Hardware & Infrastructure
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9/19/2005
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Sun UltraSparc4+ Servers Promise Big Boost In Performance

The new servers will provide from two to five times the performance of existing Sun servers, and set the stage for the company's eight-core Niagara processor-based systems early next year.

On the heels of its Galaxy platform announcement for the x86-based server market, Sun Microsystems on Tuesday implements an overhaul of its Sparc server line with the introduction of the first systems based on its UltraSparc4+ processor.

The new servers will provide up to five times the performance of servers based on Sun's UltraSparc3 and up to twice the performance of servers using the UltraSparc4 processors, and they set the stage for the company's eight-core Niagara processor-based systems early next year.

"Sun is clearly delivering on their Sparc road map and is expanding in the industry-standard market with their Galaxy platform," says Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with Insight64. "At this point, it appears Sun is relatively secure, and rumors of its death prove to be greatly exaggerated once again. They've become very good at dodging bullets."

The introduction of five new servers based on the UltraSparc4+ processor, combined with its introduction of three servers based Advanced Micro Device Inc.'s Opteron processors in its Galaxy platform two weeks ago, provides a complete refresh of Sun's server product line.

The UltraSparc4+ chips are the first Sparc devices manufactured on a 90-nanometer process by longtime manufacturing partner Texas Instruments Inc., and are a shrink from the previous 130-nanometer devices. The smaller processing geometries have allowed Sun to place large amounts of on-chip memory on the new processors, significantly increasing performance with minimal clock cycle and power increases.

The top clock cycle of the UltraSparc4+ processors is 1.5 GHz, an increase from the top-end 1.35 GHz UltraSprac4 processor. The new processor, however, adds 2 Mbytes of Level 2 cache, and 32 Mbytes of Level 3 cache directly on the chip, allowing for the dramatic improvements in performance compared with the predecessor UltraSparc devices, says Fadi Azhari, group manager of Sun's scalable systems group.

The performance improvements were also made without changing the 100-watt thermal envelope that had been associated with the UltraSparc4 processors.

The new processors also continue with Sun's Uniboard strategy first employed with its UltraSparc3 generation. That strategy allows customers to upgrade current system chassis with the new UltraSparc4+-based boards, or run boards based on multiple processors in the same system chassis.

"Customers who have had our systems for the past four years can upgrade to the latest and greatest processors with minimal to no downtime," says Phil Dunn, group manager of marketing for Sun's scalable systems group.

Available immediately are the Sun Fire V490, V890, E2900, E4900, and E6900, all powered by the 1.5 GHz UltraSparc4+ processor and running the Solaris 10 operating system. Pricing starts at $30,995.

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