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Sun's Niagara: speeds and feeds emerge

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Exclusive Sun Microsystems has said a lot about its 8-core Niagara processor, but it hasn't told you word one about upcoming 6-core and possibly 4-core chips. Luckily, El Reg can help.

Sun plans to ship 8-core and 6-core versions of the Niagara processor in single socket servers before year end, according to sources. The decision to produce 6-core parts came as Sun tried to make best use of chip yields from its partner TI. In addition, Sun can now offer a couple of different prices with the Niagara-based systems, pitching the 6-core gear as lower-end.

"Going after the combination of yields and price points is a good strategy," Kevin Krewel,l editor of Microprocessor Report, told us. "You know you are not going to get 100 per cent of the dies from TI with 8 functioning cores. This lets Sun make use of the other chips."

Sun is additionally looking into shipping 4-core parts, but hasn't made a final decision yet, we understand. What is clear is that all Niagara-based servers will be single socket systems and that customers will be expected to cluster them together for more horsepower.

Over the past few weeks, Sun has changed the Niagara system names from the Sun Fire T100 and T200 to the Sun Fire T1000 and Sun Fire T2000. Why the extra 0? Because it looks good, we're told. The T1000 will be a 1U box, while the T2000 will be a 2U system.

Based on 1.0GHz and eventually 1.2GHz chips, a Niagara server will consume on average 250 watts. Sun expects the Niagara boxes to best Opteron and Xeon on highly threaded workloads, although Sun's new chip won't compare favorably on software that requires high single thread performance.

"Sun has got a really good scheduler in Solaris, so when you talk about Solaris that is where they will really utilize that heavily threaded environment," Krewell said. "If you talk about Linux software, it won't scale as well."

And so the era of green computing reaches the Tier I system makers. ®

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