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A look at the UltraSPARC T2 die  (Source: Sun Microsystems)
Sun's new UltraSPARC T2, formerly codenamed Niagara 2, may find its way outside of the server market

Sun Microsystems will announce today a new microprocessor that it boasts to be “the world’s fastest.” The new processor, officially termed UltraSPARC T2, is the successor to the company’s UltraSPARC T1 – with several improvements and architectural changes.

The UltraSPARC T2, formerly codenamed Niagara 2, is an eight-core, 64-thread microprocessor that will reach the server market later this year. The new chip includes a 4MB L2 cache, two on-chip 10 Gbyte Ethernet ports, and each core pipeline will have its own integrated FPU.

According to Sun, the new UltraSPARC T2 processor offers twice as much performance per watt was the UltraSPARC T1 and 10 times the floating point computational power.

The new chip is also designed to excel at virtualization. The UltraSPARC T2’s ability to run up to 64 applications simultaneously on a single processor is an attractive feature for IT departments looking to simplify their data centers.

"The combination of Solaris and UltraSparc is a very powerful virtualization platform," said Fadi Azhari, director of marketing for Sun Microelectronics. "We believe it's unequal in the industry."

Sun has also kept an eye on processor efficiency. The new chip is to consume less than two watts per thread, adding up to around 120 to 130 watts for the entire processor. For the basis of comparison, the a quad-core Intel Xeon processor requires 30 watts per thread.

Although the UltraSPARC T2 will definitely power many of Sun’s servers later this year, the company has many other plans for the chip’s applications. Different versions of the chip, perhaps with fewer cores or lower power consumption, may be usable in networking hardware, set-top boxes, or even automobiles.

"We don't want to limit ourselves to the server market. The server market won't grow nearly as fast as the storage or networking market," Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's CEO, said in an interview. "While we are making them, we might as well make them general purpose enough to sell them to the broader market."

The full-featured chip is expected to cost below $1,000, though scaled-down versions will cost less for more simple applications. Schwartz said that the company is already speaking to potential network and storage partners on adoption of the UltraSPARC T2.

"Sun is entering the merchant silicon business and by that we're going to be chasing the commodity volume markets which are not simply limited to the market place for server computers," added Schwartz.

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Welcome to the Home Computer Market, Sun
By GreenyMP on 8/7/2007 10:21:08 AM , Rating: 2
Wouldn't it be nice to see someone like Sun with this new T2 or IBM and their Cell enter the commodity PC market and compete with Intel. Maybe they could partner with AMD or something.

I don't really need the (no x86 instruction set in the T2/Cell) argument. I know. But if you could run a popular operating system on one of these chips, it would be nice to have the option.

RE: Welcome to the Home Computer Market, Sun
By defter on 8/7/2007 10:50:21 AM , Rating: 2
Niagara2 would suck in desktop applications that usually utilize only few threads.

Keep in mind that Niagara 2 cores are very simple ones running at less than 2GHz. In many applications quad core Xeon @ 3GHz will outperform it.

By Calin on 8/8/2007 2:24:21 AM , Rating: 3
Also keep in mind that in some tasks, two dual core Opterons worked better than the original Niagara (served about the same number of threads, but Niagara finished in some 200ms, while the Opterons finished in about 80ms. There was an article on Anandtech about it).
Anyway, you can't expect good performance from a Niagara/Niagara2 as long as you don't fill it with threads - and providing 32 or 64 threads is hard from a desktop operating system/application

By Proteusza on 8/8/2007 8:42:09 AM , Rating: 2
They are only 8 stage pipelines though, so although a 3.0 GHz Xeon would probably beat it, I dont think it would be twice as fast.

Anyone know how many transistors on these things?

By EarthsDM on 8/7/2007 11:28:43 AM , Rating: 2
The Niagra II and the Cell both run Linux, and Solaris is certified Unix. That said, those processors don't really lend themselves to 'commodity' tasks.

RE: Welcome to the Home Computer Market, Sun
By Ringold on 8/7/2007 4:08:35 PM , Rating: 2
Even ignoring that it's not x86, 4mb L2 cache? I would think that using all 8 cores would be virtually impossible using the common applications used on a desktop with so little cache.

Unless thats 4mb per core.. That'd be different. I'd have the highest Folding@Home output Sanford...

RE: Welcome to the Home Computer Market, Sun
By Ringold on 8/7/2007 4:09:57 PM , Rating: 2
*hits the invisible Edit button*

"in Sanford..."


RE: Welcome to the Home Computer Market, Sun
By Justin Case on 8/7/2007 4:20:15 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe hit it again and put the "t" in "Stanford"...

RE: Welcome to the Home Computer Market, Sun
By plimogs on 8/7/2007 9:22:24 PM , Rating: 2
No way...

I didn't even notice the missing "in" - if there is one...

On the other hand, I just excluded the simple possibility that he actually meant Stanford as abhorrent, when he double posted about the lack of an edit button.

