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Sun confirms all about 64-thread Niagara II

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Hot Chips Sun Microsystems will later today reveal the inner goo behind its Niagara II processor – the second chip in the company's "radical" multi-core line.

As it happens, we've acquired an early copy of the Niagara II presentation Sun plans to give this afternoon here at the Hot Chips conference. Sadly, the presentation is lacking on mind-altering, fresh details, if you're a regular Register reader.

Last December, we revealed that the Niagara II chip would have eight cores just like its predecessor, which Sun currently sells as the UltraSPARC T1. In addition, we pegged Niagara II as supporting twice the threads of the UltraSPARC T1, bringing it up to 64 threads, and shipping with one floating point unit per core as opposed to one floating point unit total. FB-DIMMs, two-way support, and 10 Gig-E? Yep, we got those suckers too, and Sun has confirmed them all in its presentation.

According to the latest documents, each Niagara II chip will ship with 8 cores, a 4MB shared L2 cache, four dual-channel FB-DIMM memory controllers, two 10 Gig-E ports and one PCI-E port. Each core also has a cryptographic acceleration unit with support for ciphers and hashes that can perform "free" encryption. The crypto unit runs in parallel with the main SPARC core at the same frequency.

True chip geeks might be interested to note the eight-stage pipeline – fetch, cache, pick, decode, execute, memory, bypass and writeback. Meanwhile, there's a 12-stage pipeline for the floating point unit. Sun has also added a host of reliability features to the new chip.

Sun managed to get Solaris up and running on a Niagara II box back in May and is looking for a third quarter of 2007 release of the chip.

Our sources also indicate that Niagara II will arrive at 1.4GHz and slot into two systems code-named Michigan and Huron. The 1U Michigan box will replace the 1U Sun Fire T1000 system and boast twice as much memory support - up to 64GB. Huron will be the 2U replacement for the Sun Fire T2000 and also double the memory support, stretching up to 128GB.

Sun then plans to ship up to four-way systems with the third generation of Niagara code-named Victoria Falls.

The UltraSPARC T1 chip has proved somewhat of a surprise hit for Sun. More than 300 customers have purchased systems based on the chip, helping Sun to $100m in revenue from the boxes during its last quarter. The chip is the most radical design that you'll find from a Tier 1 vendor as it makes a large commitment to the idea that many low-powered cores can perform better on certain software loads than fewer, faster cores.

Sun aims the UltraSPARC T1 boxes at web and application serving loads. ®

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