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Sun Kills Rock CPU, Says NYT Report

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the what-we-meant-was dept.

Sun Microsystems 190

BBCWatcher writes "Despite Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's recent statement that his company will continue Sun's hardware business, it won't be with Sun processors (and associated engineering jobs). The New York Times reports that Sun has canceled its long-delayed Rock processor, the next generation SPARC CPU. Instead, the Times says Sun/Oracle will have to rely on Fujitsu for SPARCs (and Intel otherwise). Unfortunately Fujitsu is decreasing its R&D budget and is unprofitable at present. Sun's cancellation of Rock comes just after Intel announced yet another delay for Tukwila, the next generation Itanium, now pushed to 2010. HP is the sole major Itanium vendor. Primary beneficiaries of this CPU turmoil: IBM and Intel's Nehalem X86 CPU business."

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another one bites the dust! x86 uber alles! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28346621)

Yuck.

Some days I hate this industry.

RPS (5, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346625)

Sun Kills Rock CPU, Says NYT Report

Sun has instead moved on to develop the superior Paper CPU while critics argue about the hypothetical "Scissors CPU" that competitors may be secretly developing.

That's just dynamite! (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346695)

*groan*

Re:That's just dynamite! (2, Insightful)

bluesatin (1350681) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346723)

Zombies? On my Slashdot? It's more likely than you think.

Re:That's just dynamite! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28347553)

This is a bummer, I have 10 5220s in a datacenter space that cost over time more than the servers. If I can get these down to 5 with 16 core. Life would be great. BTW the T2 Proc rocks when you compile apps using -fast flags. One the fastest 2U boxes ever.

Re:RPS (2, Informative)

Ender_Stonebender (60900) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347175)

You forgot [wikipedia.org] the low-cost, low-power Lizard CPU (being developed by the designers of ARM CPUs) and the highly logical Spock CPU (from AMD, of course).

Re:RPS (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347319)

<Sigh>

Re:RPS (2, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347193)

Actually, the real problem is that Rock CPU faced off with Guts CPU, Bomb CPU, Fire CPU, and Ice CPU, but hasn't been able to handle Cut CPU.

Re:RPS (3, Funny)

Foodie (980694) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347231)

Rock CPU couldn't compete with Paper CPU, so it was canned.

Re:RPS (0, Offtopic)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347317)

Awesome. Mod parent up.

Re:RPS (4, Funny)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347197)

critics argue about the hypothetical "Scissors CPU" that competitors may be secretly developing

I've seen the supposed specs for the scissors cpu, and I can attest that rock would have absolutely crushed it.

Mistake in tags (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28347285)

As I am reading this, I can't help but be saddened at the mistaken tag 'paperrocksun'. Obviously, rock is defeated by both paper and sun, which is contrary to the paradigm of the game. A better tag would have been: rocksunscissors.

Shame on you /.
Shame

Re:RPS (1)

1stvamp (662375) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347555)

Frankly I'm awaiting the Lizard revision..

Re:RPS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28347651)

Yes, but what kills Sun? Seems like a pretty unbalanced game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, Sun.

Re:RPS (1)

WhyDoYouWantToKnow (1039964) | more than 5 years ago | (#28348209)

Entropy

Re:RPS (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347661)

I think you'll find that any office supply company can provide scissors which beat Sun's CPUs.

Re:RPS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28347849)

Rock CPU, Paper CPU, Scissors CPU, Lizard CPU, Spock CPU - Note: I always choose Spock CPU when I play.

Can they please just kill Itanium already (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28346665)

What is the point of having a long slow death for Itanium. It is a turkey. It doesn't have the backing to be the number 5 player much less number 2. Kill it and stop wasting everyone's time.

Actually it was crap (5, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346669)

Actually it was crap. Not for nothing was it known as "The Turd Rock from the Sun"

Oracle will jettison the entire hardware division. (3, Insightful)

reporter (666905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347437)

Oracle will discard the entire hardware division (of Sun), not just the processor departments.

Unlike Sun (which will no longer build processors), Fujitsu does build processors and the servers that incorporate them. Building the processors gives Fujitsu engineers intimate knowledge of how the chips work and enables the engineers to optimize the processors' connection to the rest of the server ecosystem. Lacking this ability, Sun engineers will not be able to build servers that match the capabilities of Fujitsu's computers.

