Feeds

Sun shelves UltraSPARC V in favor of the great unknown

Gemini toast too

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

Sun Microsystems' CEO Scott McNealy often says his company will not back down from spending on research and development, but that is exactly what Sun has done with the cancellation of the UltraSPARC V and Gemini processors, The Register can confirm first.

Sun is laying off at least 500 engineers in Chelmsford, Massachusetts and Sunnyvale, California who worked on projects relating to the UltraSPARC V chip and its chipset code-named "Eagle," sources said. Some workers, however, will be reassigned to other positions within the company. The layoffs make up a portion of the 3,300 staff axed last week, when Sun announced it would take a Q3 loss of up to $810m.

When pushed by El Reg, Sun confirmed that UltraSPARC V - code-named Millennium is no more. In addition, Sun said it would cancel the upcoming multicore Gemini processor. Oddly, Gemini was once said to be due this year.

"Last week, Sun announced that it would be making appropriate and timely decisions to get the company structured and positioned to achieve its financial goals in FY05," Sun said. "In light of that, and in order to accelerate the development of next-generation Throughput Computing systems, Sun has decided to discontinue certain UltraSPARC projects (specifically Millennium and Gemini)."

The end of UltraSPARC V signals a couple of pretty major shifts in Sun's strategy.

In February, Sun slipped the cancellation of UltraSPARC VI past a sedated press corps. With a wink and a nod, Sun executives said a new processor line called the "Rock" family would appear just about the same time UltraSPARC VI was due. The Rock processors are meant to meld standard high-end RISC processor features with lower-end multicore designs.

The word of UltraSPARC V's demise seems to indicate Sun sees a move to the Rock coming faster than anticipated. Sun's Austin offices working on the multicore Niagra processors did not suffer any layoffs, according to our sources. This would point to a full commitment to the belief that groups of low-power processors bunched together will be preferred over hulking, fast CPUs.

Looking over the competitive landscape such a move more or less makes sense. That is unless you are a concerned customer who has never even heard of this Rock thing.

Sun has just started rolling out its UltraSPARC IV processor, which will last until 2006. By that time, both IBM and Intel are due to have high-end chips of their own that contain many processor cores. It's likely that delays getting UltraSPARC chips out the door simply pushed V past its prime. Well past.

But, until now, Sun and McNealy in particular had given no signal that the UltraSPARC V's future was in question. Over the past year, Sun said time and again that UltraSPARC V would arrive one day and do so in style. In fact, when Sun announced the "Rock" family back in February, the UltraSPARC V chip was still on the company's public roadmap. And Sun loudly cheered the oncoming Gemini onslaught.

However, given Sun's recent financial struggles, the company must have decided that enough was enough. (Or McNealy started seeing a convincing shrink - Ed) UltraSPARC V was set to be a complete redesign - unlike the UltraSPARC IV, which simply combines two UltraSPARC III cores. The redesign would require a new chipset, new processor boards and a major overhaul of customers' hardware.

Beyond that, the UltraSPARC V would go into Sun's large multiprocessor systems. But the multicore designs discussed by Sun create a type of multiprocessor "server on a chip." Maybe the thinking is that customers won't need what is typically conceived of as a massive SMP box.

Sun, it appears, is very likely heading toward a stronger partnership with Fujitsu, as was predicted earlier this year. Sun could well take care of key customers using large SMPs by turning to Fujitsu for UltraSPARC help. Fujitsu makes its own line of SPARC chips and has a rich history with large Unix boxes and mainframes. We hear Sun's deal with Fujitsu is code-named "Falcon."

UltraSPARC V's death triggers yet another crow eating moment for McNealy. Over the past year, Sun has given in and started selling both Intel and AMD-based servers. Then, last week, Sun let Microsoft off the hook by accepting a $2bn cash infusion.

If this goes much farther, life may well begin imitating art. If you can call that art.

Without question, screams of "I told you so" have started ringing out from every financial analyst HQ on the planet. ®

Related stories

'What do we stand for now?' ask Sun staff
Sun job losses: Scotland spared
Why Sun threw in the towel in Mankind vs. Microsoft
Sun waves goodbye to 3,300 staff
Sun settles with MS for $2bn (ish)
Sun tries UltraSPARC IV temptation
Sun shelves UltraSPARC VI in favor of The Rock
Sun bets future on US IV and Opteron boxes

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Microsoft: Azure isn't ready for biz-critical apps … yet
Microsoft will move its own IT to the cloud to avoid $200m server bill
Oracle reveals 32-core, 10 BEEELLION-transistor SPARC M7
New chip scales to 1024 cores, 8192 threads 64 TB RAM, at speeds over 3.6GHz
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
Object storage bods Exablox: RAID is dead, baby. RAID is dead
Bring your own disks to its object appliances
Nimble's latest mutants GORGE themselves on unlucky forerunners
Crossing Sandy Bridges without stopping for breath
A beheading in EMC's ViPR lair? Software's big cheese to advise CEO
Changes amid rivalry in the storage snake pit
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
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.