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Sun commits to 4,6 and 8 core 'green' Niagara

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Exclusive Sun Microsystems will soon launch its Niagara processor with four-, six- and eight-core versions of the chip and bill the product as a green computing wonder, according to documents obtained by The Register.

In early September, we revealed that Niagara would be sold as the UltraSPARC T1 and slot into servers called the Sun Fire T1000 and T2000. The new documents confirm this information and show that Sun has committed to shipping a four-core version of the chip along with the six-core and eight-core versions, as was predicted.

Sun will be able to spread up to 16 software threads across the four-core chip and up to 32 threads across the eight-core product. The company will also tout DDR2, chipkill and memory sparing support with the chips. The Niagara servers will have 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports as well.

The lower-end T1000 system looks to start at $3,000 and stretch up to $11,000, running on a 1.0GHz Niagara chip. It will have one PCI-E slot and room for one disk. The fatter T2000 will start at close to $8,000 and stretch up to $26,000 with 1.2GHz chips. It will have three PCI-E slots and two PCI-X slots and support up to four disks.

When Sun launches Niagara, it's expected to flog a new performance metric called SWaP - space, watts and performance. This is an indication of Sun's green computing marketing plans. The Niagara chips will start out at just 1.0GHz but should perform very well on web and application serving functions.

Sun will compare the Niagara servers - code-named Erie and Ontario - to IBM's x366 server that runs on Xeon chips from Intel. Sun reckons its kit provides 3.8x better performance per watt, while consuming 2.4x less power per rack. This could save customers $313,000 over three years for 100 servers, according to the Sun documents. In SWaP terms, Sun's system will be 5.8x better than the IBM box, but we don't imagine too many people to take the SWaP metric seriously.

Sun's CEO Scott McNealy this week said Niagara would arrive before year-end, although it wasn't clear if he meant that Sun was just going to announce the product or actually ship it. Sun has a notorious history of announcing products way ahead of their release, as evidenced most recently by the utility computing debacle.

Sun's PR staff have told reporters to expect a chip launch on Nov. 14. Sun also has a Dec. 6 event planned in the UK to unveil "new SunFire Throughput Servers," which are the Niagara systems in poor disguise. The UK event invite says that Sun will show the "World's Coolest Hot Box," which seems a bit dirty. ®

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