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Sun Niagara 2 CPU Now Open Source

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the stay-on-target dept.

Sun Microsystems 158

downix writes "Late last night Sun Microsystems announced the immediate availability of the UltraSPARC T2, also known as the Niagara 2 CPU. While we all might not have a silicon fab in the basement, the access to this source code reaffirms Sun's commitment to open source, and in addition gives us FPGA-lovers something new to play with. The source code can be downloaded (with registration) from OpenSPARC.net. Already the previously open sourced T1 has spawned spin-off projects, such as the Simple RISC S1."

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george bush sucks!!!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21677979)

see subject

Pics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21678129)

Pics or it never happened!

Re:Pics? (1, Informative)

riff420 (810435) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678239)

This is not the Something Awful Forums. FYAD.

Re:Pics? (1)

kakofb (725561) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679239)

insightful commentary itt

Home fabbing (2, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21677995)

While we all might not have a silicon fab in the basement
Does anyone? About how much would such a luxury cost?

Re:Home fabbing (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678011)

Oh, a few tens of millions. Not too much.

If you were making embedded systems you could afford to pay a fab to make a batch, and likely save money over buying a new CPU from Sun/Intel/AMD. But this kind of thing isn't possile or cost effective for one off runs.

Re:Home fabbing (4, Informative)

GwaihirBW (1155487) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678139)

See the sibling post below parent . . . this figure is way low for modern processors. There's a reason that there aren't many upstart processor manufacturers. The fabs are expensive and require significant expertise to work out all the fiddly problems that tend to crop up when dealing with a 65 nm process.

Take, for example, the recent $2.5 Billion Intel plant in China [cnbc.com] .

Re:Home fabbing (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679571)

See the sibling post below parent . . . this figure is way low for modern processors. There's a reason that there aren't many upstart processor manufacturers. The fabs are expensive and require significant expertise to work out all the fiddly problems that tend to crop up when dealing with a 65 nm process.

Take, for example, the recent $2.5 Billion Intel plant in China [cnbc.com] .
Yeah, but the Intel plant is designed to create thousands, millions, of low-power / high-performance devices. A hobbyist might be content with just a few.

Re:Home fabbing (1)

irondonkey (1137243) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678031)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fab_(semiconductors) [wikipedia.org] Wiki says over 1 billion, probably close, given the relative rarity of them even amongst commercial companies.

Re:Home fabbing (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678087)

Another side effect of the cost has been the challenge to make use of older fabs. For many companies these older fabs are useful for producing designs for unique markets, such as embedded processors, flash memory, and microcontrollers. However for companies with more limited product lines, it's often best to either rent out the fab, or close it entirely. This is due to the tendency of the cost of upgrading an existing fab to produce devices requiring newer technology to exceed the cost of a completely new fab.
So it sounds like the second hand obsolete market for fab equipment is a real steal.. and with the industry moving to 300mm wafer sizes soon..........

Re:Home fabbing (5, Interesting)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678251)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fab_(semiconductors) Wiki says over 1 billion, probably close, given the relative rarity of them even amongst commercial companies.


A billion is low-end fabs. High end cutting edge or even near-cutting edge technology costs much more. Maybe a billion for "old-school" tech like 130nm.

No, your best bet is to just pay the few million to have someone fab it for you - there are very few companies that have their own fabs and can do it inhouse (e.g., Intel, IBM, AMD, Freescale (Motorola), Samsung, Toshiba), at least, cutting edge fabs. Low end fabs can be had for cheap (1um and larger), which is great if you don't particularly care about density (e.g., Gemplus - those smartcards have HUGE silicon for 32k memory and not much more).

Most companies are fabless. They contract out the fab work to places like TSMC (amongst others - they're all well known). These include even heavyweight giants like nVidia, Altera, Xilinx and such. The only real downside is that delays can happen if machinery breaks down, or everyone submits a fab order simultaneously that causes backups at the fab and thus delays shipments. The turnaround time (from tapeout to getting chips back) can be 3 months or more. Luckily, most people test their designs out on FPGAs first to work out their bugs before committing them to silicon. Even places like Intel use computer simulation, discrete circuits, FPGAs, and such before they fab it out to their own fabs just because of the turnaround time.

Of course, what I want to know is what's the smallest FPGA one can put this on and still have something workable. (Where things like bus timings and memory clocks still in the realm of "practical" and "in spec").

Re:Home fabbing (3, Interesting)

FrankSchwab (675585) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678351)

Actually, the cost for one-offs is significantly lower than your estimate.
By using a Shuttle run, where the fab batches together a bunch of designs and runs them through using a single mask set, you can get 20 or so instances of a 130 nm design for roughly $100K. Of course, this assumes that you've already done the layout and verification steps yourself...

Re:Home fabbing (2, Informative)

alienw (585907) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679201)

I'd say you can do significantly cheaper, at least for small die sizes. I have seen prices as low as $20k for 100+ chips (on a multiproject wafer). Of course, this pretty much depends on the process and on how long you can wait. And the chip layout/synthesis/verification software costs several hundred thousand bucks per year per seat.

Re:Home fabbing (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21678411)

You're a child beater

Re:Home fabbing (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21678299)

Look here for fab costs.
http://www.mosis.com/ [mosis.com]

Packaging is crucial to making the thing work too, however.

