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Is the Sparc T4 Too Little Too Late?

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the intel-crushes-all dept.

Oracle 128

packetrat writes "Ars Technica reports on Monday's launch of the Sparc T4, and how it finally (nearly 20 years after everyone else) brings out-of-order execution to Sun Sparc ... er, Oracle Sparc. But the benchmarks that Oracle has thrown up (surprise) are a smokescreen for the fact that the processor is still woefully behind state of the art, and it serves mostly as a placeholder to keep the remaining Sparc user base from defecting to Intel — even as Oracle is selling systems based on Intel and Oracle Linux. With the right benchmarks, my minivan outperforms a Maserati. The T4 is a minivan."

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128 comments

Obligatory: (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37543550)

Arcy-Spark-E [youtube.com]

Lol Slowaris (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37543610)

Second P0st

Old news (4, Funny)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 2 years ago | (#37543658)

Isn't this a repeat from yesterday? [slashdot.org]

Or are we going to see this story once per core?

Re:Old news (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37543716)

Or even worse once per thread.

Re:Old news (1)

ilikejam (762039) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545290)

Are they out of order?

Re:Old news (1)

ilikejam (762039) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545344)

Gah. Beaten to it. By an hour.

Balls.

Re:Old news (2)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | more than 2 years ago | (#37543720)

Yesterday reported the announcement of the T4, this story reports on an analysis of the announcement.

Really, this is just an example of the underlying truth: slashdot always reposts ArsTechnica stories

Re:Old news (5, Funny)

monkeyhybrid (1677192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37543806)

Yesterday's was the final T4 post, but it's out of order.

Re:Old news (0)

UnanimousCoward (9841) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544452)

No mod points, but the P post had milk coming out of my nose. Okay, TMI...

Re:Old news (1)

Jon_E (148226) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545416)

no .. yesterday's wasn't biased enough and had too much data

car analogy (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37543740)

With the right benchmarks, my minivan outperforms a Maserati. The T4 is a minivan.

When you're moving lots and lots of boxes, then yes, a minivan does outperform a Maserati. It's a pretty good analogy IMHO.

As Seymour Cray noted: Anyone can build a fast CPU. The trick is to build a fast system.

Personally I've always found SPARC boxes to be good with I/O.

Re:car analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37543924)

Not too mention that dealerships sell a lot more minivans than Maseratis.

Re:car analogy (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544022)

that depends on the dealerships in question.. i bet Maserati dealerships sell next to no minivans.. but then who would go to a Maserati dealer looking for a minivan?

Re:car analogy (1)

Mycroft_VIII (572950) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544166)

Depends, If they have a used car dept where they sell their trade-in in could be a good idea.
    I bought Mustang(ford) at a Volkswagen dealership at almost $2000 under blue book.

Mycroft

Re:car analogy (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544782)

to be fair at most dealership of the price range of Maserati - if they do have a used car department they will normally limit it to cars of the same class, and the rest they blindly send to auction.

Re:car analogy (4, Interesting)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544222)

I agree with the I/O. I worked at a large research centre with a 3000 tape LTO 4 library and 200TB (about 20 RAID arrays) disk SAN attached to one 2 socket T2 machine. The machine didn't even budge when recovering from a couple tapes, backing up to another 3, and pumping out 10Gbps to userland. It just gobbled up NFS traffic like crazy because it had 128 concurrent threads of capacity. Even Intels high end chip only has 20 and Intel gets all excited about it but the Sparc has had 64 for 4+ years. Maybe it isn't so great with database load, I'm not sure but it kicked but as a fileserver.

Re:car analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37544612)

3 LTO4 tapes is a massive 360MB/s. An Atom with a decent SCSI card could do that. I'd be amazed if you were actually doing 10GB/s sustained, too. The NFS throughout is more to do with the excellent (as good as it can ever get, at least) NFS implementation in Solaris.

Re:car analogy (2)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545268)

No not sustained throughout the day, but sustained when I was looking at the system load to see if it was handling it alright. 500 users, at times a single user generates 20TB of data in a weekend but generally about 1-10GB of new data a week per person and lots of analysis running off network since the filessets were too large for desktop users to keep local copies of. So yeah lots of data moving back and forth, maybe not 10Gbps all the time but it reaches that without a problem.