The logical conclusion is that Oracle will jettison the entire hardware divison. That is not surprising. Oracle was mainly interested in Sun's software products (e. g., the operating system) and Sun's customer lists. Larry Ellison was willing to overpay for Sun (buying the hardware division in the process) simply because he and Scott McNealy are good friends.

Note that Sun once boasted that it employed about 1000 (?) microprocessor engineers. Sun claimed that it had the largest processor team outside of Intel. Apparently, quantity does not necessarily lead to quality.

Re:Oracle will jettison the entire hardware divisi (3, Interesting)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347895)

The logical conclusion is that Oracle will jettison the entire hardware divison.

I don't think that'll happen. I think Larry wants you to buy Oracle (the database) running on Oracle (the OS) on Oracle (the hardware) and support contracts for the entire stack. There's a lot of PHB love for being able to call one phone number for anything that breaks because the same company is responsible for every component. IBM currently offers this, and now Oracle can, too.

Re:Oracle will jettison the entire hardware divisi (2, Interesting)

idontgno (624372) | more than 5 years ago | (#28348513)

I don't think that'll happen. I think Larry wants you to buy Oracle (the database) running on Oracle (the OS) on Oracle (the hardware) and support contracts for the entire stack. There's a lot of PHB love for being able to call one phone number for anything that breaks because the same company is responsible for every component. IBM currently offers this, and now Oracle can, too.

True. But none of the above requires Oracle to manufacture one screw, chip, or board of hardware. OEM servers from Fujitsu (or Dell, or anyone they can trust and wangle a good price out of), slap on some Oracle name plates, et voila, the complete Oracle stack. Shoot, go nuts and do careful integration engineering so that the software is well-tuned and thoroughly optimized to the selected hardware. Subcontract HW and OS support out of the OEM vendor. Put them on-site with your Oracle weasels and make 'em wear Oracle name badges. Who'd know the difference?

It was inevitable. Sun has relaxed and turned its back to Oracle, and the long knives are slipping out of the sheaths.

Re:Oracle will jettison the entire hardware divisi (1)

davecb (6526) | more than 5 years ago | (#28348501)

No-one in their right mind buys something they don't want because their friend is the salesperson. Much less pays extra for it!

Larry is way smarter than that, and I suspect he's looking at the chance to go from a database company to a whole-line vendor, just like IBM was back in the mainframe days.

I'll happily believe IBM would have laid off everyone, starting with the hardware folks. I'll bet they're cursing having missed the chance to buy Sun.

--dave

Re:Oracle will jettison the entire hardware divisi (3, Insightful)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28348807)

Oracle will discard the entire hardware division (of Sun), not just the processor departments.

Right. Spend $5 billion dollars for a company and then shut down 90% of it.

Very Interesting... (-1, Flamebait)

rehtonAesoohC (954490) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346713)

I wonder if this had anything to do with Sun being purchased by IBM just recently.

Who knows, maybe that was the whole point of IBM buying them out? Muscle out the competition before they even produce a competing product! Who wants to bet that in the next two weeks IBM will announce the "New IBM SPARC chip!"

Re:Very Interesting... (4, Funny)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346733)

You may want to check your internet connection, I think your post has ended up in an alternate-universe Slashdot. How's the economy over there?

Re:Very Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28346741)

Sun is in the process of being purchased by Oracle, retard.

IBM bought Sun? (4, Funny)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346743)

Oracle is gonna be pissed.

Re:Very Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28346765)

You're confused. Sun was purchased by Oracle. IBM withdrew their bid.

Re:Very Interesting... (4, Funny)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346925)

Then Sun should give them negative feedback and move on.

Re:Very Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28348697)

hey looks like it sunk like a rock too.

Re:Very Interesting... (1)

patch0 (1339585) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346779)

"Despite Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's recent statement that his company will continue Sun's hardware business"

Re:Very Interesting... (1, Redundant)

Agronomist Cowherd (948449) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346793)

Yeah, I'm sure IBM's purchase of Sun had a HUGE amount to do with this. Those IBM bastards, canceling competing projects left and right. I'm sure this was their secret plan all along. Killing SPARC because it's such a good competitor to Power and xSeries.

Oh wait, IBM DIDN'T purchase Sun. Oracle purchased Sun. The summary hinted as much.

You're really out of date. At least have a fact to add to your conspiracy theory. One fact is a big help.

Idiot.

Sun kills rock! (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346761)

... but paper beats rock... and scissors beats paper! Kiff, we have a conundrum!

