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Sun To Release 8-Core Niagara 2 Processor

CowboyNeal posted more than 7 years ago | from the screw-everything-we're-going-eight-cores dept.

Sun Microsystems 214

An anonymous reader writes "Sun Microsystems is set to announce its eight-core Niagara 2 processor next week. Each core supports eight threads, so the chip handles 64 simultaneous threads, making it the centerpiece of Sun's "Throughput Computing" effort. Along with having more cores than the quads from Intel and AMD, the Niagara 2 have dual, on-chip 10G Ethernet ports with cryptographic capability. Sun doesn't get much processor press, because the chips are used only in its own CoolThreads servers, but Niagara 2 will probably be the fastest processor out there when it's released, other than perhaps the also little-known 4-GHz IBM Power 6."

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Trust me... (4, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098443)

...If they put THESE under the GPL, along with the T1, they'd be getting more press than they could imagine. If they used these a bit more aggressively - such as using them as a graphics processor on a PC - they'd be getting some amazing press. If they keep them locked in a server closet, it's only then that nobody will care.

Re:yes but ... (3, Funny)

utnapistim (931738) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098615)

... will a beowulf cluster of these run linux, or blend?

Re:yes but ... (2, Interesting)

cyphercell (843398) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098871)

can it blend? - yes I'm sure it can, the iphone blended.

speaking of which how much does this processor cost, and why doesn't Sun Microsystems make laptops, I was looking for Unix machines recently and I decided to go with the Mac book pro, rather than the Linux machines (laptops) at Dell, because of the hardware and general lack of processing power, which doesn't seem to lend itself to virtualizing other Operating systems.

Re:yes but ... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20098983)

why doesn't Sun Microsystems make laptops

They do. Ultra 3 Mobile [sun.com] .

There are also the units from Tadpole [tadpole.com] , and I'm sure others

Re:yes but ... (1)

yoder (178161) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099329)

Looks like the Ultra 3 mobile might have beeen a nice laptop, but it's no longer orderable. I didn't look to see if they have anything to replace it.

That's not fair! (2, Funny)

SpeedyGonz (771424) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099529)

Only one silly meme per customer please.

Re:yes but ... (1)

Rynth (1092427) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099589)

Will it run Doom?

Re:Trust me... (4, Informative)

LarsWestergren (9033) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098791)

...If they put THESE under the GPL, along with the T1, they'd be getting more press than they could imagine.

http://www.opensparc.net/ [opensparc.net]

They are openly discussing making the Niagara 2 available as open source as well, but note that there are some roadblocks such as the US government's restrictions [opensparc.net] on crypto technology.

Re:Trust me... (1)

BuR4N (512430) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099077)

It would be interesting to know if there are any actual hardware out there generated from Opensparc.

Re:Trust me... (2, Informative)

afidel (530433) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099461)

There are tons of research chips made from the OpenSparc designs and Simply RISC [opensparc.net] claims to have an embedded processor made from a single core T1 design.

Relevant (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20099117)

They still make Sun processors?

Re:Relevant (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20099177)

omg yes u r rite tehy shoud just all use teh powerfulll ai em dee its so k3wl lol

Re:Trust me... (2, Informative)

wild_berry (448019) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099119)

using them as a graphics processor on a PC

Good enough for raster graphics, not so good for vector graphics or 3D due to there being only 8 FPUs on the die, with only twice the floating point throughput of the terrible-at-floating-point T1. Unless you do swap some of the throughput for soft-floating-point.

Re:Trust me... (5, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099207)

If they used these a bit more aggressively - such as using them as a graphics processor on a PC - they'd be getting some amazing press
A modern GPU is fairly similar in design to the T2, but there are a few key differences:
  • The T2 is mainly focussed on integer ops with only one floating point pipeline per core. A GPU typically is close to 100% floating point pipelines, and doesn't bother with integer arithmetic.
  • The T2 uses multiple contexts to hide memory latency, mostly caused by incorrectly predicted branches. A GPU typically doesn't bother much with branch prediction, since it runs code that is very light on conditional branches (on average, branches happen every 7 ops in general purpose code. In GPU code, they happen every few hundred).
  • GPUs usually focus on 4-way vector instructions, since most of their data is of this form (RGBA colours, XYZW vertexes). The T2 only has scalar instructions.
I posted in my journal recently suggesting that it would be easier to produce a modern GPU than an older card, since modern GPUs have much less application-specific logic and do more in software, relying on just having lots of cores / pipelines to give speed.

Re:Trust me... (2, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099725)

I posted in my journal recently suggesting that it would be easier to produce a modern GPU than an older card, since modern GPUs have much less application-specific logic and do more in software, relying on just having lots of cores / pipelines to give speed.


Which makes me wonder ... if most of the work of a video card these days is done in software, and one of the biggest complaints about Linux is the lack of good free/open source drivers for high-end NVIDIA/ATI graphics cards, then why, exactly aren't FOSS developers working on one? Get some chip fab to produce some cards based on an open GPU design, write our own drivers and -- bam -- the LinuXtreme3D Graphics Accelerator! Screw NVIDIA and ATI.

Re:Trust me... (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099355)

I would love to see Sun going back to the "distinctive look" "macintosh-beautiful" workstation business. Their current lineup looks like dull (if serious) PCs. I miss the Frog Design look.

