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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?

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