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Sun chips away at UltraSPARC server line

Sun announced speed improvements to its Sun Fire T2000 Niagara server and is hard at work on next-generation silicon for the platform.

Sun Microsystems Inc. today upgraded its Sun Fire T2000 with a faster chip and double the memory, and announced a milestone in the development of the 16-core SPARC processor nicknamed Rock, due out in systems next year.

The Rock processor, with double the number of cores of the current UltraSPARC T1 processor, has reached tape-out status, meaning the design of the chip is complete and prototypes can now be manufactured. Fadi Azhari, Sun's director of SPARC chip multithreading technology, said the company is still deciding what to call the chip and the systems due out in the second half of 2008.

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Azhari couldn't specify how hot the chips would be running, considering they would have twice as many processing cores, but said that "in terms of the performance per watt envelope, it's still going to be very attractive."

Sun also upgraded its Sun Fire T2000 machine to include a faster UltraSPARC T1 processor (1.2 GHz to 1.4 GHz) and double the memory (32 GB to 64 GB) thanks to 4 GB DIMMs. Azhari said the new machine, available today, delivers up to 30% better performance compared with its predecessor, according to performance results from the Standard Performance Evaluation Corp., a nonprofit benchmarking company.

The upgrade does come at a cost. According to the Sun T2000 price list, a T2000 with an eight-core 1.2 GHz UltraSPARC T1 chip and 32 GB of memory goes for about $32,400. Ramp it up to a T2000 with an eight-core 1.4 GHz chip and 64 GB of memory and your starting price is almost $85,000. Sun also has the option of a T2000 with a 1.2 GHz UltraSPARC T1 with 64 GB of memory for about $68,000.

Azhari added that the company is developing an upgrade program for current users of T2000 machines to get the new systems. Sun is also considering adding the new T2000 machine into its try-and-buy program, which has thus far included other UltraSPARC T1-based systems, a.k.a. Niagara, as well as Galaxy servers based on Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s (AMD) x64 Opteron chips.

In addition, Sun announced a networking processor called Neptune that sits on a network card and, according to the company, will help improve 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) connections to servers. The first SPARC-based systems to include them are due out this year, with Opteron-based systems down the road.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer.

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