I was wondering where and what sanfort

By plimogs on 8/7/2007 9:28:51 PM , Rating: 3
Allow me to double-post about posting about the lack of an edit button to edit one's last post by saying: To correct my previous wicked sarcastic burn on the "lack of an edit button" double-post, I'd change that sanford for Sanford...

Sorry for the double-post...

lol :)

By Calin on 8/8/2007 2:27:44 AM , Rating: 2
Niagara runs plenty of threads, but is much less restricted by the memory speed/access time than the likes of Opteron. Remember that an execution unit runs four threads at a time, doing instant context switches - so, for the threads memory access time four times slower than the equivalent clocked Opteron would suffice

By JCheng on 8/8/2007 9:31:00 AM , Rating: 2
What, 2.4GHz quad core for $266 isn't good enough for you? :)

By encryptkeeper on 8/9/2007 3:22:07 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, but can it run Crysis at full resolution and detail?

Can it play Quake?
By Blood1 on 8/7/2007 10:11:39 AM , Rating: 2
Can it play Quake?

RE: Can it play Quake?
By Flunk on 8/7/2007 10:54:31 AM , Rating: 1
No, well at least not without x86 emulation software.

RE: Can it play Quake?
By EarthsDM on 8/7/2007 11:22:33 AM , Rating: 2
Knowing id, they might compile it for a SPARK on a dare. If it a had a good GPU, a workstation based on one of these babies should run Quake ok.

RE: Can it play Quake?
By BigT383 on 8/8/2007 1:04:10 AM , Rating: 2
The source for quake has been out for a long time; it would probably be fairly trivial to get it to compile for SPARC. And originally Quake used software rendering, so you'd be fine there since that's all CPU and not GPU, though later they did make GLQuake, which modified the engine to use OpenGL, which can in fact run on *nix as well.

HOWEVER you'd still need the Data (levels, models, textures, sounds) even if you built the executable.

HOWEVER, it was a DOS game, so you'd need DOS (or a dos emulator) for SPARC too.

HOWEVER, DOS was not multi-thread capable, so quake isn't multi-threaded, so you'd only be using one of the cores.

RE: Can it play Quake?
By bunga28 on 8/7/2007 4:47:27 PM , Rating: 2
can it cook, do the laundry, and calm you down?

RE: Can it play Quake?
By fk49 on 8/8/2007 6:30:37 PM , Rating: 2
But the most important question is:
Will it blend?

RE: Can it play Quake?
By bersl2 on 8/7/2007 6:46:49 PM , Rating: 3
The source has been open for how long now?

Somebody must have made it work on SPARC by now.

RE: Can it play Quake?
By PaxtonFettel on 8/8/2007 5:33:15 AM , Rating: 2

This is a port of Quake 2 to Solaris for both x86 and SPARC processors. Anyone want to try it out and DT know how quake fairs on SPARC?

Gbyte vs. Gbit
By hinchesk on 8/7/2007 2:24:34 PM , Rating: 2
Looks like there's a typo in the article where 10 Gbyte should read 10 Gbit. Either way, that's impressive on a chip that already has 64 threads. Too bad it can't run Vista... might actually make it respond like a modern OS.

RE: Gbyte vs. Gbit
By Treckin on 8/7/2007 5:34:25 PM , Rating: 2
hmm. This vista bashing has to stop. I would guess that you either:
a) Have never used Windows Vista
b) are trying to run it on a system that runs at 1ghz and has 256mb ram...

Im typing from an Asus F3JP laptop with a C2D T7200 (2gh) and 2 GB of ram (I added 1). I have had NO issues whatsoever with vista being slow, taking a long time to boot, etc. Also consider that XP was dismal when it came out and people were using 1.2 GHZ Thunderbirds and 1.5 GHZ P4's. The reason that it runs so well is that it is a 6 or 7 year old OS operation on 5 generations of hardware past where it was written. Vista will run like butter in 5 more cpu iterations.

RE: Gbyte vs. Gbit
By doctat on 8/8/2007 3:02:13 AM , Rating: 3
I've had Vista on both my laptop, and my main gaming desktop for several months now, and can confirm that Vista does indeed suck.

RE: Gbyte vs. Gbit
By Targon on 8/8/2007 7:58:24 AM , Rating: 2
Do you have only one gig of memory on those machines? Vista is running well for me as well, with only a few issues(Game Jackal being the only real problem). The key is having a decent GPU(Intel graphics just doesn't cut it), and having at least two gigs of memory.

I've seen a number of decent machines that really slow down under Vista because they only had 1 gig of memory.

RE: Gbyte vs. Gbit
By OrSin on 8/8/2007 11:51:58 AM , Rating: 1
Vista dont need all that. I got Vista runing on AMD 2500 with 1GB memory and some of that taking by the on board Graphics (NF2 board). And it runs all apps fine. Granted i dont play games on it any more, but I stopped playing games on it with xp long ago too. Vista is blooted the same way IE is blotted, but they both still work fine.