Re:car analogy (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 2 years ago | (#37546980)

Concur. As a storage guy, I would absolutely love to have one of these. I'm sure they're going to be pushing ZFS at this thing, hard. It's (almost) purpose-built. Nothing else can even come close to touching it.

Re:car analogy (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 2 years ago | (#37547366)

Yep that was my experience. we were using SAMFS on it which is Suns(Oracles now or discontinued?) hierarchial storage system. Very nice would background restore from tape files as touched by users, move things based on policy (how old, quota per directory etc. Fun to manage the beast. We had a few thumpers in the basement (~100TB storage) running ZFS to act as a poor mans cache layer for the guys that were dumping 20TB of data at a time at us. This way when they exported things to a near by supercomputing facility and did silly things like an grep on 100M files it was on their own hardware and not on the main fileserver. We had to fsck one of them (48TB) once and it took 3 days I think and didn't find any problems :-( So big arrays are nice but should make small chunks to make the administration crap not take forever was the lesson we learned. Hard with large datasets though where 20TB can be one experiment and all need to be analyzed together.

Re:car analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37544560)

That's pretty much it. People with no usecase that would ever need the kind of power or throughput offered by Sparc always banter on about raw speed, Sparc was never about raw speed, but about vertical scalability and raw throughput. The minivan analogy is a very old one, a Maseratti can get from point A to point B faster than the minivan, but it can't handle the load the minivan carries, and the minivan costs a lot less than the fleet of Maserattis needed to carry the same load.

The bit about questioning the utility of benchmarks using applications tailored to the architecture is just asinine. Well, so shit, sherlock. If you're using a special purpose architecture and system for a general purpose workload, you're doing it wrong.

I also find the part about Oracle selling x86 and Linux systems being writing on the wall to be absurd, they don't position their x86 systems in the same tier as their Niagara (T4) or M-series (SparcVIII+) systems. All it means is that they're dealing with all three tiers of the market, it makes no sense to sell their midrange and highend machines in the low end market. The upmost tier of the market is a two horse race between Sparc and Power with Itanium a distant third and x86 a non-sequitur. Nobody fusses that Power is dead because IBM deals with x86 and PowerPC systems.

Re:car analogy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37544932)

With the right benchmarks, my minivan outperforms a Maserati. The T4 is a minivan.

When you're moving lots and lots of boxes, then yes, a minivan does outperform a Maserati. It's a pretty good analogy IMHO.

As Seymour Cray noted: Anyone can build a fast CPU. The trick is to build a fast system.

Personally I've always found SPARC boxes to be good with I/O.

This was pretty much my reaction.

I think it's a great analogy as well. Sometimes, a minivan is what you need.

Re:car analogy (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544952)

This is an Oracle product now.

It is worth noting that Oracle specifically dumped Sparc as it's reference platform for it's flagship product.

The ship has already sailed here. People already defected to x86 en masse. The real question now is whether or not this product is good enough to encourage people to move back to Sparc. Oracle's own treatment of Sparc as a "3rd party vendor" will matter a great deal as will their pricing model.

Oracle simply may be too greedy to make the whole package a great deal.

Re:car analogy (1)

sethmeisterg (603174) | more than 2 years ago | (#37546292)

Excuse me? Can you show some evidence to back up this claim??

Re:car analogy (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37547284)

Exactly what rock have you been hiding under?

Attend an Open World or talk to the user community sometime.

Re:car analogy (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545860)

The situation is though the boxes are now smaller relative to the car.

While the T4 is for higher workloads the fact is the standard x86 processor can handle most of workloads quite well. And the T4 usage is getting more specialized.

Back in the late 1990's the Ultra Sparc Chip was widely used for Web Servers and DB Servers. Because most companies needed a server that can 50 units a second. Today the standard x86 server can take 500 units a second and now say the T5 can take 5000 units a second. But today's requirement is only 200 units a second.

So while there are request for more boxes to be shipped the average car size grew or relative to the average car size the size of the boxes shrunk.