CAD tools to convert the RTL into GDS is also very expensive.

turds now tasty (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21677997)

A few years ago, while browsing around the library downtown, I
had to take a piss. As I entered the john a big beautiful all-American
football hero type, about twenty-five, came out of one of the booths.
I stood at the urinal looking at him out of the corner of my eye as he
washed his hands. He didn't once look at me. He was "straight" and
married - and in any case I was sure I wouldn't have a chance with
him.

As soon as he left I darted into the booth he'd vacated,
hoping there might be a lingering smell of shit and even a seat still
warm from his sturdy young ass. I found not only the smell but the
shit itself. He'd forgotten to flush. And what a treasure he had left
behind. Three or four beautiful specimens floated in the bowl. It
apparently had been a fairly dry, constipated shit, for all were fat,
stiff, and ruggedly textured. The real prize was a great feast of turd
- a nine inch gastrointestinal triumph as thick as a man's wrist.

I knelt before the bowl, inhaling the rich brown fragrance and
wondered if I should obey the impulse building up inside me. I'd
always been a heavy rimmer and had lapped up more than one little
clump of shit, but that had been just an inevitable part of eating ass
and not an end in itself. Of course I'd had jerk-off fantasies of
devouring great loads of it (what rimmer hasn't), but I had never done
it. Now, here I was, confronted with the most beautiful five-pound
turd I'd ever feasted my eyes on, a sausage fit to star in any fantasy
and one I knew to have been hatched from the asshole of the world's
handsomest young stud.

Why not? I plucked it from the bowl, holding it with both
hands to keep it from breaking. I lifted it to my nose. It smelled
like rich, ripe limburger (horrid, but thrilling), yet had the
consistency of cheddar. What is cheese anyway but milk turning to shit
without the benefit of a digestive tract?

I gave it a lick and found that it tasted better then it
smelled. I've found since then that shit nearly almost does.

I hesitated no longer. I shoved the fucking thing as far into
my mouth as I could get it and sucked on it like a big brown cock,
beating my meat like a madman. I wanted to completely engulf it and
bit off a large chunk, flooding my mouth with the intense, bittersweet
flavor. To my delight I found that while the water in the bowl had
chilled the outside of the turd, it was still warm inside. As I chewed
I discovered that it was filled with hard little bits of something I
soon identified as peanuts. He hadn't chewed them carefully and they'd
passed through his body virtually unchanged. I ate it greedily,
sending lump after peanutty lump sliding scratchily down my throat. My
only regret was the donor of this feast wasn't there to wash it down
with his piss.

I soon reached a terrific climax. I caught my cum in the
cupped palm of my hand and drank it down. Believe me, there is no more
delightful combination of flavors than the hot sweetness of cum with
the rich bitterness of shit.

Afterwards I was sorry that I hadn't made it last longer. But
then I realized that I still had a lot of fun in store for me. There
was still a clutch of virile turds left in the bowl. I tenderly fished
them out, rolled them into my handkerchief, and stashed them in my
briefcase. In the week to come I found all kinds of ways to eat the
shit without bolting it right down. Once eaten it's gone forever
unless you want to filch it third hand out of your own asshole. Not an
unreasonable recourse in moments of desperation or simple boredom.

I stored the turds in the refrigerator when I was not using
them but within a week they were all gone. The last one I held in my
mouth without chewing, letting it slowly dissolve. I had liquid shit
trickling down my throat for nearly four hours. I must have had six
orgasms in the process.

I often think of that lovely young guy dropping solid gold out
of his sweet, pink asshole every day, never knowing what joy it could,
and at least once did, bring to a grateful shiteater.

Re:turds now tasty (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21678393)

tucker max!

I just witnessed a minor miracle, I think (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21678001)

Someone corrected the spelling of "Niagra" to "Niagara" - ScuttleMonkey, if it was you, I congratulate you!

Honestly :) Good job!

Re:I just witnessed a minor miracle, I think (3, Funny)

eulernet (1132389) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678213)

Yes, and I read Viagra. It's time to go to bed !

Re:I just witnessed a minor miracle, I think (1)

Enry (630) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679121)

Niagara Falls!

Slowly I turned....

Re:I just witnessed a minor miracle, I think (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21679331)

Step by Step, Mile by Mile...

Openbsd (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21678033)

I can remember when the OpenBSD crew was having issues getting sparc specs. My how times have changed.

Re:Openbsd (1)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678633)

I suspect that this would never have happened if it weren't for the efforts made by the OpenBSD crew to get information out of Sun.

Any insiders want to post anonymously about how we got here with Sun?

Re:Openbsd (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678955)

I doubt if the OpenBSD thing has anything to do with this. It's more in response to the fact that it's hard to sell SPARC-based systems as long as the CPU is perceived as a Sun-proprietary technology. So Sun opens up the SPARC design, and this allows them to claim that their chips are "commodity", just like AMD and Intel's.

Re:Openbsd (4, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679527)

The Microprocessor's instruction set has been open for decades. It's all the hardware around the SPARC processor that OpenBSD had trouble getting info on. Sun used to make a huge number of hardware devices for which they provided no documentation on the internals. Of course, these days, most of it is pretty standard. But back then, hearing words like "SBUS" used to make people shudder.

