System News
Two New SPARC Processors in the Works
Niagara II and Rock Are in the Pipeline
April 24, 2006,
Volume 98, Issue 4

The new processors will employ a new manufacturing process, shifting from the 90-nanometer Texas Instruments process to a 65-nanometer process.
 

Sun has begun work on two new SPARCR processors, the Niagara II and the Rock, reports Stephen Shankland for CNET News.com. The new Niagara II is geared for lower-end servers and the Rock for high-end applications.

The new processors will employ a new manufacturing process, shifting from the 90-nanometer Texas Instruments process to a 65-nanometer process. Sun engineers are already at work on a 45-nanometer process, according to David Yen, executive vice president for the Scalable Systems Group at Sun, that will be used in the manufacture of successors to these new second-generation processors.

According to Shankland, these new manufacturing processes, and the smaller elements they involve, will make it possible to include more circuitry onto the same silicon real estate, giving chip designers the opportunity to add such features as processing cores or encryption engines.

The Niagara II will be able to run 64 independent software sequences simultaneously, doubling the capacity of its predecessor. Further, as Nathan Brookwood, an analyst for Insight 64 noted, the threads per core on Niagara II are doubled to eight for increased throughput.

A further change that Niagara II will offer is improved mathematical capability, resulting from the addition of floating-point calculation units that are shared by all eight cores. Yen also noted that networking speed will increase and that a 10-gigabit-per-second Ethernet comes built-in. Niagara II will also handle more than five encryption algorithms, Yen added, noting that Niagara II will also be available in multiprocessor configurations.

Virtualization software, due in the second half of 2006 will make it possible to run multiple instances of the SolarisTM Operating System (Solaris OS) on the same server and to manage dozens of threads simultaneously, Yen announced.

Commenting on the design plans for Rock, Yen alluded to the possibility of a processor with some cores that will have structures to themselves and other cores that will share structures, Shankland reported.

"You start to transcend horizontal, multiple cores," Yen said. The organization of processing elements on Rock "doesn't necessarily have to be one-dimensional. You could group them in some kind of hierarchy. That is a possibility."

Sun also plans to release an UltraSPARCR IV+ processor predicted to run at 1.8 GHz, though Shankland said Yen would not confirm this speed.

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