RE: Gbyte vs. Gbit
By headbox on 8/8/2007 3:41:37 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think you know what "fine" means. "Fine" to me means fast. My Core 2 Duo 2.4 / 3 GB RAM / 1 TB RAID / 8600 system runs programs much slower on Vista compared to XP. I did benchmarks to prove it in Maya, Photoshop, After Effects, and Quicktime rendering. Maybe you're just not using "pro" applications that require any kind of power.

Ok, fastest.
By scrapsma54 on 8/7/2007 2:16:01 PM , Rating: 2
Ok its the fastest, But How hard is it to program for these things?

RE: Ok, fastest.
By FastLaneTX on 8/7/2007 10:55:26 PM , Rating: 2
No harder than it is for any other SPARC: write code in whatever language you want, compile it, and run it. This is not like Cell; it's just a SPARC chip that runs a lot of threads.

RE: Ok, fastest.
By Calin on 8/8/2007 2:30:49 AM , Rating: 2
By example, Apache runs by launching 64 threads (instances) that will serve pages. As long as your program is safe for multithreading, you can just launch multiple threads. If we would talk about an hypothetic Seti@Home, you would simply start 64 instances (like you start two on your dual core)

By Amiga500 on 8/7/2007 10:27:09 AM , Rating: 2
Or am I getting the wrong end of the stick?

By KristopherKubicki on 8/7/2007 10:52:56 AM , Rating: 2
8 cores, 64 threads.

Applications != Threads
By EarthsDM on 8/7/07, Rating: 0
RE: Applications != Threads
By freeagle on 8/7/2007 12:28:50 PM , Rating: 2
In theory, he is right. Consider you'd have no OS, just one application that will spawn only one thread ( the main one ). If you start 64 of these applications, they'd be running simultaneously

RE: Applications != Threads
By Schmeh on 8/7/2007 12:59:35 PM , Rating: 2
SANTA CLARA, Calif. August 7, 2007 Sun Microsystems, Inc., (NASDAQ: SUNW) today announced the world's fastest commodity microprocessor, the UltraSPARC T2, as the cornerstone of its merchant portfolio of microelectronics. Available for sale separate from Sun's own systems, this new processor is the industry's first volume processor with eight cores and eight threads per core. Formerly known as the "Niagara 2" project, the UltraSPARC T2's world-record performance raises the bar on commodity processors while boasting the industry's highest energy efficiency per thread. With each thread capable of running its own operating system, the chip delivers a whopping 64-way system on a single chip. Sun will provide the UltraSPARC T2 processor design to the free and open source community via the GPL license.

He is right. UltraSPARC T2's 8 cores can each run 8 threads.

Parallel Processing
By isorfir on 8/7/2007 10:17:43 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe those guys down at Parallel Processing Corporation will complain about this too. Since they obviously came up with the idea *rolls eyes*

World's Fastest Microprocessor
By 2ManyOptions on 8/7/07, Rating: 0
RE: World's Fastest Microprocessor
By Sunner on 8/8/2007 5:41:25 AM , Rating: 2
It won't be accepted by the home users, gamers, etc, if nothing else because Sun couldn't care less.
These aren't aimed at those markets, they're aimed for servers, primarily stuff like webservers, light weight databases, etc.

And yes, SPARC is a completely different architecture from x86/x64, it'll run a variety of OS's just fine, Solaris most notably, but Linux and BSD(not sure if the BSD's support the US-T1/T2 though) as well.

By VooDooAddict on 8/7/2007 6:48:46 PM , Rating: 2
I hope EMC and EqualLogic are taking notice.

With on die 10Gbit ethernet this could take SAN iSCSI to the next level.

Niagara like Viagara?
By techhappy on 8/8/2007 9:53:13 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, just had to say that headline. :) Sounds like good news the Sun is breaking into other markets. It's amazing to see what Intel can do when the competition steps up. I just picked up a Quad Core combo for $299 the other day. Thanks to AMD, we the consumers win with lower prices because of competition.

At the same time, I think Sun has some specialized technologies that will set them apart from Intel and AMD products.

This is a hot and exciting time for processors! Bring on some more competition, please!

By East17 on 8/9/2007 10:31:57 PM , Rating: 1
I hate to se inovating companies being swallowed by big bucks monopolistic ones or being too late to the market with one product and die . I still mourn for DEC or 3dfx :) and I'm very dissapointed with Matrox .

Hopefully , this Niagara 2 CPU will help SUN get back in serious business in the server market ... I'm hoping for at least 20% .

Ok, so I'm a bit confused...
By Snowy on 8/7/07, Rating: -1
By FastLaneTX on 8/7/2007 10:59:00 PM , Rating: 2
Sun has been a leader in the UNIX world for decades, and they build lots of high-end machines around their SPARC chips. Most people just don't see them often these days because they're all locked away in corporate data centers. While it's possible to use Solaris/SPARC as a desktop, it's almost exclusively used in servers.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
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