Sun's Rock is barefoot on Abbey Road
Rumors of its death not greatly exaggerated?
More rumors and some evidence has surfaced suggesting that Sun Microsystems has indeed killed off its "Rock" UltraSparc-RK, sometimes called the UltraSparc-AT10, high-end server processor.
Sources at Sun familiar with the Rock project and its related "Supernova" servers told El Reg on June 15 that Sun had killed off the 16-core Rock Sparc chip that day. Sun would not confirm that these rumors of the Rock's demise were true - all that Sun said officially was "no comment re: Rock" - and indeed it would not even talk about its Sparc roadmaps at all. And since Oracle started its $5.6bn acquisition dance in April, Sun has been increasingly quiet, first not hosting conference calls to go over its financials for its third and fourth quarters and has has even gone so far as to upgrade its "Niagara" Sparc T2+ processors and not even make an announcement that faster chips, which came out on July 22, were available for its systems. (El Reg did catch the announcement and told you all about the new chips.)
According another source who is high up in the IT offices at a major financial services firm in Europe, Sun told its biggest customers in Europe in the third week of June that Sun had "axed the Rock completely." This source added that the 16-core Niagara-III was performing better than expected and that Rock, with its funky architecture (which includes special scout threads and transactional main memory, both new technologies) delivered less bang for the buck than Sun expected and, more importantly, had "severe performance issues" when more than one processor was hitting the Supernova server backplane. These performance issues, this source said, are what forced Sun to delay the launch of the Rock chips and Supernova servers in the second half of 2008 and push them out to the second half of 2009. It is not clear when the revved Rock chip was taped out, or if it ever made it that far. If the chip is dead - and it is hard to believe that it is not, with Sun not even trying to dispel the rumors - this is all academic.
Here's a more concrete piece of information that suggests Rock is dead. It comes from the OpenSolaris project's own mailing lists, and an except of the relevant bit is shown below:
Repository: /hg/onnv/onnv-gate Latest revision:
Total changesets: 1 Log message: 6858457
Remove Solaris support for UltraSPARC-AT10 processor
Files: delete: usr/src/lib/libc/sparc_hwcap1/common/gen/memcpy.s
. . . .
onnv-notify mailing list firstname.lastname@example.org http://mail.opensolaris.org/mailman/listinfo/onnv-notify
That seems pretty clear.
There has been some mumbling about the 16-core the Niagara-3 chip, also known as the UltraSparc-KT, has still not taped out (it was expected to around the end of 2008 or so) and that it was removed from the OpenSolaris repository as well. I have not been able to find any references in the OpenSolaris forums about the Niagara-3 or KT chip having its OpenSolaris support removed. And as for Sun's plans for the 16-core, 256-thread UltraSparc-KT chip and its related servers, the company is as quiet as the grass growing about the entire Sparc lineup (including machines made by Fujitsu), and will stay that way until Oracle closes the Sun acquisition once government regulators in Europe and the United States give it the nod. ®