Re:Openbsd (1)

chriscappuccio (80696) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679173)

No, OpenBSD still can't get the specs. It's very odd that Sun open-sources their CPU design, yet they still keep the rest of the chips so proprietary that you can't even get software documentation to program them. OpenBSD (and everyone else) still can't get basic specs to anything beyond the CPU itself. All support of newer Sun systems is done by reverse engineering OpenSolaris and Linux code.

Open Source friendly? (0, Troll)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678041)

From the criticisms I have been reading over the net, Sun has been hiding information on how to get their hardware working in Linux. Hardly what I would call a committed player to open source software. Am I wrong on this?

In any case what they have just done sounds more like they just want people to peer review their work rather then release anything useful. I wonder what they'd do if someone started selling processors based on the information they just released.

Re:Open Source friendly? (4, Informative)

georgewilliamherbert (211790) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678121)

I wonder what they'd do if someone started selling processors based on the information they just released.

The RTL code (Verilog) is GPLed:
http://www.opensparc.net/faqs/licensing/ [opensparc.net]

Other people have built and are shipping product with the prior T1 version, the SimpleRISC folks:
http://www.srisc.com/?s1 [srisc.com]

The licensing pretty much says "Here, have it, have fun!"

Is the hardware any good though? (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678349)

Awesome, do you happen to know how well these things work compared to other processors?

My only experience with Sun hardware is from the slow out dated machines we have running here.

Re:Is the hardware any good though? (4, Informative)

_merlin (160982) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678585)

It's basically a multi-core barrel processor - it switches threads on every cycle (similar to the old Cray and CDC gear). This gives it time to fetch data while other threads are being serviced to reduce the likelihood of cache misses. This makes it ideal for highly parallel workloads, like web application servers and multi-user database servers. But the workload needs to be highly parallel for it to perform: a quad core Niagara needs at least sixteen threads to be fully utilised. It has weak floating point, too, since web application and database workloads don't usually depend heavily on this. It's pretty much useless for a typical desktop or workstation workload.

Re:Is the hardware any good though? (2, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678725)

Then I guess one area that open source hardware nerds can work on is to rework the FPU to be faster. If people can load the files into an FPGA and get comparable results on maths-heavy software to a full hardware implementation of the T2 as it stands, I would imagine the scientific computing folk would go for the FPGA solution as it would be cheaper so they could build more nodes for the same amount of money.

Sun is a lot of things, some unprintable, but stupid isn't one of them. If it can be shown that a T2 with stronger maths will sell better than the T2 as-is, then you will see a T2 with stronger maths in very short order.

There are other things Sun could include in the processor. I am, to this day, a devoted fan of direct CPU-to-CPU channels for multi-processor systems. Inmos' Transputer let you build hypercubes of processors as large as you liked without scaling issues. Xyron's ZOTS also seems an interesting technology, even if nobody uses it at this time. The potential wishlist of things that could be added without wrecking the design is large. Given that the core is GPLed, it would seem to make sense to experiment with some of those ideas. See what would actually work in practice, with the possibility that some vendor (not necessarily Sun) will chase the idea and turn it into a reality.

Re:Is the hardware any good though? (3, Informative)

EvanED (569694) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678875)

Then I guess one area that open source hardware nerds can work on is to rework the FPU to be faster.

It's not so much that the FPU is slow as, at least on the T1 (Niagra 1), there was only one of them for the whole chip. The applications the Niagra targets don't really need FPU power (how much FP work does /.'s webserver do?), and Sun is fairly close to production of the Rock, a processor that in some sense is similar to the Niagra but will also have much heavier FP capabilities. (In a development that is pretty exciting for the architecture people down the hall, the Rock will be the first commercial system supporting transactional memory.)

Re:Is the hardware any good though? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21679565)

It is fancier than a barrel processor, there are two integer pipes per core and the thread picker dynamically picks threads. In other words a single thread can go down the pipe more often than once every eight cycles. It is true though that you'll get more work done on a core with several threads running than with just one.

The floating point unit is pretty powerful as well, the benchmarks are quite good.

And it works fairly well as my desktop, though I use it via VNC. I don't run any heavy graphics on it though.

Re:Is the hardware any good though? (4, Interesting)

dr2chase (653338) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679695)

(disclaimer, I work for Sun, but I manage to be completely clueless about many things, including the official names of Sun's products)

Niagara 1, had one FPU per chip. Niagara 2, has more than one.

The way you pose it -- doesn't perform unless you can find the parallelism -- is not the right way. Some clever person found a market where there was parallelism, and that turns the problem around. "Given that I have all this work to do, what's the throughput per watt?" Niagara wins there. And it happened that those people, or a lot of them, didn't have a burning need for floating point.

Or to use a lame car analogy, a schoolbus is no good unless you can find 32 kids to haul, whereas a minicooper is cool and zippy with only two. But if you regularly have 32 kids to haul, and some people do, you want a schoolbus, and a minicooper is not very efficient.