Of course, I know that generic x86 boxes (running Linux or, gulp, NT) killed the workstation market and that it would be hard to justify any development in this direction.

It seems the Niagara 2 is more fit for desktop workloads than the first one. Maybe they can do it again. I would love to see.

Re:Trust me... (1)

gig (78408) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099669)

If their boxes were distinctive people would link to their porno shots and blog about how drool worthy Sun's stuff is. Generate buzz. If the guts are unique then you can explain that with unique external features. Every bit of investment in this pays off as free advertising. Watch the buzz on the next iMac.

The white box PC look is like a disguise.

Re:Trust me... (2, Interesting)

MoxFulder (159829) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099381)

...If they put THESE under the GPL, along with the T1, they'd be getting more press than they could imagine. If they used these a bit more aggressively - such as using them as a graphics processor on a PC - they'd be getting some amazing press. If they keep them locked in a server closet, it's only then that nobody will care.
I for one wish that they'd slap the UltraSPARC Niagara and its chipset on a standard ATX motherboard with PCI and PCI-Express support.

There'd be a Linux port in practically no time, and I know a bunch of us Linux power users would adopt that setup in no time... cheap commodity hardware coupled with a high-throughput RISC processor would be great for desktop multitasking, software development, file serving, etc.

Good floating point too (4, Interesting)

imroy (755) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098457)

This processor will also have a floating-point unit for each core, unlike the UltraSPARC T1 (Niagara) which only had one shared amongst all 8 cores. This should make it much more suitable than the T1 for a wide variety of applications. The T1 did great on multithreaded server-type tasks (e.g web, email, database) but would have been pretty hopeless for anything doing more than a bare minimum of FP work.

Re:Good floating point too (3, Informative)

dread (3500) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098545)

Correct. At my last employer we found this out the hard way. Most servers were getting great performance but the one that actually did some (and it wasn't much really) FP work was horrible. This should really remedy that problem.

On the other hand, SUN still suffers from the fact that ETCA is getting more and more mindshare in the telco arena which has been one of their major cash cows. It will be real interesting to see how that pans out in the end.

Re:Good floating point too (1)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099135)

Here in Australia, all the exchange work in our largest telco seems to be done from Sun boxes. I think that's merely showing the company's age, rather than what they prefer.

Still, would be nice to experience one of these fine boxes in action.

Re:Good floating point too (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20099521)

It has a cryptographic unit per core too. The PDF prezo linked by the page below says that bandwidth of the 8 crypto units is enough to run the on-chip 10 GbE ports encrypted. Sounds like an opportunity for some interesting applications -- VPN, SSL, SAN/NAS encryption, anyone?

All that and the 64 threads run at 84 watts maximum (not TDP).

http://sun.systemnews.com/articles/108/3/hw/17688 [systemnews.com]

Yes, but.. (2, Funny)

aerthling (796790) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098461)

Yes, but will it run Vista?

Re:Yes, but.. (0, Redundant)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098543)

Nope, but it will blend.

Re:Yes, but.. (4, Funny)

dbIII (701233) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098867)

Yes, but will it run Vista?

It has a Vista emulation mode - move the power switch to OFF and you get something just as useful but more stable.

Re:Yes, but.. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20098887)

Yes, but will it run Vista?


No, Vista requires 640 cores, which ought to be enough for anybody.

Not fucking funny anymore! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20098999)

Time to flip the record.

Re:Not fucking funny anymore! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20099487)

On the contrary - it has always been funny, and will never stop being funny.

Re:Yes, but.. (2, Funny)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099383)

No. Not only a Solaris/SPARC box is 100% Microsoft-free, it's 100% Microsoft-proof.

Smokin'... (1)

Firefalcon (7323) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098489)

...Quite literally I suspect if the cooling system ever breaks!

Re:Smokin'... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20099149)

Actually, it doesn't dissipate that much heat. One of the purposes of the CoolThreads idea and the Niagara chip family is actually to reduce power demands and heat dissipation thus reducing the need for cooling and therefore saving even more power.

The Niagara 1 (T1) for example only consumes around 70W with 8 cores running 4 threads each. This is comparable to single and dual core chips used in desktop computers today.

low...... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20098507)

so is it only late at night that all the low UID /. people come out or something? Or do you guys hide from all the retards during the day?

Re:low...... (1, Insightful)

dread (3500) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098535)

Well, we tend to have jobs that are somewhat interesting and potentially even what is commonly known as "a life". This may be an unfamiliar concept but it includes things that are more important than the processing capability of the latest SUN processor (though not by much) but a lot of the added value comes from the fact that conversations with a two year old are generally more interesting than debates here.

Re:low...... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20098591)

you make it sound like talking to a 2 year old is something bad to compare something worse to... Have you ever sat down and talked to a 2 year old? the conversations you have are much more interesting than that of your peers. You should try talking to a few younger kids, or even have some of your own. Have a good one.

Re:low...... (1)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098811)

I guess that should've been 14-year old [youtube.com] then:

Parent: "Hey, would you like to .."

14-yo: "You hate me, don't you! I wish I wasn't born!"

Re:low...... (1)

dread (3500) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098823)

The two year old here wants me to tell you that "you are mister poo head".

