Sun plans next step in Sparc line

Sun plans next step in Sparc line

The successor to Sun Microsystems Inc.'s UltraSparc processor will have multithreaded capability, increasing the number of tasks a server can execute simultaneously, according to Marc Tremblay, vice president and chief architect of Sun's scalable systems group.

Tremblay said Sun should start using the chips, now code-named Niagara, in January 2006.

Niagara will be able to execute 32 threads at once, Tremblay said. Each chip has eight cores, each capable of executing four threads simultaneously. Most current processor chips execute a single thread or, with certain high-end models, two threads at once, Tremblay said. A thread is a single stream of instructions that the operating system sends to the processor to execute.

Tremblay said the design reflects the trend in the microprocessor industry to improve performance through other means than increasing clock speed, which represents the total number of instructions that a chip executes every second. The downside to increasing the clock speed is that the higher the frequency is, the more power the chip uses, and the more heat it gives off. Large computational centers see both power usage and cooling as increasingly serious issues.

As a result of these issues, the industry has sought to improve performance by other means'including multicore processors. Advanced Micro Devices Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., and Intel Corp. have both announced they plan to introduce dual-core processors in the future.

The product name for the Niagara chips has not been decided yet, though given the wide recognition of Sun's Sparc brand, the company may use a variation of that nameplate, Tremblay said.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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