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Sun Says Testing Of Rock Processor Ahead Of Schedule

The company also said it reached a milestone recently by successfully booting the Solaris 10 operating system on the high-end chip for the first time.
Sun Microsystems on Wednesday said its ahead of schedule in testing its next-generation Sparc processor, codenamed Rock, and expects to receive the first prototypes of the chip from manufacturer Texas Instruments within six weeks.

The company also said it reached a milestone recently by successfully booting the Solaris 10 operating system on the high-end chip for the first time. The achievement came ahead of schedule, according to Sun.

As a result, Sun is on track to ship its first servers with Rock in the second half of 2008. The 16-core processor packs more power then any chip Sun has designed, and is the third generation of processors that make use of Sun's chip multithreading technology. Sun has not said how many parallel threads the new chip will have, nor has the company released any performance metrics.

"We're betting that multithreaded computing is coming, it's happening, and it's the direction that the market is going," Fadi Azhari, director of marketing for Sparc CMT technology, told InformationWeek.

Indeed, Intel and Advanced Micro Devices have multithreaded chips for servers, and have started introducing them on the desktop. The advantage of the design is the ability to handle more tasks simultaneously than single-threaded chips. Neither Intel nor AMD, however, have reached the level of Sun. The company's current UltraSparc T1 processor has up to eight cores and four threads per core. The chip ships in Sun's SunFire T1000, T2000, and Sparc Enterprise systems.

In the second half of this year, Sun plans to ship its Niagara 2 processor, which has eight cores and can handle 32 threads in parallel. The processor will combine major server functions on the processor itself, making the new processor Sun's first "system on a chip." Niagara 2-based systems are expected to deliver twice the throughput of UltraSparc T1 systems.

Rock, however, will be Sun's most advanced chip, and will be aimed at database servers. Sun will ship the processor with Solaris, which the company says is best capable of handling the chips multithreaded features.

In the meantime, Sun will have to depend on it current product line and Niagara 2 to boost sales. While the company last month reported its second consecutive quarterly profit, revenues fell below financial analysts' expectations.