Re:low...... (1)

blackicye (760472) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098745)

They're nocturnal, like Vampires..or raccoons :P

Re:low...... (1)

steveoc (2661) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098847)

Then again, many of us have moved to Australia (or Portland, OR - which is almost the same thing), so don't read too much into the "time of post"

Interesting (4, Interesting)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098521)

I like it. In my work with high performance computers, a significant limiting factor in a lot of our tasks was the interprocessor bandwidth. The Niagra2 has a crossbar, with a huge amount of bandwidth available between the different cores and their L2 caches.

I'd like to see some benchmarks, and more technical specs, on these babies.

Re:Interesting (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20099121)

IBM Power5+ and later also had inter-core connections.
The Niagra line of processors is impressive, but you had to worry about workload AND what would happen in 18 months when the server was "reused" for some alternate need by folks that didn't know what floating point was?

I've tried to find a fit for the T1 servers in my work as a technical arch for the last year ... it always came down to the customer not wanting to risk it so a V490 at 4x the price would be used instead. http://store.sun.com/ [sun.com] Oh well. The IBM P5+ line was also used a bunch with great success - for home use, check out the P505Q http://www-03.ibm.com/systems/p/hardware/express_e ntry.html [ibm.com] - for around $5k, you get a server equiv to a loaded V490 and you can run 40 OS instances of either AIX or Linux. That isn't a typo. Ok, 1 of those has to be AIX 5.3, but that hardly sucks. It's almost as nice as Solaris or Linux. Heck, at least it isn't HP-sUX!

I do about 25 projects a year - from start to finish, so I see a fair number of needs. The Niagra is an easy fit for a web farm. I just wish I had more of those projects that weren't wintel.

Re:Interesting (2, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099253)

The T2 has one huge advantage over anything in the POWER line, which is that SPARC is the only non-x86 instruction set supported by HiPE (the High Performance Erlang runtime). This is significantly faster than the runtime used on other platforms.

Probably not applicable to any of the projects you're working on, but anyone writing Erlang code should check out the benchmarks from R11 running on the T1.

Re:Interesting (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099401)

Not to flamebait you, but how many people write Erlang code?

It's a real question. I am curious.

Re:Interesting (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099753)

I'm not sure, to be honest. Apparently it's popular in telecoms (which is why it was invented). I wrote some for my PhD, since it's the only sane way of writing code that targets a 64-processor machine but still runs okay on my laptop.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20099425)

The T1 used 72 Watts maximum for 8 cores x 4 threads/core = 32 threads.
I wonder what the T2 will use for 8 x 8 = 64 threads per processor ....

Actually, found my answer in the PDF on the page below --
        84 W @ 1.1 V, worst case (not bogus Intel TDP!).

http://sun.systemnews.com/articles/108/3/hw/17688 [systemnews.com]


-Niagara 2 Key Features -

    Second generation chip multi-threading processor optimized
    for Space, Power and Performance (SWaP)

    8 Sparc Cores, 4MB shared L2 cache; Supports concurrent
    execution of 64 threads

    Twice UltraSparc T1's throughput performance and
    performance/Watt

    Ten times improvement in Floating Point throughput
    performance

    Integrates important SOC components on chip: Two 10G
    Ethernet (XAUI) ports on chip and Advanced Cryptographic
    support at wire speed

    On-chip PCI-Express, Ethernet, and FBDIMM memory interfaces
    are SerDes based

-

Niagara 2 is the first 64-bit 64-thread SPARC "System on a chip"
from Sun based on the power-efficient CMT architecture optimized
for Space, Power and Performance (SWaP). It is the successor to
Niagara 1, which is known in the market as UltraSPARCR T1. It
doubles Niagara 1's throughput performance, significantly
improves Floating point throughput performance, has advanced
cryptography support and two 10G ethernet ports on chip.


Re:Interesting (2, Interesting)

Jasin Natael (14968) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099547)

If anybody is planning to benchmark this running common apps, I'd also be very interested to see how the approach to hiding memory latency works on more pedestrian applications like video encoding and pattern recognition (and maybe even thread-heavy GUI's).

IIRC (I researched this proc years ago for a University paper), it tries to hide latency by switching thread contexts whenever there is a cache miss or branch misprediction. The crossbar should help a little with cache-related stalls, but the core would already have switched to another thread in any case. So, if there are complex paths of execution, you'd only run them a fraction of the time, on cores that are pretty bare-bones to start with. HPC is probably still better off with single-processor systems, even with the addition of per-core FPU's in Niagara 2, but the Niagara architecture could be really great as a coordinating hub and reporting center for a number of networked number-crunching machines.

Will it be water-cooled? (nt) (2, Funny)

Rob Simpson (533360) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098539)

(nt)

Re:Will it be water-cooled? (nt) (1)

lobStar (1103461) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098695)

None of the current Niagara servers is water-cooled, so most likely no.

Re:Will it be water-cooled? (nt) (2, Funny)

morie (227571) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098923)

Then why call then Niagara?

Because they process information like water. (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099063)

Then why call then Niagara?
Because they'll go through information the way that Niagara Falls goes through water.

http://www.personaltours.ca/niagara-info.html [personaltours.ca]

 

Re:Will it be water-cooled? (nt) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20099539)

Should be called Nigra 2 instead.

