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Sun fattens up Niagara for middleware play

Four-sockets, 256 threads

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Hot Chips Sun Microsystems' Niagara processors are growing up. The company this week confirmed that the third-generation Niagara chip code-named "Victoria Falls" will slot into two- and four-socket servers.

(We revealed this move about 18 months ago and thank Sun for getting with the program.)

When Victoria Falls ships during the first half of 2008, customers will find Niagara-based systems capable of handling more demanding software. Today's one-socket boxes - officially the UltraSPARC T1-based units - are aimed mostly at web serving. The same will hold true for systems that will ship later this year build around the Niagara II or UltraSPARC T2 chip. But the UltraSPARC T2+ systems should stretch up to handle middleware and even databases.

Overall, Victoria Falls looks a lot like Niagara 2. You still have eight cores and 64-threads per chip. You also have the same thermal envelope.

But one of the more major tweaks comes with Sun freeing up its 8 L2 cache banks (4MB total) to support multi-chip systems via an on-chip SMP network.

The Victoria Falls chip will boast more bandwidth than its predecessors to keep all the software threads moving - a four-core box will have up to 256 threads going. In addition, we understand that Sun will remove the on-chip 10GigE NIC found on Niagara 2 with Victoria Falls.

We'll have more on the processor tomorrow, including an interview with Sun's distinguished engineer Stephen Phillips. ®

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