Re:car analogy (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 2 years ago | (#37546110)

Meh, from the cars available in the ancient Test Drive III game, the Maserati was a real dog. The Lamborghini or even the Chevy prototype sports car was cheaper and faster... and the money didn't even matter in the game :-P

Don't blame Oracle (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37543770)

Well, not for this. The T range of processors has been GPLed for some time. You know the rule with Open Source - if you don't like it, you can fork it. True, the fab plant might be a problem, but if the design was good and seriously competed with the official version, you'd find someone to sponsor it.

I don't find the new T4 compelling. There's a lot to be said for the MIPS64 and the current POWER chips, and even the Itanium 2 has some novel features that are interesting. I also very much prefer the Transputer and iWarp idea of dedicated busses linking up as large an array of processors as you like to the nonsense we currently have of SMP/multicore designs. Processor-in-Memory also has neat features that are massively underexploited.

But nobody expects Oracle to do any of that kind of work, any more than they expected HP's previous CEO to understand why hardware might be important. Oracle isn't a hardware company, it doesn't understand hardware design, and should not be trying to make chips.

Better than nothing if you're locked in (1)

Yoik (955095) | more than 2 years ago | (#37543860)

It's easy for a company to get locked into an architecture when using home grown or proprietary software. I would bet that there are a bunch out there that really need an upgrade, and this will allow them to postpone an expensive and business threatening change for a few more years.

Oracle is extending the life of it's investment in Sun, but I don't see evidence that it is really developing it.

Sparc?! (0)

bradgoodman (964302) | more than 2 years ago | (#37543886)

They still make those?!

Car and computer Analogy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37543934)

"With the right benchmarks, my minivan outperforms a Maserati. The T4 is a minivan."
Not everyone needs a Maserati ('wants' might be a different deal). In fact in many situations the Maserati is not a very good choice, the minivan is a better choice. For example, if the benchmark is cheaply/easily hauling spouse, two kids, and the family dog along with appropriate gear to the state park for a camp-out, yes, the minivan outperforms the Maserati. In day to day commuting, my Jetta TDI is a better choice than either the Maserati or minivan. And when the weather is good, a bicycle is an even better choice. So in the car analogy world, one should compare the car to the driving requirements before making a purchasing decision.
As for the assertions of SPARC being a poor choice, tell that to the folks with the #1 supercomputer in the world (top500.org).

SPARC T4 is only the beginning (1)

A12m0v (1315511) | more than 2 years ago | (#37543946)

SPARC T4 maybe late but not too little, it may only succeed in delaying the migration to Intel, AMD and IBM, but it will be more than capable to match them and by the time the T5 is out -if Oracle commits to it- Oracle will start to eat into the other players.

Re:SPARC T4 is only the beginning (1)

HBI (604924) | more than 2 years ago | (#37543980)

How much did you get paid to say that?

Re:SPARC T4 is only the beginning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37546344)

Probably a little less than you got paid to question it.

Re:SPARC T4 is only the beginning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37544144)

Clues your newly released processor is not worth buying: the promises have to be made for the *next* chip.

Re:SPARC T4 is only the beginning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37544606)

Actually, he didn't get paid at all, in fact the stuff he's smoking is quite expensive

Re:SPARC T4 is only the beginning (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545176)

SPARC is dying, T5 would have to defy the laws of physics to be sufficiently superior to Intel/AMD chips in the space to really have much of an impact.

Re:SPARC T4 is only the beginning (1)

RubberDuckie (53329) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545662)

Except he has a point. Some organizations still have an investment in a Solaris infrastructure. For some small to mid sized companies the M series are a too expensive for what you get, while the T3 is too underpowered for a database. Hopefully the T4 will try to fill that gap, especially in the price category. Will the T5 eat into other platforms? I have my doubts there as I think this is all in the 'too little too late' category.

It's too bad really, as Solaris is a nice OS. Time to work on yet another career course alteration.

In order is sometimes worthwhile (1)

Lemming Mark (849014) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544046)

In fairness, for some of the dense, massively multithreaded stuff that SPARC has been targeting in the last few years, in order execution gives you some power and transistor budget savings. Compare the Intel Atom, which ditched the out-of-order capability of their other mainstream processors.

But I was surprised to learn that Sun hadn't previously done out-of-order SPARC, although apparently Fujitsu have.