Regurgitating "Quad" market speak (5, Informative)

Eukariote (881204) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098549)

Along with having more cores than the quads from Intel and AMD...
What quad from Intel/AMD? Intel is selling two dual cores on a cracker. The "quad" bit is just marketing, the actual silicon chips are pure dual core designs that have to talk across the front side bus just as in a two-socket server. And AMD has so far only been previewing their quads, you can't buy them yet.

quad is a quad and I want a cheap 8-way desktop (3, Interesting)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098569)

customers just want to fit 4 cores in one socket. That's all that matters. That you can get a 1U with two sockets and put 8 intel cores in it under under $2k is a big deal right now.

That said I've always wanted to get my hands on some of these new multicore UltraSparcs. I think they have a lot of potential, and the new ones seem extremely powerful.

Now if only Sun would but the low end one in a mac mini form factor and sell it as a java developers kit then maybe I could play with one. The low end sun fires are something I could almost afford, but I don't really want to keep a 1u on my desk just to try out the technology.

I think the big 64-bit address space and the ability to run lots of threads seems to fit well with Sun's Java. Not that I am a Java developer, I just think it's a good match, and it seems to be that's why people were using the older CoolThreads systems, enterprise Java.

Re:quad is a quad and I want a cheap 8-way desktop (2, Interesting)

Eukariote (881204) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098807)

Customers just want to fit 4 cores in one socket. That's all that matters.

Note that the post was about the number of cores/threads in the Niagra chip design. In terms of chip design, the circuitry on the silicon is what matters, not how you package, integrate, or market it. Moreover, it does matter to a customer if marketing speak fobs him with two dualcore chips on a cracker instead of an integrated four core design.

Performance does not scale purely with the number of cores, it also matters how efficiently the cores can share resources and intercommunicate. Things like accessing shared memory and inter-process communication are an important part of real world applications. Just try to run a heavy duty threaded server benchmark with a lot of IPC on a faux "Quad" and compare how it scales relative to a true Dual core design, and you'll be lucky to get 1.5-1.6 times the performance instead of twice.

Re:quad is a quad and I want a cheap 8-way desktop (4, Insightful)

brucmack (572780) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098909)

In terms of chip design, the circuitry on the silicon is what matters, not how you package, integrate, or market it.

I agree with you on this point.

Moreover, it does matter to a customer if marketing speak fobs him with two dualcore chips on a cracker instead of an integrated four core design.

I don't agree with you here. What matters to the customer are costs and performance. They shouldn't have to care about how the package works, as long as it works correctly.

From Intel's perspective, they had two options:

  1. Start with a new design that integrates all four cores on a single chip.
  2. Put two existing chips onto one package. Chips that they've been manufacturing for quite some time, so yields are good and there's headroom for higher clock speeds or lower power consumption.

From the customer's perspective, those two options correspond to:

  1. A chip that performs a bit better, but probably costs more and definitely comes on the market later.
  2. A package that's got some performance drawbacks in certain situations, but is available now at a reasonable price.

What do you think Intel and their customers prefer?

Re:quad is a quad and I want a cheap 8-way desktop (3, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099147)

Also Intel's seems to have shown that having two units that need to communicate across the FSB doesn't really cause any problems. Worked fine for their Pentium Ds (2 single cores) works fine for the quads. While bus contention assuredly becomes a problem at some point, with just two units it doesn't seem to be for normal tasks.

Thus it makes it a worthwhile design to go with. I could see it continuing too. Maybe their next gen chips are 4 cores on a single unit which goes mainstream, and then an 8 core 2 unit job for higher end stuff. At some point there may be too many cores per unit to do with without bus contention, but them maybe not since the speed of the bus keeps getting increased. Also I could see OSes being made aware of this, if it continues, and knowing that each X number of processors is a unit and you can shuffle all you like withing that, but shuffling across units incurs more penalties and thus isn't done unless it has to be. So if a process had 4 threads, and a unit was 4 cores, it'd make sure all the threads were running on the same unit.

Regardless, you are correct that at this point it is an excellent idea. Doesn't matter if it is the most technically correct solution or not, what matters is that it works well and is cheap.

We make concessions like that all the time in the computer world. Memory would be a good example. For a good while on desktops, memory, the FSB, and the processor ran at the same speed. You had a 30MHz 386, you were running 30MHz memory. Multipliers weren't a things you worried about. Then, we started to run in to limits of what memory could do. We could scale processors faster than RAM, or at least faster than RAM could be done cheaply. Thus the start of clock multiplied chips. This works, but at some point the memory is just too slow. So then we start getting in to tricks like DDR RAM, which transfers twice per clock cycle, and interleaving RAM, so that the processor has two channels to get faster access and so on. Currently you can have a CPU at one speed, an FSB at another, and memory at a third. Right now I've got a 2.66GHz CPU, a "1333MHz" FSB (it's not really 1333MHz, FSBs are quad pumped so it really runs at 333MHz) and "667MHz" RAM (again not really, it's DDR so the actual memory clock is 166MHz, bus clock is 333MHz, it just does 667 million data transfers per second hence the rate) and this is not an uncommon setup.

None of this is an ideal setup. Ideally, the FSB would run at the same speed as the processor and so would the RAM. This would lead to the processor having almost no wait time for memory data and very little need for trickery to try and prefetch data and such. However alas, if it were possible at all it would be too expensive to do. Thus we have this somewhat hacked solution. However in reality it matters little, though a hack it may be, it works real well. It has given us memory that can get the data to the CPU in a timely fashion and doesn't break the bank.