Re:Sun kills rock! (1)

Theoboley (1226542) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347351)

Sun Burns paper, melts plastic handle on scissors and apparently kills rock.

I, for one, welcome our bright, warm overlord.

Re:Sun kills rock! (1)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347359)

Uggggh.

Re:Sun kills rock! (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347809)

Kiff, get ready to take blame for this! In three, two, one... *points*

Sun kills Rock? (3, Funny)

SailorSpork (1080153) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346763)

Wait, so if sun kills rock, sun burns paper, and sun melts scissors... SUN IS INVINCIBLE!

Re:Sun kills Rock? (0)

haruchai (17472) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347135)

That's the most insightful post yet in this thread. Unfortunately, it's not true where SUNW is concerned.

Re:Sun kills Rock? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28348783)

Just as paper covers rock, Burns covers sun!

Um, Opteron? (4, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346773)

Not that I am an AMD fanboy, but, my dual opteron PC just ordered me to remind you all that AMD will also benefit from this choice. Indeed, Sun already uses AMD Opteron parts for some of its servers....

Re:Um, Opteron? (1)

Bigby (659157) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346853)

Maybe with the loss of some of the hardware Sun produced, Oracle will purchase AMD

Re:Um, Opteron? (2, Interesting)

vil3nr0b (930195) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347417)

There is no price/performance contest in comparing AMD Phenom Sexcore processors versus competitors. You could build a whole system around DDR3/i7 architecture, but it is unaffordable in large clusters. BTW, I am an AMD fanboy, especially after upgrading a cluster to the new Phenom chips. It was able to work perfect with DDR2 and saved a fortune just upgrading CPU's to get about a 15 percent performance increase. This only helps AMD.

Re:Um, Opteron? (1)

diegocgteleline.es (653730) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347639)

They also use Intel (in fact, IMO they seem to like more their intel partnership, probably due to the fact that AMD these days suck). So I don't see how this would benefit AMD alone...

Re:Um, Opteron? (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28348851)

True. But Sun also make Nehalem servers. And lately Nehalem has been getting a lot more interest.

More likely reason (5, Interesting)

downix (84795) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346783)

It is more likely that Sun compared the Rock to Fuji's new SPARC CPU and realized that it could not compare for the price/performance. Frankly, looking at the two, Sun made the wise move, killed off a weaker chip, and will likely push forward the SPARC64 VVIfx, which is further along in development and will be ready sooner.

Re:More likely reason (3, Interesting)

the donner party (1000036) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346869)

The Fujitsu SPARC64 VIIfx [theinquirer.net] does look interesting, but does anyone know when it is actually supposed to be released?

Re:More likely reason (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347013)

The Rock is an amazing chip on paper. It runs an extra fetch/decode part of the pipeline a few cycles ahead so that it is always loading the needed data into the cache before it's needed.

If this technology doesn't work, however, Rock is a pretty unimpressive chip and there is no evidence that it does actually work (for example, it doesn't predict across computed jumps, which accounts for a lot of cache misses in current chips). Even if it does work, Rock looked like it would perform best on the kind of workloads where the T2 does well, but probably not as well as the T2. Out of the SPARC64 series, Rock, and the T2 and successors, Rock is by far the weakest. The SPARC64 does well on traditional workloads, the T2 on heavily-parallel workloads. Between the two, Sun already has processors for pretty much any market they want to be in - Rock just doesn't fit commercially. Note that the summary's comment, there is no indication that they are killing off the Niagara line - they aren't exiting the CPU business, just killing one failed experiment. Not the first, and probably not the last, time Sun has killed off an almost-finished CPU because there was no market for it.

Re:More likely reason (1)

Comatose51 (687974) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347549)

Assuming what you say is correct, we still have to wonder why did they start the project in the first place if there was no market for it? Perhaps that's why Sun is in such big trouble? A lot of my fellow engineers are amazed by Sun's technology but can't figure out why they're in such bad financial state. This could explain it.

Re:More likely reason (5, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347847)

I was at a talk by a former Intel chief architect a while ago which explained this. It takes an absolute minimum of about five years to get a new CPU to market. When you start, you have to make guesses about the kind of workload people will be running, their power and financial budgets, and the process technology that will be available to you for producing it. Once you've made these guesses, you can generally come up with a chip that meets the requirements.

