Fujitsu, Sun Deliver Joint Sparc Enterprise Server Line
Published: April 19, 2007
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Sparc-based server makers Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu and the German-Japanese partnership Fujitsu-Siemens, which sells Sparc, Itanium, and Xeon servers in Europe, this week delivered what is being pitched as a jointly developed Sparc server product line called, appropriately enough, the Sparc Enterprise line.
How much joint development was done on the Sparc Enterprise servers is debatable. The entry products are essentially rebranded Sun T1000 and T2000 servers, which use the "Niagara" Sparc T1 multicore processor. In this case, joint development seems to mean spray painting them in the company colors. At the other end of the Sparc Enterprise server line, Fujitsu seems to have done all of the work, designing the dual-core Sparc64 VI "Olympus" chips and the "Jupiter" server frames that house them. What the Sparc Enterprise servers are, in truth, is a blending of two existing Solaris-compatible product lines from two companies that sometimes partner and sometimes compete.
The Sparc Enterprise line is the result of a partnership agreement that Sun and Fujitsu singed back in June 2004, when Sun had scrapped its own UltraSparc V "Millennium" chip and was looking for a stop-gap chip to carry it through to the "Rock" multicore and multithreaded processor and the related "Supernova" servers that are coming to market in 2008--on time, as far as anyone can tell. Fujitsu had originally planned to get its own PrimePower machines out the door using the Sparc64 VI chips in mid-2004 or so, and for whatever reason, the product was delayed just about the time that Sun came a-calling for a partnership. What is clear now is that the Advanced Product Line partnership, as this was code-named, was a means to give both Sun and Fujitsu a story to tell while they were waiting for their chips and servers to move from development to products. After the Sun-Fujitsu partnership was launched nearly three years ago, the companies said they expected to have the high-end servers to market by the middle of 2006. They are therefore nearly a year late coming to market.
The entry systems in the Sparc Enterprise line will be very familiar to those who follow Sun, since they are the T1000 and T2000 servers that have been sold by Sun since December 2005. The T1000 box is a 1U server with two disk that has a single T1 processor with either six or eight cores activated and running at 1 GHz; it supports up to 16 GB of main memory and has room for two disks. The T2000 server comes in a 2U chassis has a T1 chip with four, six, or eight cores activated at 1 GHz or eight cores activated at 1.2 GHz, up to 32 GB of main memory, and room for four disks.
The Fujitsu and Fujitsu-Siemens side of the APL partnership did not supply prices for the badged versions of the T1000 and T2000 servers that they will sell, but they cannot be too far off whatever Sun will sell. Only Solaris 10 is supported on these machines, and Sun and Fujitsu will presumably differentiate on the software stack above this, ancillary services they provide, and historical access to customers in specific geographies.
The new machines in the Sparc Enterprise line include the midrange line, the M-Series, and a high-end line, which should have probably been called the HE-Series or the H-Series, seems to also carry the M moniker in its name. The documentation the companies provided was not clear. In any event, these Sparc Enterprise machines are based on the long-awaited Fujitsu Sparc64 VI chip. These chips run at 2.15 GHz, 2.28 GHz, and 2.4 GHz, and they have two threads per core, for a total of four cores per CPU socket. That's as good as IBM and Intel can deliver with their high-end chips, and better than Sun can do with the UltraSparc-IV+ chips. The Sparc64 VI processors can do four floating point operations per core, which will make them interesting for supercomputer clustering, given the large shared memory and high memory and I/O bandwidth in the boxes. Like other big servers, it tops out at 256 software threads, the current upper limit among servers of all kinds right now.
The M-Series line uses dual-core Sparc64 VI chips that run at 2.15 GHz and which include 5 MB of shared L2 cache on each chip. The M4000 machine has four CPU sockets and supports up to 128 GB of ECC DDR2 main memory (using 4 GB DIMMs) that can, if customers want, be mirrored for absolutely high availability. The memory subsystem also includes chipkill electronics for correcting certain errors for customers who do not want to mirror main memory. The M4000 comes in a 6U rack-mounted form factor and has room for two 2.5-inch SAS drives; it has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, four PCI-Express slots, and one PCI-X slot. This box supports up to two hardware partitions, each of which can house a completely Solaris 10 instance and, if customers want to get crazy, can then have Solaris containers inside that for further logical machine granularity. The M5000 machine is essentially two of the M4000s crammed into a 10U chassis and linked in an SMP cluster that shares the memory across both boards and provides coherency across the L2 cache memories on the Sparc64 VI chips.
The high-end of the Sparc Enterprise line is comprised of three machines, and they offer the 2.28 GHz and 2.4 GHz Sparc64 VI processors as an option; these have 6 MB of L2 cache memory. The M8000 has 16 processors, or a total of 32 cores, and has up to 512 GB of main memory, 32 PCI-Express slots, and room for 16 2.5-inch disks. The box supports up to 16 partitions. The M9000-32 and the M9000-64 models gang up two or four of the M8000 machines into a single system image. The largest machine, the M9000-64, has 64 processors, 128 cores, and 256 threads in the processor complex; up to 2 TB of main memory; and 128 PCI-Express slots. These two machines max out at 24 partitions for reasons that Fujitsu promises it will explain.
Both Sun and Fujitsu were a little vague about pricing, but the M4000 machine will start at around $50,000 and range up to $200,000, with the price depending on the amount of processors in the box. The M8000 starts at around $200,000 and scales up into the millions of dollars. The companies did not provide detailed performance data yet, but executives from Sun and Fujitsu said that on real-world workloads typical of high-end RISC/Unix servers, customers should expect about 50 percent more performance than the current Sun Fire and PrimePower products lines from Sun and Fujitsu, respectively.
The Sparc Enterprise Servers would have perhaps changed finances of both Sun and Fujitsu in the server racket had they come to market under a partnership in 2004 or 2005, and would have been helpful if they had come to market in mid-2006 as planned. However, it is debatable how damaging the delay has been.
Intel was late by about 18 months with its dual-core "Montecito" Itanium 9000s and IBM under-delivered on its Power5+ performance objectives and is later than many expected getting the Power6 chips to market, which should appear some time in the second half of this year. (There are rumors that it has slipped, but IBM has not yet confirmed any of them.) The fact that Fujitsu had hoped to get servers based on the dual-core Sparc64 VI chips out in mid-2004 and to ship quad-core Sparc64 VII chips in early 2006 means that Fujitsu is well behind its plans. Sun was also unable to get the performance of its "Panther" UltraSparc-IV+ as high as it had hoped, too, and has only recently been able to push the clock speeds on these processors to 1.9 GHz and 2.1 GHz--and only in very small volumes because there just is no more gas in this design. The delays since the APL partnership was announced forced Sun to push the Panther line harder than it otherwise might have and also shrunk the sales window for the midrange and high-end Sparc Enterprise machines, with Rock-based machines probably a little more than a year away.
Having said all of that, what all of these chip makers are trying to do is very, very difficult, and increasingly so given the complexity of the processors and the shrinking size of the chips. What is amazing is when chip makers hit their targets, and they usually do so only when the market gives them sufficient lead time for development and competitors also trip up.
Sun, Fujitsu Ready APL Sparc-Based Systems for Launch
Fujitsu Draws Sparc64 Roadmap Past 2010
Fujitsu-Siemens Keeps Rolling on Sparc64, Itanium Roadmaps
Sun Reveals Details on APL Partnership with Fujitsu
Sun Allies with Fujitsu for Future Joint Sparc Platform
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