Re:quad is a quad and I want a cheap 8-way desktop (2, Insightful)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099305)

I'd be glad to have any kind of 4-way SMP system. Whether they're all on different chips or all on the same, I'd still get 4 CPUs of processing power. Of course, inter-CPU communication makes a difference in certain applications, but people have worked with traditional SMP systems for decades, and we know how to make good use of them. Putting them on the same die won't solve the basic problems of parallelization.

Re:quad is a quad and I want a cheap 8-way desktop (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098889)

That you can get a 1U with two sockets and put 8 intel cores in it

It's even better that you can have two boards like that side by side in 1U, had a few since early this year. For some things this Sun is really going to walk over a pile of processing nodes like that - but it won't be as cheap.

Re:quad is a quad and I want a cheap 8-way desktop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20099449)

You can get 1U Quad Opteron systems. So once AMD releases it's quad core ship that would be a 16 core system

Sun doesn't get much processor press (0, Troll)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098553)

Because it isn't main stream. Their stuff is really, really expensive. That doesn't mean there's not a place for it (they'd not be in business if there wasn't) but most people just don't care because they can't pay that price. As an example we just took an old Sun server off of maintenance because we've moved all functions off of it. The cost of maintenance was $2,500 per year. No, that's not a typo. Ok well for that price, we can literally buy a new fairly high performance server from someone like Dell or Gateway (with a 3 year warranty).

Well, when you are talking in price classes of that nature, most people just don't give a shit. A new Intel or AMD processor is exciting because it is something that is in the realm of what people can actually afford. Even if the item itself is high end, you know it'll be coming down soon enough. Intel's quads were over a grand when they launched, now you get get one for like $300. Sun stuff based on their own chips (and even not) is just damn expensive. If you aren't an enterprise type user it just isn't going to be on the list of things you'll get.

Thus much less press.

Also, their processor division has been kinda lagging. The SPARC offerings prior to this really haven't stacked up that well against what Intel and AMD have. We got a Sun Fire V440 and it works fine and all for the SPARC only apps we have, but for things that will run on x86, it gets blown away by Core 2 Duos.

The Niagara looks cool but the base model is $10,000 which gets you the 4 core version of the chip and 8GB of RAM. If you want the 8 core setup, that's $21,500 minimum. At those prices, there's going to be little mainstream press as that is out of the range of even most companies. Thus most people just don't care, as Sun never will be bringing it to the masses (barring a massive strategy change).

Re:Sun doesn't get much processor press (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20098757)

With all due respect mate, you don't have a clue. We, like most other financial companies in the world, buy Sun/IBM P5/HPUX/etc stuff because it is *cheap*... seriously, compared to the mainframes that handle the real back end, these babies are practically free.

Also, if the last thing you have touched is a V440 then you are not exactly up to speed with the cutting edge of Sun products. I promise you that if you had actually ever seen a system running a T1 chip you would not say "their processor division has been kinda lagging". The cool threads stuff is amazing and they are the only people doing anything quite like it. I am not sure if you picked this up from the article but with one chip you get _64_ hardware based threads.

In our internal benchmarks a £20k T2000 with 1 x 8 core T1 outperformed a £100k+ V880 with 8 x 2 core Sparc. Freakin' cool and excellent value for money. Plus all this fits in two rack units.

Working in small companies is nice but I promise you that out there in the big wide world "most" companies don't think that $US20k is very much at all to spend on a system that will be part of a critical service.

Re:Sun doesn't get much processor press (0, Troll)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098919)

With all due respect mate, it is YOU that don't have a clue. It's wonderful that as a financial company you like Sun. However you need to recognise that 99.99% of the world is not like you. Most companies have no need or ant for stuff like that and it shows in sales numbers. Sun certainly has a place, hence why they are in business (you sell something nobody wants, your company dies) however they aren't going to get the press that Intel and AMD do because most people just don't care. Home users don't care, small business doesn't care, many large businesses don't care, even ones that do, only a limited number of folks at them care (I am going to bet you don't run Sun on all your desktops).

If you really think that limited segment of the market reflects the market at large, well, then go talk to one of your analysts and ask them why Sun is worth about 10% of Intel. You'll discover that as much as super critical infrastructure may like things like Sun, the world at large doesn't. Thus when a new Intel chip comes out, that's big news. When a new Sun chip does, it makes news only in trade mags or on some tech sites like Slashdot. This is teh same sort of reason that a new Hybrid Honda will get reviewed in major auto mags and tested by consumer reports but you won't even hear about new GE Hybrid locomitves. It's not that the locomotives are worthless, it is that they are worthless to most people, and thus limited news.

Re:Sun doesn't get much processor press (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20099173)

You have a funny way of viewing the world I must say. It seems to me that as far as you are concerned, unless I can pop down to PC World and buy one these it does not count as relevant to the world at large. Forget the fact that every financial transaction you make, every TV show you watch, every phone call you make and every device you use is made possible by systems that the muppets down the local computer shop would never even have heard of.

If all you are trying to argue is that the latest chip from Sun will not make headlines in the news tonight then we are in agreement. However, that does not matter. Most of what is interesting and important in computing and let's be honest, pretty much everything is of no interest to the masses.

But hey mate, it is a free world so you can go on thinking that the latest ATI graphics card is what matters in the computer industry, no skin off my nose. But here is something you might want to think about, the same companies that don't flinch at paying half a million for a server also don't mind paying serious money to someone to make sure they run properly.. which is nice.

