Feeds

Sun will Rock in 2009

UltraSparc hope

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Sun's president and chief executive officer Jonathan Schwartz declared yesterday that the company's long-planned Rock processors remain on track for release this year.

This is good news for Sun watchers. With two rounds of layoffs that server and operating system maker Sun Microsystems announced in 2008 biting into the company's research, development, sales, and marketing, Sun's customers needed to know which projects and products will live and which will die. Now Schwartz has told them.

A little more than a year ago, Sun delayed the launch of its 16-core Rock UltraSparc-RK processors and the related Supernova systems, which had been originally planned to be delivered in the second half of 2008 but were pushed out to the second half of 2009.

There has been a lot of talk about whether Sun would achieve this revised launch schedule. There have also been suggestions that Rock might be dead, like UltraSparc-V and UltraSparc-VI before it.

Yesterday, however, during a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Sun's president and chief executive officer Jonathan Schwartz made a short and sweet statement intended to quell any worries about Rock.

"I think we've said to plan on it for later this year, and we are still on track," Schwartz said.

There you have it. Rock worries are over.

It's taken a long time to get to his point, however. Just as Schwartz was ascending to power at Sun back in 2004, Sun announced its intention to take the multithreading approach embodied in its Niagara chips up a notch with the Rock designs. That February it killed off the planned UltraSparc-VI chips, then scrapped the UltraSparc-V only a few months later.

A few months after that, the Sun-Fujitsu alliance announced its intention to bridge the gap between Sun's own dual-core UltraSparc-IV+ chips and the Rock chips. The Fujitsu machines are based on dual-core and quad-core Sparc64 systems designed and manufactured by Fujitsu.

The initial Niagara chips had eight processor cores, each with four execution threads. Today's Sparc T chip series offers up to eight Sparc cores with eight threads each in a four-socket system - a total of 256 threads in one box. The Rock chips, which taped out two years ago, include several new technologies that Sun hopes will give it a competitive advantage in the midrange and high-end of the server market.

Among those technologies, the two biggies are scout threads for the Sparc cores and transactional memory, both of which aim to boost the performance of machines more than can clock speeds and execution threads alone. The Rock chips are expected to have 16 Sparc cores, each with two execution threads.

These Sparc Enterprise machines, as the Sparc64-based machines are co-branded by Sun and Fujitsu, currently account for the vast majority of Sun's enterprise-server sales (as distinct from Niagara chip multithreading, or CMT, sales). In fact, Sun has written off its inventory of UltraSparc-IV+ iron.

Yesterday, Sun said that billings for these big Unix boxes fell by 32 per cent in the second fiscal quarter ended December, down to $662m. Sales had already fallen by 27 per cent in the first fiscal quarter to $576m. Clearly, the economic meltdown has been hard on Sun's big Unix-box sales.

But there could be other factors at work.

If Rock is truly on track for shipment later this year, and if Sun has been preselling the boxes, and if Sun's biggest customers are waiting until the economy rebounds - or at least stabilizes - before committing to big-iron acquisitions, there might be a depressing effect on sales of current Sparc Enterprise servers.

If Rock machines will provide the kind of price/performance boost that the Niagaras had over entry-level Sparc boxes using a mix of UltraSparc-IIIi and UltraSparc-IV+ processors, a wait-and-see attitude could have added to Sun's woes in fiscal Q1 and Q2 regarding Sparc Enterprise sales.

If this is the case, Sun's top brass could have said something about it - but this all could be good news, after all.

Maybe not so much for Fujitsu, of course. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Azure TITSUP caused by INFINITE LOOP
Fat fingered geo-block kept Aussies in the dark
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Yahoo! blames! MONSTER! email! OUTAGE! on! CUT! CABLE! bungle!
Weekend woe for BT as telco struggles to restore service
You think the CLOUD's insecure? It's BETTER than UK.GOV's DATA CENTRES
We don't even know where some of them ARE – Maude
Cloud unicorns are extinct so DiData cloud mess was YOUR fault
Applications need to be built to handle TITSUP incidents
BOFH: WHERE did this 'fax-enabled' printer UPGRADE come from?
Don't worry about that cable, it's part of the config
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
DEATH by COMMENTS: WordPress XSS vuln is BIGGEST for YEARS
Trio of XSS turns attackers into admins
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
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?