Ready for Primepower
Fujitsu’s Primepower line is divided into three basic segments: Workgroup, Midrange, and Enterprise. The low-end and midrange models are rack friendly, and all servers run on SPARC Solaris. The various model numbers changed this year (e.g., the Primepower 200 became the 250 and the 400 became the 450) to reflect the change from SPARC 64 IV to SPARC 64 V chipsets and various other upgrades. With this upgrade came a transition from slower than 1 GHz and less than 1 MB of second-level cache to 1.9 GHz with 3 MB secondary cache.
These upgrades have enabled Fujitsu to shrink the Primepower footprint, as smaller systems can now run more intense workloads. Because it has driven down the cost of the chassis and maintenance by using fewer CPUs and offering a higher cache, McCormack says the company now offers enterprises better options for server consolidation.
Another enhancement is that the new SPARC processors are error correcting. They include a checking technology that enables the chips to recover from, for example, the impact of gamma rays by smashing into the chip. In such instances, the recovery takes place at the chip level, rather than at the operating system level. Advancements in processor technology were the drivers for this solution; when a chip is only 90 nanometers wide, a gamma ray is a big deal, as the impact can flip the bits and change the data.
“As much of 90 percent of errors come from this, according to our customers,” said McCormack to illustrate the value of these improvements, “though I don’t know of any independent studies that have determined the exact extent of the problem.”
The Fujitsu Primergy brand is the company’s x86 offering. At the end of 2003, Fujitsu still hadn’t broken into the ranks of the top-10 x86 server vendors in the United States. According to second-quarter 2004 figures from IDC, that is still the case, although upgrades to the Primergy line have resulted in a growth rate of 353 percent, claims Fujitsu.
The biggest of the recent Primergy changes occurred in early October when the rack and tower models were given a new cooling system known as Cool-Safe, and support for Intel Extended Memory 64-bit technology (AKA EM64T, AKA Nocona) was added.
Cool-Safe was created using airline simulation modeling techniques, which resulted in a streamlined housing design to increase airflow, bigger fans, and better thermal management for the EM64T. In addition to supporting 32-bit and 64-bit applications, the EM64T can adjust power usage by as much as 31 percent to prevent excessive power usage and keep cooling costs down. If the chip begins running outside of its preferred heat envelope, for example, the processor throttles down. The downside: occasional lowered performance.
The thermal management features of Nocona improve chip reliability,” said McCormack. “Cool-Safe keeps the chip sufficiently cool [so] that it doesn’t need to be throttled down.”
In addition, Fujitsu offers Itanium-based serves, though McCormack admits the Itanium market has yet to catch fire.
Primepower will be ready for the upcoming release of the Solaris 10. After that, the next wave of changes probably will not not hit the shore until next year. Several Primepower enhancements are planned for 2005, as newer chipsets come on the market. The servers will then move faster than 2 GHz, with cache going greater than 4 MB. That will culminate in the next-generation Primepower (due out in 2006), which is being built in conjunction with Sun Microsystems.
On the Primergy side, McCormack reports plans to keep up with processor changes in Xeon and Itanium, and increases in blade density is planned. He expects this line to continue to gain ground in U.S. markets.
“We have seen a huge increase in Primergy sales in the U.S.A.,” said McCormack. “We have achieved this by extending our range from blades through mission-critical servers.”