Re:Sun doesn't get much processor press (4, Insightful)

MysteriousPreacher (702266) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099197)

A few points.

1) Sun is not trying to win the hearts and minds of home users - that is not their market. Sun would see few benefits from pushing their products in the mainstream media. Trade press is where they reach the decision makers. How many Oracle adverts do you see in game magazines and tabloid newspapers? Not very many, they tend to advertise in business oriented outlets such as The Economist.
2) Some small businesses don't care about computers at all. The companies that need Sun will buy Sun. The companies who can run their business out of a box of post-it notes will do the former.
3) When you buy mission critical hardware, you don't look for a '3 year warranty'. You look for a service and support contract based on how critical the hardware is to your business. If you can run your business on a home-made 486dx system running Minix then that is probably the best option.
4) Sun being worth 10% of Intel is irrelevant. The Economist sells far fewer copies than The Sun (a pretty terrible UK tabloid) but I know which one I'd chose for a serious overview of world news.
5) This is a techie web site so news like this seems pretty relevant here, even if most of us can't afford to buy the kit.

Re:Sun doesn't get much processor press (1)

MysteriousPreacher (702266) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099209)

Argh, I'll preview next time.

Point 2 should have read:

"2) Some small businesses don't care about computers at all. The companies that need Sun will buy Sun. The companies who can run their business out of a box of post-it notes will do the *latter*."

CURSES! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20099299)

How dare you correct your own mistakes!

I, and my fellow grammar Nazi overlords, were just about to rip your lousy post to shreds.

Re:CURSES! (2, Funny)

MysteriousPreacher (702266) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099317)

If you were a real grammar nazi, you'd be able to point out all the other errors I made. I demand to see your badge!

Re:Sun doesn't get much processor press (2, Informative)

DisKurzion (662299) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099205)

I'm going to have to agree with the coward on this one. You don't have a clue. You won't see Sun stuff on the desktops. Sun boxes have their place: The high-performance market. Where I work (hint: Feds), we have multiple Sun boxes set up, which run our virtual servers. If there's one thing that you can never get enough of in this kind of setup, it's multiple threading and RAM. The integrated networking is also a huge boost, since that's the last major bottleneck before hitting the clients.

He wasn't trying to say that Sun deserves more press. Sure, small businesses and even many large businesses don't require that kind of power. But the coward was right: Sun provides good quality at (relatively) dirt cheap prices. Hence why they make this kind of thing.

You try running 5+ heavily used virtual servers (Each running a component of Oracle) on one Intel or AMD box. Let me know how that goes for you.

PS - Solaris kicks ass.

Re:Sun doesn't get much processor press (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099325)

I promise you that if you had actually ever seen a system running a T1 chip you would not say "their processor division has been kinda lagging".
I disagree. The T1 is absolutely incredible engineering for certain workloads, but before that I can't even remember the last competitive chip they put out, and now Alpha is officially dead I consider SPARC to be the most interesting surviving architecture, so I've been paying attention.

Rock and T2 look very promising, but before that their processor division was lagging so badly they were putting re-badged Fujitsu chips in their high-end machines to try to stay competitive. Between the end of the dot-com era to the release of the T1, Sun's microprocessor division seemed like dead weight. They made a huge gamble to start designing web app optimised chips as the bubble was bursting, and it looks like it will end up paying off, but it comes at the end of a period where 'lagging' is a very polite way of describing their performance.

By the way, there seem to be a lot of low-power SPARC variants, but I've never seen a palmtop form-factor device containing one. Do they exist? I'd be very interested in one, since SPARC, even SPARC32, is a lot better supported than ARM, in spite of the latter's ubiquity.

Re:Sun doesn't get much processor press (5, Interesting)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098831)

"Ok well for that price, we can literally buy a new fairly high performance server from someone like Dell or Gateway (with a 3 year warranty)."

It's all realative. Your 'high performance' Dell or Gateway wouldn't do much other then run bind at one of our locations. You are comparing apples to oranges. These systems are not for you to surf the net with, and as for price, well there is a lot to be gained from stability. I still have sparc systems with OEM (minus the disks) that are close to 20 years old running at some locations. Bet your Dell can't say that.

Man, what is with the defensive Sun nuts? (-1, Troll)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098991)

Understand this: I don't give a shit if you have a Sun. Really, I don't. They hold no mystique for me, we've got probably 30 or so at work (about half and half servers and workstations).

My point is simply why Sun doesn't get press, even on new CPUs. The reason is that they are Sun only chips, and Suns are fucking expensive. Thus most people just don't care about them. Tom's Hardware is not going to be reviewing them for the enthusiast market, for example, they are waaaaay out of that range. Same shit with the Power 6. Great chip, coming never to a desktop near you. These specialised high end products are just not of mass interest if for no other reason than price.

Also, interestingly enough, long running systems aren't something that is a benefit in many cases. That's the whole reason we are discontinuing maintenance on our big Sun box. Now that important services are off of it, we can (and will if it breaks) replace it with a cheap server. Even if that cheap server breaks right at the end of its warranty, it is still a money saver, a big one.

I understand the market for enterprise systems, I also understand that it is small.

Re:Sun doesn't get much processor press (1)

conares (1045290) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099473)

"The Niagara looks cool but the base model is $10,000 which gets you the 4 core version of the chip and 8GB of RAM. If you want the 8 core setup, that's $21,500 minimum. At those prices, there's going to be little mainstream press as that is out of the range of even most companies. Thus most people just don't care, as Sun never will be bringing it to the masses (barring a massive strategy change)." OK, great I got the money...does it run games?