Re:Is the hardware any good though? (2, Informative)

downix (84795) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678671)

In my experience, in a single threaded task, an AMD or Intel of the same spec will blow it away. Crank up the threads, and something remarkable happens. The AMD/Intel stays running the same speed, this thing speeds up. Run 4 threads simultaneously, and this thing is running circles around similar spec'd AMD/Intel, and doing it in a lot less silicon, which means theoretically a lower price. Think of it as a marathon runner vs a sprinter. In short term races, the sprinter comes out on top. In a long distance (heavy load) race, the marathon runner comes out on top.

you cant hide what doesnt exist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21678189)

You are implying that they know how to get it working in Linux. Do you really think they put resources into that .. into figuring it out and or documenting it? For what purpose??

Re:you cant hide what doesnt exist (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678331)

I am saying that from what I have been reading that people are complaining about them [Sun] not releasing information they [open source programmers] need to get their hardware working in Linux.

Re:Open Source friendly? (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678371)

Sun's in sort of a weird position. They have largely embraced OSS (witness the fact that they open sourced most notably SPARC, OpenSolaris, and Java), but I think are not entirely at ease with it. From at least one point of view, they have a lot to lose from Linux taking over for Solaris. OpenSolaris is also under the CDDL, which is not GPL-compatible. I wouldn't be surprised if the incompatibility is viewed as a benefit by a lot of Sun, rather than a bug.

So they may not be perfect, but they are a heck of a lot better than most companies.

Re:Open Source friendly? (1)

davecb (6526) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678497)

I suspect the more stringent licenses are for things that can be embraced and extended, possibly by a particular well-known competitor to Java (;-))

--dave

Re:Open Source friendly? (1)

init100 (915886) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678635)

OpenSolaris is also under the CDDL, which is not GPL-compatible.

Isn't it also released under the GPLv3? Anyway, I'm pretty certain that they chose both CDDL and GPLv3 expressly to be incompatible with the Linux kernel, which could otherwise have all their nice features (like ZFS) leaving OpenSolaris with no advantage over Linux.

Re:Open Source friendly? (5, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678883)

I'd love to know where people like you get this kind of insight from.. Sun is an open source company.. they always have been. They were doing open source before "the revolution" even happened. They're more than "at ease" with it, they have some of the oldest living open source hackers on payroll.

As for this whole "oh noes!! Linux might takeover from Solaris!!" crap, why do people continue to ascribe the Microsoft world view - everything and everyone is a competitor - to other companies? Sun and IBM and every other normal company (read: not a monopoly) has one business strategy: give the customer what they want. If the customer wants Linux, Sun will sell them Linux. If the customer wants Solaris, Sun will sell them Solaris. If the customer wants Intel or AMD or SPARC, Sun will sell them that. IBM will also sell you Linux or Aix or Intel or AMD or SPARC.. if you want to pay them for that, that's what you'll get. It's only Microsoft who seems to think they can dictate the solutions to the customers instead of the other way around.

Re:Open Source friendly? (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679059)

If the customer wants Linux, Sun will sell them Linux. If the customer wants Solaris, Sun will sell them Solaris. If the customer wants Intel or AMD or SPARC, Sun will sell them that. IBM will also sell you Linux or Aix or Intel or AMD or SPARC.

Yes, this is true. But I bet that if you asked them, they would prefer to be selling you Sparc and Solaris, and would prefer if Linux were not as big as it is.

Re:Open Source friendly? (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679097)

Not really. Obviously they would prefer that the solutions they have expertise in be the ones wanted by the customer, so they can best serve the customer, but that's about it.

Re:Open Source friendly? (1)

tcampb01 (101714) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678395)

Yes, I think you are wrong on this.

The processor is open-source (OpenSPARC), Sun's own operating system port on the processor is also open-source (OpenSolaris), and of course Linux is open-source. If someone wants to go through the labor-of-love to port Linux to SPARC then there's nothing "hidden".

Sun sells x86-based machines that run Linux and I think they'll even sell you a Linux distro to go with the box (of course you don't need to get from them... any distro will do.)

I fail to see the conspiracy angle.

Re:Open Source friendly? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21678581)

Sun licensed SPARC to Texas Instruments, Cypress Semiconductor, and Fujitsu and used their chips in their machines.

I've head the OSS guy at Sun say that they are happy for anyone to build them and they'll be happy to buy them from whoever gives them the best deal.

sun4m and other "they don't exist, don't ask"'s (1)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679047)

You are right - some of their older hardware that still is quite usable except for them cutting out support at inopportune times. They've kept 8bit cg* framebuffers yet dropped 24bit ZX's from existence. They kept [very limited] sbus in Opensolaris, yet have made a conscious effort to erase Sparcstations from ever existing in the code.

Should you run into a SunPC or similar, that will bite doubly for being Solaris only (and for versions that may not be in circulation).

Now if you run into something on the order of an E10k, and dont mind powering it, Sun would rather you not [no.spam.ee] .

If they were to clean up Solaris 9 and have it up to speed as best as you can expect a SS/10 (or a Ross SS/20) to run it, that codebase would probably be fine enough.