Re:In order is sometimes worthwhile (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544302)

Compare the Intel Atom, which ditched the out-of-order capability of their other mainstream processors.

Yes and the performance of atom processors is quite shit because of that.

Re:In order is sometimes worthwhile (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544530)

Yes and the performance of atom processors is quite shit because of that.

Only if you don't run enough threads. It's also slow because of low clock speed and limited cache, but hyperthreading recovers much of the performance lost due to in-order execution if you run two threads.

Re:In order is sometimes worthwhile (1)

Lemming Mark (849014) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545814)

Well, that's the price some designs pay for power efficiency - various ARM implementations make this tradeoff too, which is admittedly a nicer architecture than Intel's stuff and offers good performance per watt. (http://stackoverflow.com/questions/4072183/which-arm-architectures-have-out-of-order-execution). Depends on the characteristics the design needs; for a workstation, in-order would generally be sub-par.

Ignorant article (5, Interesting)

John Bayko (632961) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544068)

Sun had out of order SPARCs for years, contrary to the article's claims. Sun had a two pronged strategy, one aimed at single thread performance (the UltraSPARC series), the other at multithreaded performance (the T series). The UltraSPARCs were never really that good, so were eventually dropped in favour of the Fujitsu SPARC64 series, and the replacement (code named "rock") was dropped by Oracle because progress seemed stalled forever, but they did indeed have out of order execution, register renaming, and "Rock" had a promising "pre-execution" thread that was supposed to alert cache controllers ahead of time to pre-fetch data that can't be statically predicted, dropping cache misses to near zero.

The purpose of the multithreaded processor was to support mainly I/O bound tasks, and lots of them - web servers are like this, though more in the past where web content was more static. In those systems, a T series SPARC system noticeably outperformed similarly priced competition (with similar reliability - you could get a lot cheaper if you didn't care about component quality).

The single threading improvements in the T series are being added because even I/O bound systems often have compute-bound tasks. In particular, the T4 lets you assign one high priority thread which gets to hog CPU resources, in addition to out of order execution and other techniques that all threads benefit from, so I/O bound threads don't get hung up waiting for a single CPU-bound task to finish.

Re:Ignorant article (5, Informative)

turgid (580780) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544808)

Sun's first out-of-order execution CPU was code named Millennium and was due out in y2k but it was late. They canceled the project in 2005. It was going to be called UltraSPARC V. Rumour has it that it was going to have a mode without register windows as well to further increase performance.

None of the Sun UltraSPARC CPUs (I, II, IIi, III, IIIi, IV, IV+) had ooo.

Sun just couldn't get ooo to work. Fujitsu had no problem, on the other hand. Their SPARC64 CPUs were miles better at the same clock frequency and went to higher frequencies too. Sun always made sure that you always got the last generation version of Solaris when you bought a Fujitsu box to make the Sun boxes more compelling.

Sun then gave up on "conventional" CPU design and went for the highly multi-threaded designs that they bought in from Afara (formed by ex-Sun staffers) and the Rock which turned out to be a dud. There was a good article about that after Oracle bought out Sun explaining why it wasn't a good design but I can't find the link.

So Sun did a deal with Fujitsu to re-badge their SPARC64 boxes with the latest Solaris on them...

I've no doubt that the T4 will be very good for certain loads. I know that my current employer bought a couple of T2 boxes as ClearCase view servers a few years back and the performance was abysmal since ClearCase doesn't scale well on multi-threaded systems. They had to be reassigned and replaced by M-series boxes with the (more conventional) Fujitsu SPARC64 CPUs.

And I'm very angry with what Oracle has done with Solaris 11 licensing. I've got a pile of old Sun workstations for playing with that have now become landfill. Oh well, my Solais skills can rot. It's Linux all the way now.

Re:Ignorant article (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545940)

I've got a pile of old Sun workstations for playing with that have now become landfill.

If you are really into zombies, you might want to disinter BSD. OpenBSD is really well supported on USparc, and you don't have to deal with Oracle. My Solaris skills were lost long ago, along with my last Oracle 7 install disk set.

Re:Ignorant article (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 2 years ago | (#37546422)

Hmm.. OpenBSD. Sounds dangerous! Good idea, though. I want to keep some heterogeneity about for the purposes of writing good code.