Niagara (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20098625)

"Sun to Release 8-Core Niagara 2 Processor"
So does that mean the Canadian version is going to be ten times better than the American?

Re:Niagara (1)

Libertarian001 (453712) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098743)

No, but I hear the English are releasing one what goes to 11...

Re:Niagara (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20099105)

Yes. Yes it Does. And all strings returned from if statements will end in -eh? And since I cant figure out a good metaphor for it I will just say it: This Canadian Version of which you speak will also be a tourist hole full of jerks with cameras, people on honeymoons feeling duped into going to said tourist hole.

on-chip 10G Ethernet ports (1)

bazorg (911295) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098705)

huh? ethernet ports where? anyone care to explain?

Re:on-chip 10G Ethernet ports (4, Informative)

Cheesey (70139) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098779)

High-speed CPUs are all limited by a bottleneck - getting data on and off chip. Putting the Ethernet controllers on chip helps to offset this.

In the future, it is likely that all the wired buses in your motherboard will be replaced by an internal Ethernet-like network. We are already seeing a trend towards simpler and faster interconnects such as SATA. The next step is to use Ethernet-style connections for every chip-to-chip link, and within the chips themselves too. If this seems unlikely, consider that your PCs memory bus already is basically a network connection. The device at one end (CPU) is in a different clock domain to the device at the other (memory). Data is sent in packets (called bursts) to offset the latency of setting up a transfer.

Re:on-chip 10G Ethernet ports (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098839)

Wasn't that the promise of technologies like HyperTransport, or are you thinking of something even more serial?

Re:on-chip 10G Ethernet ports (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20098849)

Yes... on-chip ethernet ports. Not bad. I wonder where they put them? Tell me, does it come with DVI or regular analog VGA ports for my monitor? How about USB? Gotta connect the mouse and keyboard! Shit, it has a built-in motherboard? Oh my. I bet it has an on-chip PSU too! OMG IT DOES?

They show you pretty (well, actually they're pretty ugly, hard to read, and low-res) pictures of "the chip", then claim it has two integrated 10 Gbit ethernet ports. So you look at the pictures trying to find where the NIC controller is located... but you can't find it!

I wonder why?

It's because they're NOT integrated on the chip. The two 10 Gbit ethernet ports are on a separate PCIe card.

They're confusing a CPU with a complete computer. Jesus fuck. What a bunch of fucking morons.

Re:on-chip 10G Ethernet ports (1)

pklinken (773410) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099183)

I think they meant Intarnet ports.

Freudian Processor? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20098717)

Am I the only person who read the headline as "Sun to Release 8-Core Viagra 2 Processor"?

Re:Freudian Processor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20099057)

Yes.

Re:Freudian Processor? (1)

ratbag (65209) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099447)

Yes

Re:Freudian Processor? (4, Funny)

ettlz (639203) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099451)

Sounds like you've got serious uptime on the mind.

Not going to be the fastest, but... (4, Informative)

zeromemory (742402) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098835)

Sun donated one of the original T2000 (based on the original 8-core 4-thread/core Niagara processor) systems to a campus organization where I'm a volunteer system administrator, so think I have quite a bit of experience with this processor. Here's my take on the Niagara2, based upon my experiences with the Niagara1:
  • No, this processor is not going to be the 'fastest' processor out there; this processor is designed primarily for workloads that don't require floating-point calculations (web servers, mail, etc), so it's not going to be the go-to processor for places like rendering farms. In fact, float-point performance on the Niagara1 was so terrible that Sun included a special cryptographic accelerator to help with SSL performance (the primary consumer of floating-point calculations on most web servers).
  • This processor architecture absolutely rocks for the purpose it was intended, though. It consumes very little power, but handles service loads amazingly well. We also have a Sun v40z (8-core Opteron server) that would barely be able to keep up with the our T2000 (that's saying a lot), and our T2000 consumes only a little more than half as much power going into our v40z (2.6A @ 120VAC compared to 4.6A @ 120VAC).
  • The inclusion of 10GbE support is going to be absolutely essential and will help make servers based upon the Niagara2 stand-out compared to servers from competing vendors. Why is 10GbE so important? I mean, we already have GbE, and most places barely have an infrastructure for that in place, right? The answer is SAN. 10GbE is going to be necessary if you're going to be using iSCSI to consolidate storage and deliver reasonable performance, and most places are heading in that direction, especially the target market for these systems.
  • Solaris Logical Domains (not to be confused with Sun Containers or Zones) is a hardware-based virtualization technology that was packaged with the Niagara1 and will probably be included with the Niagara2. Using Logical Domains, you can create independent virtual servers running different operating systems and divide hardware resources up between them, down to the individual CPU thread and PCI Express bus leaf level. Unlike software virtualization solutions, all your virtual servers are never dependent on any single virtual server (global zone, dom0, etc). This technology is making hardware virtualization a possibility for many places.

I think the Niagara is a pretty solid design, but it's not the processor to end all processors. For service workloads, I don't think you can get a better processor, but you probably don't want one of these processors in your workstation. Sun Microsystems is also headed in the right direction, establishing an open-community around these processors and Solaris.

