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New Sun/Fujitsu servers boast quad-core Sparc64 chip

The new Sun/Fujitsu servers can scale up to 64 processors and are natural competitors for machines like IBM Power-based servers that handle back-end application workloads.

Fujitsu Computer Products and Sun Microsystems Inc. have rolled out Unix servers based on the new quad-core Sparc64 VII chip developed by Fujitsu. The chip boasts better performance and less power consumption per core than in a dual-core Sparc64 VI.

For more on Sparc servers:
Sun successfully boots Solaris on "Rock" processor
Serial computing is dead; the future is parallelism

Sun Microsystems unveils Niagara UltraSparc T2 chip

Sun officials claim the new systems include 80% better performance on commercial applications, based on the SAP benchmark, and 100% better performance for high-performance computing (HPC), according to the Linpack HPC benchmark. It uses 44% less power per core, though overall the new chip consumes more power than its predecessor: 135 watts compared with 120 watts.

There are four new servers, all of which can support the newer VII chips as well as the older VI models:

  • M4000: Up to four processors, 128 GB of memory, and 25 I/O slots.
  • M5000: Up to eight processors, 256 GB of memory, and 50 I/O slots.
  • M8000: Up to 16 processors, 512 GB of memory, and 112 I/O slots.
  • M9000: Up to 64 processors, 2 TB of memory, and 288 I/O slots.

Also, the VII processor runs at 2.52 GHz on the M8000 and M9000 servers, but only at 2.4 GHz on the M4000 and M5000 models.

The high-end processor landscape
"Fujitsu is continuing to make innovation," said Richard Partridge, a senior server analyst at Ideas International Inc.. "They are a legitimate designer of high-end processor chips. It's not just Intel and IBM."

Partridge compares the Fujitsu-designed Sparc64 to IBM's Power and Intel's Itanium chips, which are built to handle data-facing OLTP workloads on back-end database servers. In that vein, Sparc64 is the first high-end Unix chip with four processor cores. Partridge said the UltraSparc chips, designed by Sun and with up to eight cores, are built more for network-facing workloads such as Web servers.

Sun is in the process of developing its own 16-core processor, codenamed "Rock," to handle transaction-oriented workloads, but the offering isn't expected out until next year. Meanwhile, Intel is expected to introduce a quad-core Itanium chip by the end of this year.

One of the benefits of the Sparc64 VII is its ability to be plugged into existing servers. Partridge added that the in-box live upgrades are much easier than upgrades with HP Itanium servers or IBM Power servers, for example.

"People can have these incremental upgrades," Partridge said. "They buy a box that's half-filled and are able to grow with each new edition."

Canadian HPC lab upgrades
The High Performance Computing Virtual Laboratory (HPCVL) in Ontario, Canada, just installed eight M9000s, each with 64 processors and 2TB of memory, according to executive director Ken Edgecombe. They will be replacing old Sun Fire 25K servers used to perform research on aerospace engineering, computational fluid dynamics and mechanical engineering.

HPCVL had a two-phased sales deal with Sun, which was signed in 2004. The first in 2004 involved the 25Ks. The second includes these new M9000s.

"Part of the reason is we have a lot of researchers who need floating-point power and lots of memory," he said.

By upgrading to the new M9000s, the lab has quadrupled the total memory available in its research servers, and increasing the teraflop capability almost sevenfold.

"We have users using between 100 and 400 gigabytes of memory," Edgecombe said. "On each of those [25K servers], we had to make sure we didn't have multiple users. That's the reason we really loaded up the (M9000s) with memory."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer. You can also check out our Server Specs blog.

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