Sun Sets Rock in Silicon

By Andy Patrizio (Send Email)
Posted Jan 19, 2007


Sun Microsystems, enjoying a new wave of growth momentum with its Unix products, is soldiering on with increases in performance of its Niagara chip and progress in Rock, its next SPARC chip.

The next-generation chip has hit the physical testing phase, and Niagara servers got a speed bump.

The "Rock" processor is Sun's next-generation, high-end SPARC multithreaded product intended to compliment the Niagara processor. Whereas Niagara has been ideal for midlevel servers like the Sun Fire T1000 and T2000, Rock will be targeted at high-performance, processing-intense data center systems.

The first Rock-based systems are not due until the second half of calendar 2008, but Sun has hit a big milestone; its first tape-out. This means the design will be taken from emulation and the drawing board to its first silicon sample for testing.

"This is the state where you feel comfortable enough about the simulations of the design that you take those files and ship them to a silicon manufacturer to produce prototypes," Fadi Azhari, director of marketing for SPARC processors, told internetnews.com.

Sun has no performance metrics for Rock yet, but it does have targets. "We're aiming to bring to midrange and large SMP (define) systems [that are] the same order of magnitude benefits we brought when we introduced Niagara," he said.

Also making progress is Neptune, which Sun claims is the first network ASIC chip optimized for multithreaded systems. More importantly, it will deliver 10 gigabit Ethernet throughput. Sun said that on multi-core systems, Neptune will deliver four times the throughput of Sun's current offerings.

On more current news, Sun announced enhancements to the Sun Fire T2000 line. The company is upping the baseline of memory to 64GB and bumping the processor speed from 1.2GHz to 1.4Ghz. This will improve the performance of memory-bound applications by up to 20 percent while taking on larger workloads.

This article was originally published on internetnews.com.

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