Volume 3, Number 6 -- February 16, 2006

Sun Promises to Put Sparc T1 Processor in Netra Blade Servers

Published: February 16, 2006

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

Sun Microsystems said this week that it would be bringing its "Niagara" Sparc T1 processors to its carrier-grade Solaris servers for service providers and network equipment providers, giving these customers what will probably be a pretty substantial performance boost as well as a much lower power profile than would be possible with high-end UltraSparc processors or competing X86 and X64 architectures.

Kirk Mosher, director of telecom marketing at Sun's Scalable Systems Group, which makes and markets Sun's Sparc-based systems, says that the Niagara chips will appear in blade servers that adhere to the AdvancedTCA telecom blade standard, and that telecom and service provider will be particularly excited about Niagara for two reasons. First, an ACTA blade (which has a different form factor and a different interconnect from the many different styles of commercial blade servers) has a 200-watt thermal envelope limit, and with the Niagara chip burning only about 70 watts when it is running at peak load, that leaves about 130 watts left over for memory and other gadgets. Moreover, the Niagara chip will, base don the SPECjbbWeb benchmark tests that Sun has run, deliver about three times the performance as blades based on the Intel 64-bit "Nocona" Xeon DP processors. More performance and less watts and still running the Solaris operating system that telecom and SP customers love means that Sun has a fighting chance to win back some big business that it has lost over the past five years.

"There is no other processor that can meet the needs of these customers," brags Mosher, "and Sun will have significant leadership in ACTA blades. Our T1 blades will ultimately save companies millions of dollars in power, cooling, and space--and no one is going to match us."

The Netra machine that Sun will launch at the end of 2006 will put a dozen blades in a 12U ACTA chassis, including dual redundant switching infrastructure. It will be able to pack 96 cores, 384 threads, and, with 16 GB per blade, 192 GB of main memory in that chassis. This is a fairly large amount of capacity compared to the Netra blade and rack-mounted servers based on the UltraSparc-IIIi chips. By the way, Sun is not abandoning these products, but will continue to sell both Niagara and UltraSparc-IIIi Netra machines. The Netras, like other telecom servers, run on DC power and have other form factor restrictions that make them distinct from enterprise blade servers. Telecom customers also get a standard form factor and chassis, while enterprise customers do not. Sun will obviously emphasize its Solaris software stack and its add-on Netra HA Suite clustering software, high availability clustering software made specifically to fit the needs of telecom and SP customers.

Sun also plans to create a Netra server based on the "Galaxy" T2000 server, which is a two-socket Opteron machine. Sun is also expected to create a single-socket, dual-core Opteron ACTA blade server, too.

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Editor: Timothy Prickett Morgan
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik,
Shannon O'Donnell, Timothy Prickett Morgan
Publisher and Advertising Director: Jenny Thomas
Advertising Sales Representative: Kim Reed
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