Re:Ignorant article (1)

Wesley Felter (138342) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544886)

The canceled UltraSPARC V and canceled Rock don't count because they never shipped. It's pretty sad that Sun, the inventors of SPARC, were getting out-designed by Fujitsu.

Re:Ignorant article (1)

thsths (31372) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545340)

> The UltraSPARCs were never really that good

That's unfortunately true. I had an UltraSPARC I workstation, and a Pentium 133 could beat it for "desktop" workloads. Sure, disk, network, probably even memory was faster, but the CPU just didn't deliver. And it was crazy expensive by comparison. Sun just lost it around that time. They opened up to a point, and that delayed the decline, but Sun has been a shadow of its former self for a long time.

Re:Ignorant article (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 2 years ago | (#37546616)

Was that Pentium 133 running a proper operating system or a glorified program-loader with lipstick on (e.g. DOS/Win 3.11 or Win95)?

That UltraSPARC I could whip the 133MHz Pentium at integer and floating point. Solaris was doing far more than DOS or Windows were at the time.

Now the DEC Alpha and MIPS processors of that time could make the UltraSPARC look slow.

Re:Ignorant article (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 2 years ago | (#37546844)

Was that Pentium 133 running a proper operating system or a glorified program-loader with lipstick on (e.g. DOS/Win 3.11 or Win95)?

As long as the work gets accomplished effectively, does it matter what the OS is?

Re:Ignorant article (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 2 years ago | (#37547006)

If the UltraSPARC is running a multi-user operating system with a multi-threaded kernel, sophisticated networking stack, an over-the-network graphics system and the other is running a 1970s-vintage CP/M rip-off (which is basically doing no work while anything else is running) and a 16-bit GUI or a Frankenstein 16/32-bit cesspool of DOS and goodness knows what else, then the comparison is hardly fair.

Re:Ignorant article (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 2 years ago | (#37547570)

Except that -- even though I love and use Linux -- you don't actually need a a multi-user operating system with a multi-threaded kernel, sophisticated networking stack, an over-the-network graphics system to do "desktop" workloads.

OS/2 Warp and Win2K were more than adequate, as was MS-DOS with DESQview.

Re:Ignorant article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37547002)

Back then, was it really the Ultra SPARC CPUs that weren't suitable for desktop use? I always thought it was just the graphics card (or the drivers?) that made the whole thing feel insanely sluggish, starting at the mouse pointer that felt like it was updating at 1Hz.

Re:Ignorant article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37547462)

I agree. I had an Ultra 1 workstation (I think, hard to remember) and it was so slow for software development that I bought myself a 233 MHz Pentium-MMX notebook to run Linux and get my autoconf, make, and debug tests done much sooner. I always blamed Slowaris as much as I blamed the Ultrasparc CPU.

We had an SGI Onyx that was much faster for building the same software, partly due to fast disks and partly due to many CPUs, but Irix had a pretty quirky software environment, and I prefered Linux.

Why are you asking me? (1)

Bitmanhome (254112) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544124)

You're the reporter, why don't you do the research and report your findings? If you want a poll, then do that. But your audience isn't going to have the answer to that kind of philosophical question; that's your job.

BTW, my policy is to never read articles where the title is a question. But I'm such a nerd, I have to click on everything related to the T4.

x86 sparc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37544208)

Granted even if the sparc t4 is either underpowered or possibly too late to the party, you can't compare x86 vs sparc. I worked as a Sun Tech support and i have to say when i sat down and saw a 200 mhz sparc keeping up with an 800 mhz i was shocked. The architecture are two totally different beasts. Also i hated working on x86 based systems, sparc based systems were 10 times easier to diagnose and retrieve information from.

The x86 based boxes were a cheaper alternative and were pretty terrible imo.

Re:x86 sparc (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545218)

Welcome to 1990. It's 2011 now - x86 is no slouch.

Re:x86 sparc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37546408)

You had 800MHz in 1990? Bullshit.

Re:x86 sparc (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 2 years ago | (#37546692)

I saw a 40MHz computer in 1990 and was in awe. I think it was a Mac IIfx. It had 640x480 graphics with 16.7 million colours, a 68040 processor and I think it might have had a DSP that could do CD-quality sound.