When you have to pull teeth for their own hardware, they certainly are not going to be any better (See SunPC, E10k's with their hardware license keys) with Linux.

bmc, this definitely applies to you(and those who've dropped the axe):
"The past has been erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth"

Re:Open Source friendly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21679873)

Sun is definitely opening up their hardware specs / documentation to the public. All you have to do is ask. A lot of documentation is out there already. See the following for details:

http://wikis.sun.com/display/FOSSdocs/Home [sun.com] This is their FOSS Open Hardware Documentation information that has all the info OpenBSD and Linux developers have been asking for about the processors and supporting chipsets for things like Gigabit Ethernet, PCIe root complexes, PCI bridges, UPA bridges, and even their brand new 10 Gig Ethernet Chip, Neptune.

You can request more docs on this page. So if there's any Sun hardware that's not supported in your favorite open source *NIX, request the hardware docs there!

2.6.23 or 2.6.24 has a Sun Neptune Network driver added to it (presumably coded using these docs).

http://www.sun.com/processors/documentation.html [sun.com] (sun.com) This is more Hardware documentation on their chips some of which is linked from their wiki

http://blogs.sun.com/barton808/entry/let_there_be_docs [sun.com] (blogs.sun.com) Here is the background information on the OpenDocs Project.

This is... (5, Funny)

larpon (974081) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678207)

Sun Viagra 2 CPU... Ok.. I need glasses

Re:This is... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21678511)

Sun Viagra 2 CPU... Ok.. I need glasses


Sun should market it as such, after all, you never want your server to go down.

Re:This is... (1)

larpon (974081) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678841)

I woooon't let the sun go down on... argh forget it..

Re:This is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21679415)

You can imagine how many times we made that joke over the last few years.

Too bad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21678295)

SPARC kinda bites... there are other RISC processors that are more interesting.

Re:Too bad... (1)

downix (84795) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678479)

I prefer MIPS, but SPARC is a close second for favor, mostly due to the open source nature of the design. This is no less than the 4th major SPARC CPU in open source.

Re:Too bad... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21678661)

Yes, but while the register windows were an interesting research project, my opinion is that they weren't worth the complexity and wasted resources they became. After all, you can only make so many calls before the windows run out and then it's similar to a regular CPU but still paying the complexity of having to dork with the windows. And with so many registers, it probably would have been more interesting to have all of them available to the programmer/compiler than just a small subset (and the compiler could have done windowing on its own if it wanted instead of being forced by hardware) with all the hardware complexity.

SPARCs never were about performance though (although there have been some that had reasonable performance for their time). I also liked the MIPS processors as far as load/store went. Other than that, Alpha was OK. I cut my teeth on the M68K family so I guess I'll always like them :)

I worked with Suns from the 3/50 days, 4, and then SPARCs up until the UltraIIIs (desktops and servers). I always liked the machines (they were usually very stable, there were notable exceptions but most of the time they were solid machines). Good workhorses but not necessarily racehorses.

I actually have the spindle/platters from an old IPI drive (500M or so, IIRC) sitting in my living room, pulled out of drive when we were decomissioning all of our IPI drives.

Re:Too bad... (2, Interesting)

downix (84795) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678735)

Well, that "too complex" windowing capability is one of the reasons why the Niagra core can run 4 threads simultaneously. It has 4 windows, and swaps them automatically, enabling a deeper pipeline without breaking the ISA. So, the compiler sees ALU's rather than 1.

In addition, I rolled my own 32-bit SPARC once with only 2 register windows, with the compiler did not control. What you had was a "program" window and an "interrupt" window. So when interrupts happened, rather than having to save the register state before dealing with it, you immediately switched windows and bam, have a completely clean slate of registers to work with.

Re:Too bad... (1)

wik (10258) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679843)

At least in T1, there are 8 windows for each strand (thread), so 32 windows total. The register file design supports fast window switches within a strand (3 cycles) and can switch between strands on every cycle. The megacell guide included with the RTL has a detailed description of how this really works.

The T1 pipeline is just 6 stages (not terribly deep), while the T2 just adds a bypass stage.

Relevance to Joe Consumer (1)

flowerp (512865) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678313)

I kind of wonder what the relevance of the availability of the
blueprint of a modern multithreaded special-purpose server
CPU means to the average Joe.

Probably not much, unless Joe has got an degree with a specialization
in computer science or electrical engineering.

Re:Relevance to Joe Consumer (5, Insightful)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678383)

I kind of wonder what the relevance of the availability of the
blueprint of a modern multithreaded special-purpose server
CPU means to the average Joe.

Probably not much, unless Joe has got an degree with a specialization
in computer science or electrical engineering.


The vast majority of (bachelors level) computer science degrees don't involve anywhere near enough focus on hardware issues for the "blueprint" of their CPU to be of any real use. The low level source of a CPU is of direct use to a vanishingly small subset of people. But, so is the source of the Linux kernel. I've never submitted a patch to the kernel. I wouldn't know where to start, frankly. And, I'm moderately qualified to do so, having done a fair amount of C, and a bit of embedded programming. I'm certainly more qualified to tinker with the kernel than I am with CPU source.

But, that sort of isn't the point. The fact that you and I wouldn't know where to start with something like that doesn't change the fact that such people do exist. And, there are some people who can't do anything with it, but are really curious to know more about what it is, and this may be the spark that makes them decide to learn. You and I may get the result of one of those guys having access to this. so, even though my own project plans won't be influenced by the availablity, I do expect that you and I will be effected by it indirectly.