The Pentium 4 is the canonical example of a chip made with bad guesses. The P4 team were told to make it fast at all speed. They missed the market, because they didn't notice that people were starting to care about power consumption, and few people wanted a 120W CPU - especially not in the data centre where the margins are high, but power and cooling are expensive. They also made some bad guesses about process technology, thinking that the process guys would fix the leakage problem so they could ramp the clock speeds up to 10GHz. They came up with a design that scaled up to 10GHz, but needed a process technology that still doesn't quite exist to produce it at these speeds.

I suspect something similar happened with Sun. First, they made some bad guesses about how well the thread scout would work. It's a nice idea on paper, but doesn't seem to perform well. The result is that Rock will perform better than other approaches on highly-deterministic CPU-bound workloads with lots of threads, while in the real world highly-parallel workloads tend to be I/O bound or have less predictable code flow.

The T2 goes in completely the opposite direction. It contains a set of very simple cores. They omit most of the complex logic found in other processors, and instead just have a lot of execution engines. If you have a workload that contains a lot of I/O-bound threads, then the T2 gives insanely good performance (both per Watt and per dollar). Sun began designing this family of chips right at the peak of the .com boom, and they are perfectly suited to web-serving workloads (they also do well on a lot of database workloads, which is one of the reasons Oracle is interested in them).

One of the things Sun does very well is recycle technology. There are a lot of half-dead projects at Sun that are not commercially exploited, but have fed ideas into their other products. Even though Rock is dead, I wouldn't be surprised to see some of their ideas appear in the T3 or T4. The hardware scout is only useful on a few workloads, but it's relatively easy to implement on something like the T2, so we may see it reappear in a future design.

Re:More likely reason (1, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28349391)

The Pentium 4 is the canonical example of a chip made with bad guesses. The P4 team were told to make it fast at all speed. They missed the market, because they didn't notice that people were starting to care about power consumption

There are a number of problems with your analysis, not least that the Pentium III is faster clock-for-clock than the Pentium IV at almost all workloads; its failing was that it did not scale, but it begat the Pentium M and to some degree, the Core architecture. Sun has been wildly flailing its arms about trying to come up with an architecture worth carrying into the future. So far, no dice. This is just more of the same. Totally canning two architectures ought to be the end of Sun's attempts to make new SPARC processors; for the love of all that is holy, leave it to Fujitsu. Help them, if you must. It can only set them back so far...

Title is wrong (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28346791)

Paper covers Rock. I don't think the sun even enters into it. I mean, you can use scissors at night.

Wow, there's not much left then. (5, Interesting)

seeker_1us (1203072) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346811)

According to the CNET article, Tukwilla is pushed until 2010, and it's going to be 65nm instead of 45 nm. Since Intel has already demonstrated 32nm chips, [engadget.com] that means Tukwilla will already be at least two generations behind when it's released. No new chip designs from Sun and Fujitsu decreasing the R&D budget. Sounds like this market is falling behind.

Re:Wow, there's not much left then. (5, Informative)

Funk_dat69 (215898) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347015)

Well there's IBM. And they don't seem to be slowing down:

POWER 6 [wikipedia.org]

POWER 7 [wikipedia.org]

also:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/07/11/ibm_power7_ncsa/ [theregister.co.uk]

POWER 7 sounds like crazy town...

Re:Wow, there's not much left then. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28347157)

POWER 7 sounds like crazy town...

That's a great code name for a CPU!

heat? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28348163)

Well there's IBM. And they don't seem to be slowing down:

POWER 6 [wikipedia.org]

POWER 7 [wikipedia.org]

also:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/07/11/ibm_power7_ncsa/ [theregister.co.uk]

POWER 7 sounds like crazy town...

The one thing I like about the Niagara-based CPUs (UltraSPARC-Tx) is that they're fairly low wattage for the work that they can do. These 4 and 5 GHz chips from IBM seem like they're going to be dumping heat like mad.

Unless you're doing HPC, and are willing to go into water-based cooling in your DC, it seems excessive to some extent.

Anyone have experience with POWER and how it differentiates with SPARC? It seems that there's a product split in SPARC, but everyone else (IBM, Intel, AMD) seems to have a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.

Re:Wow, there's not much left then. (1)

raftpeople (844215) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347787)

I don't think Itanium being pushed out is a sign of anything other than that Intel would probably like to just kill Itanium and put all resources in x86 as they are creating very impressive procs lately.

