Feeds

DARPA funds Sun's optical chip chatter magic

$44m mulligan

Top three mobile application threats

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. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Kingston DataTraveler MicroDuo: Turn your phone into a 72GB beast
USB-usiness in the front, micro-USB party in the back
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Inside the Hekaton: SQL Server 2014's database engine deconstructed
Nadella's database sqares the circle of cheap memory vs speed
BOFH: Oh DO tell us what you think. *CLICK*
$%%&amp Oh dear, we've been cut *CLICK* Well hello *CLICK* You're breaking up...
Just what could be inside Dropbox's new 'Home For Life'?
Biz apps, messaging, photos, email, more storage – sorry, did you think there would be cake?
IT bods: How long does it take YOU to train up on new tech?
I'll leave my arrays to do the hard work, if you don't mind
Amazon reveals its Google-killing 'R3' server instances
A mega-memory instance that never forgets
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.