Re:Not going to be the fastest, but... (4, Informative)

Alioth (221270) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098873)

The floating point performance of the new processor should be like night and day compared to the old one you had: the old one apparently only has 1 FPU for the entire device - the new one has an FPU per core.

Re:Not going to be the fastest, but... (1, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099377)

Note that this is per core, and not per context. With eight contexts per core, it's still going to be a bottleneck if your code is more than 1/8th floating point calculations. On the other hand, a big part of the performance problem came from register copying from the individual cores to the FPU and back on the T1, and this should be fixed with the T2. It's still not going to be a great floating point chip, but it should be a bit better.

Re:Not going to be the fastest, but... (2, Interesting)

BDeblier (155691) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098903)

In normal circumstances public key cryptography doesn't touch floating point. It's multi-precision integer calculations that are required for this. But UltraSparc cpus have such a bad integer multiplier that you need to resort to floating point trickery to get a slightly better performance. It's no miracle they had to add a dedicated crypto processor to the Niagara line.

Re:Not going to be the fastest, but... (1)

phoebe (196531) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099249)

This processor architecture absolutely rocks for the purpose it was intended, though. It consumes very little power, but handles service loads amazingly well. We also have a Sun v40z (8-core Opteron server) that would barely be able to keep up with the our T2000 (that's saying a lot)

A $16,000 machine barely keeps up with a $21,000 machine is saying a lot?

Sun Fire V40z Server
$ 16,995.00
4 Dual-Core AMD Opteron - Model 885

Sun Fire T2000 Server
$ 21,495.00
1 x 1.2 GHz UltraSPARC T1 - 8 Core

Re:Not going to be the fastest, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20099361)

You forgot the part where the $16000 machine uses almost twice as much power as the $21000 machine (and thus will need almost twice as much energy for cooling, as well).

Niagara (2, Funny)

Cctoide (923843) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098865)

Niagara? I don't want to know what happens when one of these has to compute an integer overflow, do I?

Re:Niagara (1)

dido (9125) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098935)

Maybe something like this [catb.org] ?

Re:Niagara (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20099397)

Gives completely new meaning to the waterfall development model, doesn't it?

So, will it get rid of Vista/boot delays? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20098877)

I'm still waiting for an assembly that can actually allow me to work w-i-t-h-o-u-t the da.mn b..ox slowing down because something ins.i.d.e has decided to update/upgrade or otherwise do something that has nothing to do with my work. And no, it's virus clean and yes, it has plenty of resources. It's one of the reasons I like Linux, but even that has not yet solved the other problem especially laptop users have:

Why, after 20+ years of PC chips, does it still take so bloody long to boot up? Only "resume" is reasonably usable. I'm waiting for a BIOS that doesn't show me heaps of wonderful stuff other than when I, for instance, hold a key down during powerup, I'm waiting for an OS that is smart enough to realise that I'm unlikely to rip the video card out of my box, nor is the setup of HDD + CDROM drive going to change anytime soon so it would be nice if it didn't spend a friggin' year probing for change. Probe once, register, get on with it, do not probe again on any reboot. Give me a boot option to request a re-probe instead.

There's a opne BIOS out there that boots so fast they had to slow it down to give the HDDs a chance to spin up - no sign of improvement for the rest of the world. It's a wide open marketing opportunity..

. I am obviously in serious need for my medicine, or at least coffee :-)

Re:So, will it get rid of Vista/boot delays? (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098917)

Sounds like you want to run Solaris 10. It can do exactly that, and it comes up VERY fast on modern hardware.

Re:So, will it get rid of Vista/boot delays? (2, Informative)

ricegf (1059658) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099489)

Linspire (back in the day - I've been on Ubuntu for quite a while now) worked this way. IIRC you had to hold down a key to rescan for hardware, otherwise it assumed nothing changed and booted very briskly. I'm surprised it didn't catch on with more popular distros.

Also, I thought http://www.linuxbios.org/Welcome_to_LinuxBIOS [linuxbios.org] would get through POST and to the payload in just a couple of seconds.

5. Profit! (0, Flamebait)

nowhere.elysium (924845) | more than 7 years ago | (#20098879)

Did anyone else notice TFA's mention of Sun's "bang up profits" of $329? Niagara for teh win! Seriously, though: the processor looks cool and all that, but how many of us are likely to seriously be able to play with one anytime soon? (And if anyone answers with 'I am!', I will happily trade jobs with you for a week)

Re:5. Profit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20099013)

Sun will send you one to try out for free: http://www.sun.com/servers/coolthreads/tnb/ [sun.com]

frist "4sot (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20099027)

intentions and Provide Sodas, 3ontributed code

How does it compare to a 2xE5320 :) (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20099171)

For $2.2K I got a barebone 2xE5320, 8G RAM db, 250G HD, motherboard and case.

2x10Gb Ethernet (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#20099619)

To me the most exciting part is that they're putting 2x10Gb ethernet ports directly on the CPU. The crypto is cool too: I hope it's not encapsulated entirely in the ethernet, so apps can call it directly.

If they made these CPUs cheap enough, we could put them on PCI-e cards in a Xeon, and run a Linux cluster over the PCI-e, coordinated by apps running on the Xeon. Or maybe stuff a Niagara/PCI-e box with extras, like we used to do with Mac Quadra 950/NuBus cards. But this time with 20Gbps ethernet per node, for a networked grid of nodes.
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