For Sun chip chief, an empty roadmap is a clean roadmap
Sun is putting a brave face on the cancellation of the UltraSPARC V, and Eagle, an entire family of servers designed for the processor. The Millennium chip - so called because it was originally due to be ready in 2000 - had just taped out, but two weeks ago became the latest cancellation from Sun. The multicore UltraSPARC VI Gemini, VI and VII have already fallen off the roadmap, but microprocessor chief David Yen is looking on the bright side.
"If you look at [sic] from this our perspective, Sun's processor roadmap will be a very clean one," Yen tells eWeek.
You can't argue with that.
The roadmap isn't entirely empty, but it now resembles your reporter's fridge before the twice-weekly trip to Molinari's Delicatessen. A few stale items long past their sell-by date wait their turn to be spun into something that can only be deemed edible with a lot of marketing sauce. But unlike the fresh home-made spinach pasta and sweet olives, microprocessors don't materialize so easily.
Sun has systems based on the Niagara and Rock processors it gained through the acquisition Afara systems, which are based on a SPARC core, and IV-Plus, which is an UltraSPARC IV with more cache. There's also Andy Becholsteim's skunkworks project to consider, based around AMD's Opteron processor. But it looks like Sun will be increasingly dependent on any relationship with Fujitsu, which has been developing its own SPARC-based processors for a decade. The two companies were said to be in talks last year, but no formal partnership has yet been announced. We're assuming Sun is serious when it says it wants to stay in the hardware business.
eWeek speculates that the USV may be revived, but sources in the know say this is unlikely. The Millennium processor would struggle to be competitive today, and Eagle servers using the chip were not slated for production until 2007, more than a decade after the project began. As the project slipped, Sun engineers joked that the chip wasn't late - it was simply 996 years early. ®
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