In those days anything above 33MHz was very special indeed, and I think we were just about getting to 1 million transistors on a chip.

My dad used to have a 286-12 laptop (Compaq SLT). I learned MS-DOS on that and a bit of C coding with Lattice C.

SPARC is dead (1)

Virtucon (127420) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544274)

Sorry, for all intents and purposes SPARC is a dead architecture as is Itanium. Moving forward you'll have X86, X86-64 (AMD-64) and ARM...

Re:SPARC is dead (2)

the linux geek (799780) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544458)

Where can I get an x64 or ARM system that scales to 32 or 64 sockets? The RISC/mainframe market is a totally different animal, one that those chips don't even play in.

That being said, SPARC is pretty badly behind, even compared to Itanium, and in the dust compared to last year's Power7.

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37544568)

x64 systems are here:
http://www.cray.com/Home.aspx

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

the linux geek (799780) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544838)

Clusters don't perform on commercial workloads.

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544996)

Nonsense.

Clusters do "perform on commercial workloads".

Infact, they perform better than big NUMA boxes. I've seen the migration away from Sparc NUMA machines to smaller clustered sparc machines myself. Some apps (most notably Oracle) actually do much better that way.

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545678)

Clusters don't perform on commercial workloads.

What a blanket statement, I'm sure that all the people who do clusters or high performance computing (which is 99% commodity processors in clusters with custom high-speed interconnects) commercially would like to know they don't exist. In fact if you want performance for say a weather simulation or physics simulation or whatever where you can just fail nodes and keep going they're clearly the best. What they're not that good for is keeping one truth that is consistent and updated at all times, not distributed across thousand nodes. For example if you want to run the core of a transaction processing system like a bank, huge e-tailer or other core system that absolutely have to keep track of what's been processed and not, extreme throughput to handle many simultaneous updates and extreme RAS features to keep it running 24/7/365. And where you have hot backup sites and redundancy on every system, while you're highly unlikely to keep a spare cluster around. Very different tools for very different purposes.

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

the linux geek (799780) | more than 2 years ago | (#37546258)

"Commercial workloads" in this case refers to OLTP, BI, and similar workloads. HPC falls into the category of "technical workloads."

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

Virtucon (127420) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544646)

No, more importantly why do you need it? You have to have 32 to 64 sockets because the T3's were so fricken slow... Slow Slow Slow. T4 is too little, too late and if you looked before the Oracle acquisition of Sun, it was the same way, a confused and faltering processor road map. Yes I can have hundreds of slow threads on my boxes or get faster Sandy Bridge Iron and buy a couple of hundred of those vs that one Sun box.

I went through it with the E class Iron a long time ago but sorry, SPARC is dead and all that's left to be done is to bury the body with the rest of the things Oracle really isn't very good at that they received in their Sun acquisition.

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

the linux geek (799780) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544824)

You need it for big databases that require massive amounts of I/O and memory bandwidth.

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 2 years ago | (#37546880)

You need it for big databases that require massive amounts of I/O and memory bandwidth.

POWER.

Re:SPARC is dead (2)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544724)

Where can I get an x64 or ARM system that scales to 32 or 64 sockets?

I don't know, but that'd have to be one big-*ss netbook.

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#37546398)

Obligatory [xkcd.com]

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

SiMac (409541) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544748)

What tasks greatly benefit from more CPUs in the same machine, as opposed to getting more machines with more CPUs and writing software that scales across them? You can put 80 Westmere-EX cores into one machine. To me, that seems like a fuckton. But I admit that I don't know much about scaling systems, so I'm curious why you would need more.

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545710)

Because you're running Java servers, which typically use one thread per client?

This is SUN^WOracle, you know?

Re:SPARC is dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37547332)

Exactly. The rest of the world uses more efficient server-side technology. We realized long ago that it's vastly more efficient to use non-blocking event loop architectures with a multi-user thread/proc-per-core than to allocate a mostly-idle thread to every distinct client.

Re:SPARC is dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37544798)

Cray and IBM make a ton of money selling x86 systems that scale to way more sockets than that...

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

Wesley Felter (138342) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545030)

Where can I get an x64 or ARM system that scales to 32 or 64 sockets?

