Sun Microsystems Inc. Monday unveiled its newest microprocessor from the Niagara family, UltraSparc T1, which the company is calling the world's first multi-threaded "eco-friendly" chip. The processor marks the third major hardware rollout from Sun in recent months.
The 90-nanometer chip, which Sun built from scratch, features 32 threads -- eight cores featuring four threads apiece -- and minimal memory latency that the company said will drastically reduce heat output while increasing traffic flow.
According to Sun, T1's "CoolThread" processor uses 70 watts of energy -- less than half the energy of Intel Xeon or IBM Power processors -- and about as much juice as a standard household light bulb.
The chip will be deployed in an upcoming Sun Fire server line. Sun said a platform based around UltraSparc T1 will hit the market by the end of the year, and industry sources said the line, featuring boxes code-named "Erie" and "Ontario," could be announced as early as next week.
UltraSparc T1 is the latest in an increasingly long line of chips promoted by vendors not so much for their performance, but rather the efficiency of their performance, in an attempt to sway customers concerned about skyrocketing energy costs in the data center.
"The energy crisis has a lot of data centers concerned. Data centers are reaching their limits," said Fadi Azhari, Sun's director of outbound marketing. "The most important capability [of T1] is that you can do more with less. More threading with less silicon will deliver more performance with less space and power consumption."
According to Charles King, principal analyst for Hayward, Calif.-based Pund-IT Research, emphasizing energy savings is a good move for Sun, especially with winter -- and the prospect of record-high power bills -- on the horizon.
"The interesting thing here is the degree to which the company is focusing on the power issue," King said. "It's something that's likely to resonate with businesses over the next few months."
Sun said the processor's 32 threads can work simultaneously so actions can be performed in parallel to eliminate waiting on transactions; and the internal communications structure within the microprocessor have led Sun to call T1 "a rack on a chip."
The memory was put on the processor, allowing data to be transferred into the chip as fast as it can be processed. Sun believes weaving the processor into the system design in such a manner drastically improves throughput.
Tony Lock, chief analyst for U.K.-based Bloor Research, said if Sun wants to make a dent in a space that IBM's Power technology has dominated in the past few years, it is going to have to work overtime to get the word out about T1 and hope that its customer base, which Lock said is very loyal to Sun, will stick by IBM.
Lock also points out that a big part of the platform's success will rely on getting Sun's software vendor community to rally around T1.
"It's probably a solution Sun has to market aggressively. Power has gotten a lot of attention, and Sun needs to communicate with its user base to make sure they're on board," Lock said. "If Sun can beat the heads of its ISVs [about T1], then that's something that would go over very well with customer base."
Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Luke Meredith, News Writer