Re:Relevance to Joe Consumer (1)

init100 (915886) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678677)

You and I may get the result of one of those guys having access to this. so, even though my own project plans won't be influenced by the availablity, I do expect that you and I will be effected by it indirectly.

Which, incidentally, also applies to open source software. Many people sneer at open source software, saying that they and 99% of all people wouldn't know what to do with it anyway, so why should they care. You just wrote a nice explanation for those people.

Re:Relevance to Joe Consumer (3, Insightful)

NovaX (37364) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679421)

While software folks may not understand the hardware world, its quite sad that hardware folks rarely understand the software side as well. One of the most challenging jobs, which gets little attention, is software-hardware codesign. Those applications, like Cadence VLSI suite, are quite challenging as they require EE expertise to implement features while software mastery to develop the product. This results in very advanced, but also very cryptic, software stacks.

I don't think open source hardware is too interesting or valuable, but I really hope software developers will feel comfortable enough to begin reading through HDL code just like they do their favorite open source project. Verilog/VHDL are both fairly old languages, though capable of doing some absolutely amazing tasks (I was in awe the first time I compiled my VHDL chip into a VLSI layout). It would be a really great to see language gurus apply the same innovative spirit towards modernizing HDL languages as they currently do in trying out different techniques in software languages (Haskell, Erlang, etc).

Re:Relevance to Joe Consumer (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678575)

It might end up driving costs down for alternatives to intel/amd.

It might not too, but its a least something to consider.

Re:Relevance to Joe Consumer (1)

alain94040 (785132) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678869)

Sun is opening the source code of their processors because they are losing the battle against x86 processors. Their marketshare of workstations and servers (not to mention PCs) is crashing. They hope (it won't happen) to get some momentum, maybe some second-tier vendor will build their next chip using a T2. I believe a few did for the T1 (the previous open source processor from Sun). It made no difference in marketshare.

If (it won't happen) more chips use Sparc cores inside, then the need for Sparc software and knowledge will grow, and Sun will eventually profit. They don't want the Sparc ecosystem (whatever is left of it) to die.

So I'll thank Sun for releasing such a big piece of RTL. In the field of hardware design, I think it's the largest open chip available. It means EDA tools will have one more testcase, their quality will improve. And that, in the end, will help the entire semiconductor industry. But not Sun especially. I'd recommend to sell your SUN stock if you have any.

Re:Relevance to Joe Consumer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21678941)

Yes indeed, the open sourcing of another SPARC processor will indeed hurt Sunoco, Inc, won't it? (hint, Sun Microsystems stock ticker is JAVA)

When is Open Source actually news? (0)

br1an.warner (1089965) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678335)

This does bring up a point. You can open source anything (and probably pick up some decent press off of it these days). But in a case like this, what does it really mean? It gets you points from those who either 1) don't understand you need a fab to do anything with this, 2) don't understand why you would open source a project, or 3) don't read the article. So really, if nobody's going to contribute changes, make a derivative work, or build one of these things from scratch, does this really mean anything at all? I'm inclined to say no.

Re:When is Open Source actually news? (5, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678379)

Dude. There's people who have made derivative works mentioned in the summary. You can't even be bothered reading the summary before posting? Wow.

Re:When is Open Source actually news? (3, Informative)

JebusIsLord (566856) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678409)

It means some other (large) company can take the design, improve it, release a product based on it without paying huge fees, and then contribute their changes back to the public domain. So no, it doesn't help joe user, but it does help industry players save on R&D, which is still a good thing.

Re:When is Open Source actually news? (2, Insightful)

ChrisA90278 (905188) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678443)

don't understand you need a fab to do anything with this,

Not quite.... One can burn this into an FPGA. I don't know how fast it would run but if the goal is to study and experiment with processor design then an FPGA is the tool. The purpose ere is to allow people to study and modify the CPU

Wikipeadia of course has some info
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field-programmable_gate_array [wikipedia.org]

Re:When is Open Source actually news? (1)

nahpets77 (866127) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679763)

Not to mention that soft-core processors are quite useful (for FPGA or ASIC). See the Xilinx Microblaze [wikipedia.org] and Altera Nios II [wikipedia.org] , which are commercial offerings. There is a large demand for open hardware (see http://opencores.org/ [opencores.org] and a processor core is an important building block. Just because you may never read the source, you can still instantiate them in your design and use them. How many of you have looked at the glibc source code? Doesn't stop people from using it.

21st century business plan (0, Troll)

karmaflux (148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678343)

1. Release unsalable product as open-source 2. ??? 3. Profit

Re:21st century business plan (2, Insightful)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678539)

I do wonder how Sun is going to make money the next century. They're trying new stuff, like opening up all their sources (java, solaris), but the money doesn't seem to be flowing back from these actions yet. Don't get me wrong, I think this might end up being really good for them selling the CPU in other devices, but I also think Sun makes pretty good products, and one of the last alternatives to the X86s, (for a huge price) and it would be sad if they went down.