You can get them from SGI, although they're marketed for HPC, not for commercial apps. But keep in mind that you're talking about 256-640 cores; there's very little demand for such beasts. 80-core or smaller x64 servers are available from several vendors at reasonable prices and can satisfy 99% of the market.

The RISC/mainframe market is a totally different animal, one that those chips don't even play in.

And neither do the SPARC T series, which only scale up to 4 sockets.

Why bother with SPARC? (1)

Quila (201335) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545796)

I can get a quad-socket T4 with eight cores per. That's 32 cores in a system.

Or I can get a quad-socket Opteron system with 12 cores per. That's 48 cores in a system.

Even better, the CPUs at 2.2 GHz and mobo for the latter arrangement can be had for under $6,000. Add the same memory and hot-swap hard drives as a 4-socket T4 and you're talking under $13,000.

The problem is that 3 GHz T4 costs over $90,000. I understand all the other stuff that goes into their server, but I doubt it's worth a $77,000 premium.

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | more than 2 years ago | (#37546860)

Show me a T4 that scales to 32 or 64 sockets for a single container. For that matter, show me any T-series that can. Now show me a non T-series sparc CPU that scales to 64 CPUs that will outperform an 8 socket 10 core X86-64 latest gen Intel Xeon box for the same price. If you can do that, I'd be all ears.

Re:SPARC is dead (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37544540)

I don't mean to be a know-it-all, but I can't help but correct your grammar error:

Your sentence should read:

"Sorry, for all intensive purposes..."

Don't feel bad, it is a common mistake among so-called "educated" people.

Re:SPARC is dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37545756)

What?

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

Bigbutt (65939) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545968)

Good thing you posted as an AC since "intents and purposes" is grammatically correct. "intensive purposes" is incorrect. Now who's the "know-it-all?"

[John]

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#37546816)

Maybe they're both right. The phrase is "intents and purposes", but for intensive purposes, the SPARC is dead.

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

digitac (24581) | more than 2 years ago | (#37546362)

I've never taken on the role of grammer nazi before, but the OP was correct.

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/all-intents-and-purposes.html [phrases.org.uk]

http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/intensive.html [wsu.edu]

and of course, Wikipedia:

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/for_all_intents_and_purposes [wiktionary.org]

In the spirit of fair play, I did due diligence of searching for opposing opinions that would support your view, but came up empty handed.

::Digitac

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

digitac (24581) | more than 2 years ago | (#37546382)

Ok, spelling nazi's, your turn to critique my post... ooops

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

lorinc (2470890) | more than 2 years ago | (#37544916)

If you're looking for high performances, then x64 is clearly not the future. GPGPU will beat it to death, and are readily available. Just wait for the engineer to program them to get out of school and it will be big business. But that's not the aim of SPARC architecture. We talking of web and databases servers. Things that are not really heavy computational tasks, but thousands of IO bound small jobs. In this area, x64 is just a mess. It's just not designed for it. I think SPARC have a pretty sure future in the small area were you want a single computer to host your 512 concurrent threads web service, like say professional applications targeted for small and medium businesses. And ARM has nothing to do with that, it's for embedded (or alike) systems.

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

Doc Hopper (59070) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545258)

We chose Solaris on SPARC T3 for media servers to drive a massive StorageTek SL8500 library because Linux on x86 can't keep up with the I/O. With real-world performance in excess of 1.5Gbit/sec, the latest T10kC drives with T2 tapes will bring many any backup media servers to their knees. And we can pump data to quite a few drives from a single T3.

Disclaimer: I work for Oracle because THEY pay ME to play with their giant toys :)

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

Doc Hopper (59070) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545294)

"many any" when I meant "many". I hate missing things on the preview...

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545336)

GPGPU is just a fad, soon all that hardware will move into the CPU. And you might want to look up "Knights Corner" - there's nothing preventing massive numbers of weak x86 cores being put on a single chip for handling thousands of small IO jobs.

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 2 years ago | (#37548218)

You might want to look up "Larrabee" - there's a fairly significant thing preventing massive numbers of weak x86 cores being put on a single chip for handling thousands of small IO jobs: nobody cares.

