Server Snapshot: SPARC Enterprise M8000, M9000 Servers

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Jul 13, 2007


In a Server Snapshot last month, we showcased the Sun/Fujitsu SPARC Enterprise M4000 and M5000 servers. With this snapshot, we will move up to the top of the line to spotlight the M8000 and M9000. Like the M4000 and M5000 servers, they are a product of a partnership between Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu Computer Systems.

We return to the SPARC Enterprise Server family, this time examining the M8000 and M9000, which sit at the top of the line.

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"The M8000 and M9000 are the largest of the SPARC Enterprise Server family," said Alison Harapat, director of marketing, Sun/Fujitsu Alliance. "They have mainframe-class RAS features and a high level of scalability."

M8000

Unlike their smaller cousins, the M8000 and M9000 are not rack-based. Instead, they are sold as large stand-alone cabinets. The M8000 has up to 16 dual-core SPARCVI processors and up to 512 GB of memory. It can support up to 16 dynamic domains and thousands of Solaris Containers (Solaris 10 is preinstalled in all servers). In addition, it can have up to 112 PCIe or PCI-X slots if an external I/O expansion unit is connected.

Sun characterizes the M8000 as being good for online transaction processing (OLTP), BIDW databases, ERP, CRM, high floating point applications, compute-intensive scientific and engineering serving, high-performance computing (HPC) and applications requiring large shared memory spaces. Harapat said model choice depends on the specific usage, though the scale is different.

"They have the same components and interconnect technology between all products in the SPARC Enterprise Server line, though price points differ," she said. "They are particularly suited to back-office usage where high levels of scalability, availability and utilization are needed. This includes Oracle, SAP and other ERP applications."

The server is available in a wide range of configurations, and pricing starts at $54,000. An M8000 with four 2.28 GHz SPARCVI dual-core processors, a 5 MB on-chip L2 cache, 16 GB memory and one 73 GB 2.5 inch 10,000 rpm SAS drive is priced from $290,690. Alternatively, four 2.4 GHz SPARCVI dual-core processors with 6 MB on-chip L2 cache, 64 GB memory and one 73 GB SAS drive starts at $2,475,080.

M9000

The M9000 is the biggest sever in the line. The one-cabinet version contains up to 32 processors. There is also a 64-processor version that requires two full cabinets. The latter model can hold up to 2 TB of memory. It can also be separated into as many as 24 dynamic domains.

The list price begins at $511,385 for four 2.28 GHz SPARCVI dual-core processors, 5 MB of on-chip L2 cache, 16 GB of memory plus two 73 GB SAS drives.

For a 64-processor gorilla, 2.4 GHz SPARCVI dual-core chips, 6 MB of on-chip L2 cache, 128 GB of memory and a 64 x 73 GB SAS drive raise the price tag to $10,100,320.

"The M8000 and M9000 can be partitioned dynamically so they have different CPU configurations at different times," said Richard McCormack, senior vice president of marketing for Fujitsu Computer Systems. "If maximum memory and processing power is required, the M9000 is the best choice, as it offers up to 2 TB of memory."

Both servers, of course, come with a host of virtualization capabilities. According to Harapat, resource management tools and OS virtualization running on Solaris enables thousands of Containers in a single instance. She said that the hard partitioning capabilities of these machines are unmatched. You can use the hardware, for example, to create a physical partition in two ways: using dynamic domains and also by electrically isolating a portion of the server, so if one part suffers a devastating failure, the other continues unaffected.

"These virtualization features make the M9000 suitable for very large SMP deployments and for the most complex computing problems," said Harapat. "Other high reliability features include hot-swappable CPU and memory boards."

She also brought up a feature known as instruction Level retry. This provides extra protection to the processor, i.e. it enables the processor to recover from an error by retrying an instruction rather than going into failure mode.

"This is a mainframe feature that has been brought into the Unix world," said Harapat. "The system can also do memory mirroring — somewhat like disk mirroring — which protects against certain memory errors."

Thus, a DIMM failure is recoverable. By assigning one DIMM as a memory mirror to another DIMM, a mission-critical application can be doubly safeguarded.

Benchmark Results

Sun has been rolling out the big guns when it comes to benchmarking. The M8000, for example, has set a world record on the two-tier SAP Sales and Distribution (SD) benchmark. A 16-way Sun SPARC Enterprise M8000 loaded with 2.4 GHz SPARC64 VI processors achieved 7,300 users on the SAP-SD test. This is the best score recorded to date for systems with 16 or fewer processors. It scored ahead of the HP Integrity Superdome, which has 16 Itanium2 processors, and the IBM p5 570 with 16 POWER5 processors.

Further benchmarking on the SPARC Enterprise M9000 concerned the Linpack Highly Parallel Computing benchmark. The M9000 scored 1.032 TFLOPs on Linpack compared to a little less than 0.8 TFLOPs for a Superdome with 64 Itanium2 chips and just over 0.4 TFLOPs for a 64-processor IBM p5 595.

These benchmarks parallel what Sun is finding out in the market. According to the company, the servers tend to go up against the IBM p5 595 and the HP Superdome during the bidding process. While Sun flaunts its Solaris and virtualization features, it commends Fujitsu for the development of the SPARC64 VI dual-core, dual-thread processors in particular.

Although the product has just been launched, both companies are already hard at work on a major upgrade.

"There is one more generation of the SPARC64VI in the works," said Harapat. This is a significant improvement, not just a little tweak or a higher clock speed."

SPARC Enterprise M8000 and M9000 Servers Close Up

Name M8000 M9000 The Sun SPARC Enterprise M8000, as viewed from the back
Source: Sun Microsystems
Vendor Sun and Fujitsu Sun and Fujitsu
Platform RISC RISC
Dimensions 70.9" by 29.5" by 49.6" and weighing 1,540 lbs 70.9" by 33.5" by 49.6" and weighing 2,068 lbs
Processor Details Up to 16 dual-core SPARC64 VI processors for a total of 32 cores (2.28 -2.4 GHz.) and with two threads per core Up to 64 dual-core SPARC64 VI processors for a total of 64 cores (2.28 -2.4 GHz.) and with two threads per core
Hard Drives Up to 4 X 73 GB SAS drives Up to 4 X 73 GB SAS drives
Operating Systems Solaris 10 update 3 Solaris 10 update 3
Configuration Options 4 x 2.28 GHz SPARCVI dual-core processors with 5 MB on-chip L2 cache and 16 GB memory plus 1 x 73 GB SAS drive; $290,690
4 x 2.4 GHz SPARCVI dual-core processors with 6 MB on-chip L2 cache and 64 GB memory plus 1 x 73 GB SAS drive; $2,475,080
4 x 2.28 GHz SPARCVI dual-core processors with 5 MB on-chip L2 cache and 16 GB memory plus 2 x 73 GB SAS drive; $511,385
64 x 2.4 GHz SPARCVI dual-core processors with 6 MB on-chip L2 cache and 128 GB memory plus 64 x 73 GB SAS drive; $10,100,320
Availability Now shipping Now shipping
Warranty 3 years 3 years

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