Re:21st century business plan (5, Informative)

dupup (784652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678769)

I do wonder how Sun is going to make money the next century.

Disclosure: I work for Sun in their software division. This is not secret information, but Sun plans on making money in the next century by selling hardware. Lots and lots of hardware. Why buy it from Sun when you can get it cheaper from elsewhere? That's the other part of Sun's super secret master plan: support contracts. Business do tend to buy from Sun if they have already done so. Maybe it's just easier, maybe it makes the original decision to buy from Sun look better, I don't know. But Sun still sells $billions in hardware each year. The software revenues are a whole lot less.

Re:21st century business plan (4, Interesting)

jcnnghm (538570) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679067)

Hardware. I transitioned all of my company's servers to Sun (when they started selling x86 servers) over the last few years, and I couldn't be happier. The equipment is more expensive, but it is also of a superior quality and features real enterprise management features. Opening up Solaris had a lot to do with my initial decision, and I wouldn't be surprised if we don't transition to the T2 in the future. Since all of our servers are virtualized anyway, it isn't really a bad idea to move lots of small servers to a few big servers, and this open architecture will undoubtedly give some experts the opportunity to publish very in depth analysis of the chips.

JONATHAN SCHWARTZ .. (-1, Troll)

jvd (874741) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678355)

ISAMOTHERFUCKINGCOCKSUCKINGPOSER. Uh... sorry, they keys are like right next to each other.

What about patents? (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678399)

I noticed they released it under the GPL 2 (or is the chip design released under a different license?).

Does this mean they could attack a company that started selling their processor or one based on this information with a patent?

Re:What about patents? (2, Informative)

downix (84795) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678459)

Only if said company did not pay for the license. Incidentally, the basic SPARC license is $100.

FPGA Huggers (3, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678435)

in addition gives us FPGA-lovers something new to play with

How big an FPGA would be required to run this? Can you really download the configs and run it on an FPGA at a reasonable speed? Which Xilinx model?

How about running Linux on that simulated Niagara2, like you can uCLinux on a Microblaze [wikipedia.org] ? The exciting part would be replacing parts of the OS, like the TCP/IP stack, with "HW" configs for really high performance, customized per app. None of your processes use some dozen instructions? Drop their microcode in favor of a faster multiplier...

Re:FPGA Huggers (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678621)

If you have to ask, i bet they are out of your price range. The big ones are NOT cheap.

But ya, it can be done.

Re:FPGA Huggers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21679031)

"The numbers above clearly show that the S1 Core will not fit into any existing Spartan device; if you really plan to use FPGA technology you might consider using a Virtex 4 or 5 device with at least 100K LUTs." that is the S1 core wich are a simpleified version of the Niagara T1.
i guess the t2 is bigger but this still make's it possible to take some good code and build a smaller version

Re:FPGA Huggers (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679135)

You know, I've been tempted to get an FPGA eval kit just to play with. But it might just end up as more stuff filling up the closet.

When I first got interested in computer it was because I thought digital electronics were neat. Nands and nors and 7400 series TTL building blocks, etc. Then I ran across a book at a nearby junior college that was a bit higher level and discussed half-adders, registers, and built up to a 4-bit CPU near the end (I never found this book again). Then I was hooked, and that was the major I wanted when I went to college. The idea that hardware was just a bunch of Lego(tm) pieces that could be built up into something complex was attractive.

Except that I ended up doing software. Which isn't bad, I just wanted to learn both. The CS side of the department didn't do hardware except for VLSI routing algorithms, and the EE side didn't do digital. This was also before MOSIS was widely available as well, and we didn't have any cool projects like RISC or MIPS.

Later when I heard about FPGAs and CPLDs and such, I thought these would be great to play around with. The snag is that the design languages for them are too far removed from the gates underneath, and it seems more like writing a C program than snapping together Lego blocks. So I play around with TKGate now and then instead.

Re:FPGA Huggers (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679169)

The best apps for FPGA are glue logic. So if you want to lego together different digital chips, FPGA is a great way to go. And then there's a lot more, which your SW skills will help with. Take the plunge and do something new. There's plenty left to do that no one has yet before.

Re:FPGA Huggers (1)

hjf (703092) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679711)

you need to check your facts a little. I've seen FPGAs inside HDTV sets and Cisco routers (actually some Cisco WICs but that's not the point). And considering that FPGAs can work well over 500MHz and give you 600 Billion MACs/s (multiply-and-accumulate, the basic DSP operation), that's far away from your 7400 and 4500 families.

Re:FPGA Huggers (1)

eigendude (563238) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679819)

You can do quite a bit more in FPGA's than only glue logic (unless you meant CPLD's)...

Nowadays, even a relatively modest FPGA has enough logic resources to host a few 32-bit microcontroller cores such as Xilinx Microblaze or Altera NIOS. I am not talking about some 1 k$ FPGA here, but a Cyclone-II from Altera or a Spartan-III from Xilinx which can be bought for 30$ or so in quantities of 1.

Take any of the larger Virtex-II to Virtex-4 or Stratix FPGA's and you can host a whole lot of custom logic. More than anyone can design in many years of effort (unless you repeat the logic, or make 1000 bits wide buses, obviously). The only reasons that the industry still uses ASIC's a lot is because they are much cheaper in volume and you can usually get the logic to run at higher speed.