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

Virtucon (127420) | more than 2 years ago | (#37547950)

Technology wise SPARC *was* ahead of Intel and IBM (Power Architecture) but not anymore.

Even Oracle acknowledges [crn.com] that their hardware business is suffering, one of the reasons Sun was a prime candidate for acquisition in the first place. The decline of SPARC is lamentable but no more than say the death of most RISC systems and manufacturers. Oracle is mentioned as something that has to be on big iron, so that's why they bought Sun? Look, Ellison making hardware makes about as much sense as them pushing their Exadata product which, I was unfortunate to be in one of the first shipments of these kludgy piles of junk. Guess what they're pushing more of! Exadata! blah!

There will be ways of taking that "big iron" approach to data, hence initiatives like NOSQL which I believe is whimsical just like Ruby on Rails, but we'll see..... ;-)

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

WhitePanther5000 (766529) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545286)

Err... SPARC is still alive in the HPC and I/O world. No one's running to BestBuy to buy the latest T4 processor for their gaming rig, but the fastest supercomputer listed on http://top500.org/ [top500.org] happens to be a SPARC machine. It's not dead, it's just a niche market. That's like saying Cray is dead.

Re:SPARC is dead (1)

Virtucon (127420) | more than 2 years ago | (#37548058)

Wait, wait, wait, comparing that SPARC based *system* to something you can buy from Oracle is like saying you can buy an F22 from General Motors. That is a highly modified system and has SPARC processors but it's nothing that Oracle provides as a SKU, unlike something you can get from IBM. But since you brought up the Top500, I notice that #2, is the Chinese Tianhe using what? NVIDIA GPUs?!?!?!

SPARC is dying, Sun couldn't sell enough of them because while they were "good" they were behind the curve in terms of price/performance and yes, there's a niche for them but Cray has that little niche too, they sell what, one or two a year?

Woefull article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37544772)

As hard as it might be for some to believe, many customers actually make decisions based on more factors that just raw single-thread processor performance or elegant processor architecture! History is littered with many wonderful processors that led on those counts that are now completely extinct. It's interesting how sparc has been bashed for clock speed forever (even when it took x86 multiple cycles to accomplish the same work) and now that they have announced 3Ghz nobody has anything to say about clock speed.

For these systems there are plenty of other characteristics that are just as, if not more, important. There are a LOT of applications that require industrial-strength in all aspects - something that you simply can't get by stacking a pile of commodity Intel/AMD boxes running Linsux. It's evident from the moment one powers up one of these things - stone-age BIOS. Only a nitwit thinks that requiring a "graphical" display or KVM(IP) in a data center with 100s or 1000s of nodes is a good thing.

Everyone better realize that just one processor line from one company will be detrimental to innovation and progress.

In the environment these systems are targeted for, what is important is the whole package - performance, reliability, maintainability, space/power, cost, etc. These systems will do very well.

Yeah, but ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545242)

With the right benchmarks, my minivan outperforms a Maserati. The T4 is a minivan

Well, like all benchmarks, it depends on your needs.

If it's getting 6 kids to soccer practice in a vehicle with a high safety rating, then the mini-van is more suited to your purposes.

Of course, what CPU functionality in this car analogy corresponds to having the mini-van be preferable to a Maserati ... I don't think I can answer that. :-P

Re:Yeah, but ... (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#37546798)

I thought Maserati made really sleek uber-cool sports cars, rolling hi-tech sculptures, akin to red Ferrari that Magnum P.I. drove around. However, I just went to their website, and all they seem to be is the same standard, run-of-the-mill, rounded K-cars that all the big automakers are rolling out. So throw the soccer kids into the Kubang, Maserati's sport luxury SUV.

No (1)

sethmeisterg (603174) | more than 2 years ago | (#37545970)

Simple question, simple answer.

Minivan vs Maserati (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#37547028)

And they sell thousands of times more minivans than Maseratis. Selling minivans isn't a bad business to be in at all.

Long live SPARC (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#37547060)

It was great to have you around for the party. Too bad eventually Oracle got a hold of you.

At this point, even if it was the most awesome CPU ever designed, who wants to touch it now its attached to that evil corporate monster ( that has no choice due to legacy system investements )?

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