It doesn't really benefit IBM (2, Interesting)

mzito (5482) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346855)

Mostly, it just benefits Intel and AMD. Sun loses their high-end chip, which theoretically hurts their high-end offerings, but their high-end servers are an rapidly declining piece of their revenue. I've thought that Sun should drop SPARC entirely, except for supporting legacy customers. The niagara chip is an interesting concept, but most people today just want Intel/AMD chips in their servers.

Re:It doesn't really benefit IBM (2, Insightful)

downix (84795) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346943)

People want more viruses? As a virus is targeted at an architecture and api, and if you combine into a single chain, you wind up with a perfect storm for virus spreading. Witness the Irish Potato Famine.

I say we need more diversity of architectures, OS's, platforms and API's to prevent a Pandemic of computer malware. I still laugh at the memory of witnessing conficker trying desperately to install itself on my SPARC Kubuntu machine.

Re:It doesn't really benefit IBM (3, Insightful)

mzito (5482) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347391)

By your own example, though, clearly the current level of diversity hasn't helped mitigate the spread of malware, since conficker was able to install on many many PCs.

Then, if we decided we needed more diversity, how many more? I can't see having 10 major OSes making a difference, perhaps 50 with wide distribution.

So now, businesses, software developers, hardware manufacturers, tech support organizations have to support 50 different operating systems? Where's the ROI on that? How will we hire enough people who are trained on that many different configurations?

Certainly, we all want better computer security, but improving security by increasing IT complexity is like permanently banning travel between countries because of the fear someone might bring a disease in. It solves the problem, but damages everyone every other way.

Re:It doesn't really benefit IBM (3, Insightful)

John Betonschaar (178617) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347543)

Discounting x86 for big-iron server systems because they would otherwise attract viruses -much like the potato famine- is ridiculous. I think you're paranoia.

Re:It doesn't really benefit IBM (3, Interesting)

peppepz (1311345) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347585)

In fiscal year 2008, Sun sold 4,532 $ millions in SPARC servers, and only 707 millions in x64 servers (source [sun.com] ).
I don’t think it would have been wise for them to kill their biggest-selling product.

Re:It doesn't really benefit IBM (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347677)

Actually it does benefit IBM. It's another piece of information their sales force can use in their campaign to convert Sun customers to IBM, whether it be on Power or on x86-64.

Re:It doesn't really benefit IBM (1)

davecb (6526) | more than 5 years ago | (#28349979)

Rock is the high-clock-speed chip, while the Ultra VII and future variants are the high-end chips, which are absolutely necessary for things like the transaction processing loads of an eBay, much less a bank or large retailer.

--dave

Tukwila? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28346877)

> Intel announced yet another delay for Tukwila

Please tell me that's not an actual product name. (apologies [slashdot.org] )

Utter nonsense (0, Redundant)

Nobo (606465) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346883)

Nonsense. Everyone knows that paper kills rock.

Re:Utter nonsense (1)

jgostling (1480343) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347533)

Which is why they wrote it in a memo.

To summarise the article: (3, Insightful)

GreenTech11 (1471589) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346887)

To summarise the /. summary article, all computing hardware companies are going bankrupt, with the exception of Intel, who are delaying projects as well.

How I love this industry

I'm sorry, what? (2, Funny)

kurtmckee (870398) | more than 5 years ago | (#28346919)

Intel announced yet another delay for Tukwila, the next generation Itanium

Please tell me that's not an actual product name. (apologies [slashdot.org] )

What are these architectures good for... (1)

astonish (177831) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347073)

I'm totally ignorant of the sun/enterprise space of computing hardware. What are these architectures good at that x64/GPGPU aren't going to cover? I've seen in my own career things like SGI Oynx and even high-end rendering cards go to the wayside in favor of standard COTS hardware that is more agile, refreshes more frequently and is blazing fast...

What keeps this SPARC space alive?

Re:What are these architectures good for... (5, Insightful)

downix (84795) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347195)

Scale. x86 cannot scale up anywhere near as far as SPARC (or even MIPS for that matter) can. You realize that the cheapest SPARC can handle more threads per cycle than a dual-quad Xeon, and do it while using less electricity, right? As for the big-iron chips, they handle databases on a scale that dwarfs the address range of x86, relying on more registers than even exists in the x86 architecture.

Re:What are these architectures good for... (5, Insightful)

John Betonschaar (178617) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347687)

Yes, and all these threads you get have access to crappy fpu's and horrible memory bandwith.