Re:FPGA Huggers (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679905)

Well, that is why I also mentioned MicroBlaze in this thread. But I was encouraging someone to start, whose original interest in electronics was based on "pluggable logic", which is a good intro to FPGAs.

Re:FPGA Huggers (1)

hjf (703092) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679723)

Come on, it's just $150 for the Spartan-3E starter kit (xilinx.com)

Also, it seems like writing a C program, but it's not. Remember that VHDL doesn't run line-by-line, most of the time is running all the lines at once. It's a description language, not a programming language.

Re:FPGA Huggers (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21679483)

You can't fit a whole N2 in any FPGA, but one of eight cores will fit and demonstrates the concepts. There is a reason Sun uses a custom LSI fab to build the chip after all.

And no, the FPGA is not terribly fast.

If you just want to run Linux you can do that on a T5120 as is, it works.

FPGA lovers (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678605)

Ya, we all have those HUGE ( read : expensive ) FPGAs required to implement something like this.

Many of us are lucky to fit a Z80 into what we have.

Re:FPGA lovers (2, Interesting)

nahpets77 (866127) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679807)

You may not be able to use them at home, but most university labs have expensive FPGAs lying around collecting dust. This is good news for people doing research at universities, where they often like to tinker with the hardware to try out new ideas.

Spice model of this chip (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21678903)

I've translated this chip design into an LTSpice model. I now run all my software on this spice model..

    and my computer is 100 times faster!

Government Technology Embargoes (1)

BearRanger (945122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21678909)

Granted, you can't build a fab in your basement. But I imagine governments don't have this problem.

What are the implications of Sun doing this? There are countries that wouldn't be allowed to buy their finished Niagara servers that could now, given time, reproduce their technology. Doesn't this make a mockery of the U.S. technology embargo against certain countries?

Perhaps I'm simply missing something, but if AMD can get into hot water over their processors showing up in Iran why does Sun get a pass for revealing how to construct similar technology? It can't just be immediacy. If anything wouldn't the "blueprints" be of more value than the finished product?

Re:Government Technology Embargoes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21679133)

Definitely not an expert on this, but I believe the answer is "Yes, they could." The second edition of Applied Cryptography has a note somewhere explaining that while the book with printed source code is exportable, the source code on disk isn't. I wouldn't be too surprised if this was a similar situation. Take that with a grain of salt, though, cause I'm really not sure.

Re:Government Technology Embargoes (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679539)

That's easy to fix. All they have to do is put a comment at the top of the CPU source code:

/* Assumed main clock frequency: 25MHz */

But seriously, this design info is just about useless without a $Billion fab full of equipment that these countries also aren't supposed to get. But why would they bother with all that when they can just buy quad core consumer PCs that rival the performance of these chips, and which are available to them on the open market from most any country other than the USA?

New GPL can of worms opening... (1)

droopycom (470921) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679019)

It is going to be interesting to see how the GPL is applied to RTL code.

For example, what constitutes derivatives and what can be considered mere-aggregation.

Also can I license an RTL block from another vendor and combine the two in a new chip ?

OSFPPC!! (2, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679049)

While we all might not have a silicon fab in the basement

You don't? How tragic. I'm afraid you'll have to hand in your geek card. In the meantime I wonder if the OLPC guys would consider a OSFPPC (One Silicon Fab Plant Per Child) program.

Someone try to synthesize it!! (1)

defro (857858) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679051)

I'd love to see the usage statistics of this design synthesized with ISE, Quartus or Synplify. How much would we have to cut-out to have it fit in an LX160 or similar????

Re:Someone try to synthesize it!! (1)

mako1138 (837520) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679715)

Well, I'm trying to synthesize a single core. ISE gets really sluggish when the file count gets large, so I'm doing it on the command line. So far I'm having to fix stuff like

ERROR:Xst - "/..\opensparc\design\sys\iop\spc\dec\rtl\dec_del_ctl.v" line 1102:
Module <dec_del_ctl_spare_ctl_macro__flops_0__num_6> has no port.
which points to something like

dec_del_ctl_spare_ctl_macro__flops_0__num_6 spares (
);
Perhaps there's a way to ignore these, but I don't know XST well enough.

Sun uses Synopsys for their synthesis needs, it seems.

Re:Someone try to synthesize it!! (2, Insightful)

wik (10258) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679739)

The statistics the T1 are available here:

http://fpga.sunsource.net/ [sunsource.net]

The most recent release of the T1 code has a few options for removing functionality (dropping to 1 core and 1 thread) such that it will fit on some of the larger available FPGAs.

Is it really released? I can't find a link (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679243)

I searched for a link to an actual download (yes, I have a use for the code). Opensparc.net just refers to the "Sun download Center" (no link). Searching on Sun's site, I can only turn up OpenSPARC T1 and not T2.

All right... (4, Funny)

sootman (158191) | more than 6 years ago | (#21679365)

who's the considerate jerk who tagged this story 'thanks'? We don't work that way here at Slashdot, buddy. When a company does something like this, you're supposed to tag it 'whocares' or 'toolittletoolate' or something equally dismissive. Damn noobs...
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