Feeds

DARPA funds Sun's optical chip chatter magic

$44m mulligan

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Well, well, well, Sun Microsystems worked DARPA over for some SPARC funding after all. The server maker today celebrated a $44m contract to produce optical chip-to-chip connections technology for the Defense Department's R&D unit.

The official line on this arrangement has Sun taking $44.29m over five and a half years to produce "microchip interconnectivity via on-chip optical networks enabled by Silicon photonics and proximity communication." This research fits into DARPA's (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) Ultraperformance Nanophotonic Intrachip Communication program. Because at DARPA "performance" simply isn't good enough.

We're told that "The project presents a unique opportunity to develop supercomputers through interconnecting an array of low-cost chips, with the potential to overcome the fundamental cost and performance limits of scaling up today's large computer systems. By providing unprecedented high bandwidth, low latency, and low power interconnections between the parallel computing chips in such an array, this research project will help enable a broad class of companies and organizations to utilize applications with high compute and communication requirements, such as energy exploration, biotechnology and weather modeling."

Away from this statement, there's quite an interesting back story.

Sun, you might remember, fought with IBM and Cray for a piece of a massive DARPA contract around future supercomputing systems. Ultimately, Sun lost out to IBM and Cray, but it seems that DARPA still wants to fund some of the key bits of Sun's proposal.

While the exact nature of Sun's old proposal remains secret, we've learned that it involved the second generation of multi-core Rock chips - a flavor of the UltraSPARC processor family. Sun planned to link these chips via the proximity communications technology mentioned earlier.

Ivan Sutherland - the father of computer graphics - developed the proximity communications idea in his work at Sun Labs. The basic concept behind the technology involves marrying two processors together via a direct connection to speed the flow of information between the processors. We've discussed the technology at length here.

Sun's DARPA proposal also involved some optical networking components where it would replace on-board wires with optical interconnects - again to speed the flow of data across a large system.

Of late, Intel and IBM have talked more than Sun about their optical work with both companies producing optical switches and other manners of silicon photonics devices.

When Sun lost the DARPA bid and then subsequently delayed the release of its first Rock chip to 2009, we wondered about its long-term commitment to these more advanced projects. Sun could well have decided that the UltraSPARC work, as many have argued, was too costly for a company of its size.

DARPA's funding of at least the communications pieces of the future Sun systems seems to confirm that Sun has no plans of backing down from future Rock system designs. The end result should be modest-sized servers that boast what we would consider today as supercomputer class machines. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
NSA SOURCE CODE LEAK: Information slurp tools to appear online
Now you can run your own intelligence agency
Azure TITSUP caused by INFINITE LOOP
Fat fingered geo-block kept Aussies in the dark
Yahoo! blames! MONSTER! email! OUTAGE! on! CUT! CABLE! bungle!
Weekend woe for BT as telco struggles to restore service
Cloud unicorns are extinct so DiData cloud mess was YOUR fault
Applications need to be built to handle TITSUP incidents
Stop the IoT revolution! We need to figure out packet sizes first
Researchers test 802.15.4 and find we know nuh-think! about large scale sensor network ops
Turnbull should spare us all airline-magazine-grade cloud hype
Box-hugger is not a dirty word, Minister. Box-huggers make the cloud WORK
SanDisk vows: We'll have a 16TB SSD WHOPPER by 2016
Flash WORM has a serious use for archived photos and videos
Astro-boffins start opening universe simulation data
Got a supercomputer? Want to simulate a universe? Here you go
Microsoft adds video offering to Office 365. Oh NOES, you'll need Adobe Flash
Lovely presentations... but not on your Flash-hating mobe
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.