It's true that you can easily slap a lot of Sparc CPU's into a single machine than you can do so with x86, but since you're actually going to need all those CPU's to match even an off-the-shelf dual quad-core Opteron system for most tasks, the end result is that you're still spending much, much more money and probably suck more power too. For tasks that cannot be parallelized or executed concurrently Sparc is rubbish in every aspect imaginable.

I work at one of those companies that got lured into standardizing on Sparc hardware years ago, and now we're kind of stuck on it because we have all those systems in the field, with customers. A while ago we investigated upgrading to newer Sparc hardware (M3000) and we leased a test system to assess it's performance. For compationally intensive (FPU) tasks running 8-threads, the ~$11,000 Sparc64 IV with 8 cores / 16 hardware threads was about as fast as a $400 Core 2 Duo laptop. I'm not kidding....

So unless you want to run an enterprise database that has to handle 1000s of requests a second, Sparc has zero added value. If you really need a Sparc system for high-load, high-availability server tasks, I don't know. I'd guess a Power6 server or a rack of Opterons or Xeons wouldn't do much worse.

Re:What are these architectures good for... (4, Insightful)

segedunum (883035) | more than 5 years ago | (#28348125)

Feel free to mod the parent up more, because that, sadly, is a true reflection of the way things have been for most of the past ten years - not just now. I worked somewhere eight years ago where someone realised that a desktop 1.4GHz Athlon had several times the performance of an expensive UltraSPARC III whilst troubleshotting some Python and Zope performance issues. It was justified because it was an 'enterprise' piece of kit and no one wanted to believe that they wasted their money on something so expensive.

To get close to an off-the-shelf AMD or Intel system performance-wise your SPARC systems need to be running hell-for-leather at 100%, drawing maximum power permanently. The Xeon or Opteron systems will be able to scale up and down far more comfortably, so when comparing these systems you are never comparing apples with apples because the performance is just not comparable. Unless you have thousands of *completely independent* requests to handle per second then a SPARC system is useless to you and the writing has been on the wall on that for the past ten years.

Re:What are these architectures good for... (2, Insightful)

segedunum (883035) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347969)

You realize that the cheapest SPARC can handle more threads per cycle than a dual-quad Xeon, and do it while using less electricity, right?

The problem is that a Xeon will complete each thread [task] in far less time than the SPARC and be on to the next one, and the workloads that most organisations have are entirely dependant on completing ever increasing single tasks in the shortest amount of time possible.

Re:What are these architectures good for... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28347229)

Some people believe that for a truly stable and robust database infrastructure, enterprise grade, you cannot use anything other than SPARC/Solaris and Oracle. I don't necessarily believe this, but if it is good enough for Microsoft then it is good enough for me and my infrastructure.

Re:What are these architectures good for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28347599)

Then there are those who work in professional shops and realize that for scalable database infrastructure, enterprise grade, you can't beat...the boring old IBM mainframe, which amazingly doesn't seem to use Sun chipsets at all.

Re:What are these architectures good for... (1, Informative)

Macka (9388) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347431)

What keeps this SPARC space alive?

Same as with all proprietary high end solutions: customer ignorance. The customer goes to the vendors and says: "Here's my shopping list of business requirements. Please bid a solution that meets those needs". The vendor salesman (after wiping the drool from his/her chin) comes back with an Enterprise Class solution using propietary high end kit at the highest price the saleman thinks he/she can get away with to win the bid but beat off the competition. The whole thing is wrapped up in smoke and mirrors to make the customer feel valued and special with the assurance that they're getting the best in class. The whole thing is topped off with generous dollop of FUD dissing any other vendor solution. Things like: "The x86 space is too aggressive and its 3 year turnover cycle is bad for your business. Use our systems which have a 5 year life cycle and get a better return on your investment". Or here's another one: "Our chips are built with advanced RAS features. They're [self healing] and crash less often than x86". Oh and lets not forget that to buy one of their enterprise solutions, you usually also have to buy their proprietary enterprise OS and pay their enterprise software license fees at their inflated enterprise prices.

Perhaps you think I'm joking !

Re:What are these architectures good for... (1, Funny)

Funk_dat69 (215898) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347709)

I totally agree with you!

Now excuse me while I go pitch a Windows ME + celery + mySQL solution to eBay and give them the 'real' facts.

