Server 2014's database engine deconstructed
Nadella's database sqares the circle of cheap memory vs speed
BOFH: Oh DO tell us what you think. *CLICK*
$%%&amp Oh dear, we've been cut *CLICK* Well hello *CLICK* You're breaking up...
Just what could be inside Dropbox's new 'Home For Life'?
Biz apps, messaging, photos, email, more storage – sorry, did you think there would be cake?
AMD's 'Seattle' 64-bit ARM server chips now sampling, set to launch in late 2014
But they won't appear in SeaMicro Fabric Compute Systems anytime soon
Amazon reveals its Google-killing 'R3' server instances
A mega-memory instance that never forgets
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.