Sun and Fujitsu give Sparc servers a speed bump

Sun and Fujitsu have updated their jointly developed Sparc Enterprise Servers with a new quad-core processor.

Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu Computer Systems have updated their jointly developed family of Sparc Enterprise Servers with a new quad-core processor.

The servers are now offered with Fujitsu's Sparc64 VII processor, which doubles the number of cores on each chip compared with the Sparc64 VI, the processor that has been offered with the server line since it launched in April last year.

That's about all that's new in the servers, however, which are largely unchanged apart from the new chip. "There's a pretty decent incremental improvement in performance, but there's nothing radically new to get excited about," said Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff.

The Sparc Enterprise Server line includes midrange and high-end SMP (symmetric multi-processing) machines used to run large databases and ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications, or do high-performance computing work. They are also used for server consolidation and virtualization.

The servers use Sun's Solaris 10 operating system and Fujitsu's processor. They are jointly developed but marketed and sold separately by each company. All the new models were due to be available on Monday, said Shannon Elwell, Sun's director for enterprise servers.

Customers can use a combination of Sparc64 VI and VII processors in the same server, and they can add some Sparc64 VII chips to an older Sparc Enterprise Server without making any other changes to the hardware or software, said Richard McCormack, senior vice president of marketing at Fujitsu.

The new processors execute two threads per core and have 5M bytes or 6M bytes of shared Level 2 cache, the same as their predecessors, but they can handle simultaneous multi-threading, which the prior ones couldn't, and are offered at speeds as high as 2.56GHz, which is slightly higher than for the previous chips.

They also consume 44 percent less energy per core, McCormack said. That's largely because they are manufactured using a more advanced, 65-nanometer process.

Prices start at about US$35,000 for the M4000 server, which comes with up to four Sparc64 VII processors and 128G bytes of main memory. The high-end M9000 comes with up to 32 processors (or 64 using an expansion cabinet) and 1 terabyte of main memory, and starts at about $216,000.

The servers also come in eight-way and 16-way configurations, and the companies will continue to offer the older Sparc64 VI processors for customers who prefer them, McCormack said.

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