Re:What are these architectures good for... (5, Insightful)

afabbro (33948) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347733)

What you say is often, but not exclusively, true. The main reason people buy SPARC:

  • The CoolThreads servers are genuinely different than others. Radically low power consumption and a bajillion threads. That doesn't mean they're good for everything, but in the app space they're marketed for, they're exceptional.
  • If I have millions of lines of code written for Solaris on SPARC, I might want to run SPARC. Sun has a large presence in many markets and compatibility (left over from the days when x86 was nowhere near SPARC) is important.
  • Above a certain level, x86 can't compete. You can say "yet" if you want. Sun, IBM, etc.'s high-end gear is the closest you can get to a mainframe, in terms of RAIDed memory (one bad chip doesn't bring down the system), hot-swapping CPUs, hardware partitioning, etc. There are a lot of people in love with clustered x86 boxes, but they do not scale as well. A single box with 32 CPUs will perform better than 16 boxes with 2 CPUs, every single time. The 16x2 might be cheaper, but there are a lot of apps that don't run as well that way. To take a very common example, Oracle RAC scales about as well as anything on "wide and small commodity," but Oracle certainly runs better on a 32-CPU box rather than 16x2.

I agree that in many cases, proprietary kit is overpriced and unnecessary. Which is why it's on the decline...

Re:What are these architectures good for... (5, Insightful)

Macka (9388) | more than 5 years ago | (#28348179)

Yeah, but the thing is that 32-CPU systems are incredibly niche. I've been involved in projects that delivered a number of systems of that size over the years and I can count on one hand the times they've been used as single 32-CPU systems. In virtually all cases they were hard partitioned down to 4, 8 and sometimes 16 cpu systems. And x86 is walking all over that market now. Next year when the Nehalem-EX chips ship, you'll get your 32 cores on a standard 4 socket server with twice as many threads. It just shoves the high end systems more and more into a tight corner. RAIDed memory is great, but that alone is not worth the premium that proprietary solutions are burdened with.

   

Re:What are these architectures good for... (1)

davecb (6526) | more than 5 years ago | (#28350137)

Not joking, but betting that your business parallelizes wonderfully, so you can break up your transaction processing over a Beowulf cluster. Alas, large transaction processing tends to require something like a POWER or SPARC, to get 128 cores with a common locking architecture working on driving a large database.

This is the traditional IBM/SUN/H-P space, and fits, in rough order of difficulty, large manufacturing, large on-line retail, medium and higher regular retail, banks and telcos. Not my personal favorite businesses, but definitely where the majority of my income comes from (I'm a capacity planner).

--dave

Re:What are these architectures good for... (2, Informative)

isj (453011) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347821)

What keeps this SPARC space alive?

Solaris.
Sun has maintained backward compatibility for applications for decades. You rarely encounter "oops, you need libc.2.0, but that is not supported on the newer kernels.". Also, the command-line system administration tools (especially for troubleshooting) are comprehensive (dtrace, truss, ptree, prstat, psrset, ...)

Re:What are these architectures good for... (2, Interesting)

RubberDuckie (53329) | more than 5 years ago | (#28350123)

There's a lot to be said for backward compatibility. I recently migrated a very old database off of a Solaris 2.6 system and moved it to Solaris 10. I didn't have to search for back leveled software, the application just worked. Granted, this isn't something I need to do every day, but it's an invaluable feature to have when you're dealing with trying to support enterprise applications that just refuse to die.

MySQL (1)

gubers33 (1302099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347149)

I don't care too much about a over delayed processor, as long as they don't get rid of MySQL or make it a paid service I will be happy.

The summary is misleading.... (5, Insightful)

paulsnx2 (453081) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347159)

Rock was Sun's effort to develop a processor with high single thread performance. Single thread performance doesn't help the database performance of Sun' s new Oracle Over Lords. What databases need is high multi-thread performance.

The Niagara line ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UltraSPARC_T1 [wikipedia.org] ) provides the proper architecture for improving database performance, and this effort by Sun has the added benefit of actually producing shipping products (Unlike Rock).

At this time, Oracle/Sun has NOT announced the killing off of further Niagara development.

Re:The summary is misleading.... (1)

k8to (9046) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347635)

The Niagara line of CPUs might look like a reasonable chip, sadly the servers they are sold in have terrible I/O profiles. A rebrand will be needed to shake that legacy.

Really though, everyone I know in database optimization is on x86 with just more boxes. Sure this doesn't work for all problems, but for all the real world business problems I hear about, they seem to be making it work.

Re:The summary is misleading.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28347803)

Cite some sources? What do you mean by I/O profiles? T5220s running Sybase seem fine.

