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3/24/2006
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Azul Plans 48-Core Processor For 2007

The new processor will let Azul design a server platform that can scale up to a 768-way multiprocessing system with up to 768 gigabytes of memory.

Azul Systems Inc., to demonstrate it's not a "one-hit wonder," on Monday plans to announce it has produced working versions of its next-generation processor, which will have 48 independent processing cores in a single chip. Azul plans to introduce systems based on the technology next year.

The Vega 2 processor will double the number of cores the company offers in a single-chip design; it now sells a 24-core Vega processor. Vega 2 is being manufactured by chip foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, which also manufactures the original Vega processor.

Vega is manufactured using a 130-nanometer process. By moving to a 90-nanometer process for Vega 2, Azul will be able to double the number of processing cores without significantly increasing the size of the chip, which has 812 million transistors.

Clock rate and power dissipation specifications for the chip won't be released until next year. But Scott Sellers, a co-founder and VP of hardware engineering, says the new processor will provide an improvement in performance-per-watt over the existing Vega.

"As customers invest in our technology and migrate to our platforms they want to see that we are not one-hit wonders, and that there is a strong road map," Sellers says.

Using the Vega 2 processor, Azul will be able to design future versions of its Azul Compute Appliance server platform that can scale up to a 768-way multiprocessing system with up to 768 gigabytes of memory. Azul's largest platform today provides up to 384-way processing capability, and 256 gigabytes of memory in a rack-mountable enclosure that consumes 2,700 watts of electricity.

Sellers says the 48-core Vega 2 is a "ground-up, fully symmetric design," and will provide new instructions, and optimized pipelines and interconnect structure.

"Most of the dual-core design you see in the market today from other vendors are being manufactured on 90- or 65-nanometer processes," he says. "The fact that we can put 48 cores on a 90-nanometer design speaks to the engineering prowess at Azul."

Azul, meanwhile, is embroiled in a legal battle with Sun Microsystems. Azul went to court earlier this month seeking a ruling that its technology doesn't violate any Sun patents or trade secrets after failing to work out a licensing agreement with the other company.

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