The whole *article* is misleading.... (2, Informative)

davecb (6526) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347775)

The article reads a lot like FUD written by Microsoft about particularly threatening Linux advances.
I just benchmarked a huge Oracle configuration on T5240/T5440, M5000s and M9000s, and it really made my little heart beat fonder (;-))

--dave

good night, (1)

Icegryphon (715550) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347217)

sweet prince...

So, basically,... (0, Redundant)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347725)

...the entire world is to be forced onto the X86 monoculture (except perhaps for a few ARMs at the low end). Something else for which we can thank Microsoft.

Re:So, basically,... (2, Informative)

akadruid (606405) | more than 5 years ago | (#28348321)

It's closer to the other way around; ARM is the mostly widely used 32 bit architecture, and accounts for more than 75% of all 32 bit processors sold.

Really, the entire world has been forced onto the ARM monoculture (except perhaps for a few x86s at the high end).

This Was Always Going to Happen (5, Insightful)

segedunum (883035) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347865)

As soon as a group of people got into Sun, looked at the costs of maintaining and pumping research and development into their hardware, looked at the relative performance from SPARC versus competitors using x86 and ultimately looked at the bottom line objectively without being stupidly protectionist, then the next step was going to be shutting down Sun's production of Rock and SPARC and moving it to Fujitsu as a supplier to save money. However, even that probably won't be enough as I'm not sure Fujitsu will be able to keep SPARC viable themselves. SPARC has had two, possibly three, options written on the wall for the past ten years:

1. Catch up to x86 platforms in terms of raw performance as most SPARC systems have tended to overlap with workloads x86 systems have taken over. Papering over cracks by promoting 'CoolThreads' and parallel processing as a way around this performance gap was never going to work. I can remember almost ten years ago working somewhere where a person discovered that their Athlon 1.4GHz desktop system had several times the performance of their UltraSPARC III server and could complete tasks several times sooner. Cue lots of panic as UltraSPARC was justified because it was 'enterprise' reliable.

2. Accept the inevitable and throw the towel in.

3. The third way: Do what IBM has done with Power and push it into a high-end and high premium niche. This is difficult because IBM itself can only cover Power by selling mainframe packages and a whole bunch of add-ons to make it pay. Sun have had difficulty with this because their hardware division has always relied on hardware sales themselves.

Option 2 has clearly become the only way out once Sun's difficulties resulted in a takeover and as poor as Oracle might be at some things they are extremely successful at judging bottom lines.

Perhaps Fujitsu's SPARC line (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 5 years ago | (#28347907)

will return to profitability and be able to support more R&D because of this.

Most exciting architectural development (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28348627)

As a grad student studying computer architecture, Sun's Rock processor was one of the most exciting new architectures in the past few years.

Scout Threads offer a lot of potential performance for single threaded applications. A T2 can provide great throughput for a database, but the latency of individual requests is relatively high because of the very simple architecture. Rock offers the possibility for lower latency requests, although this comes at the cost of using more power.

Rock also includes support for Transactional Memory, which has been a hot-topic in research for many years. T2 is great for applications that are highly parallel, but if you don't know how to write parallel programs, all those threads are wasted. Transactional Memory provides a simple paradigm for writing parallel applications more easily than traditional paradigms.

The fact that Rock includes both of these features made it very exciting and interesting. I think it's unfortunate and disappointing that Rock is getting killed before we get to see what it can really do. The first Itanium chip was terrible, but Itanium II was much better, and actually does a good job in a specific niche. The first Rock might not be perfect, but it represents a significant departure from previous designs, and I think it deserves a chance to prove itself and find its niche.

R.I.P. SPARC (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 5 years ago | (#28348921)

You will be missed.

I don't think that's right-- (1)

bill_kress (99356) | more than 5 years ago | (#28349509)

I don't think Sun kills rock--I think sun burns paper, paper covers rock and rock blots out sun..

frlist stop (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28349599)

Read this ... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28350261)

Rock, Sun's third-generation chip-multithreading processor, contains 16 high-performance cores, each of which can support two software threads. Rock uses a novel checkpoint-based architecture to support automatic hardware scouting under a load miss, speculative out-of-order retirement of instructions, and aggressive dynamic hardware parallelization of a sequential instruction stream. It is also the first processor to support transactional memory in hardware.

http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpls/abs_all.jsp?isnumber=4812126&arnumber=4812132

Oblig. (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 5 years ago | (#28350329)

"We won't, we won't rock you!!"
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