Sun Microsystems unveiled its UltraSparc IV+ processor, previously codenamed Panther, Tuesday. The chip has a clock speed of 1.5GHz, not the 1.8GHz the company promised back in October of last year. However, the processor is one of Sun's first UltraSparc chips to feature an on-chip memory cache which the firm claims provides a major boost in performance.
Five Sun servers will initially be powered by the new UltraSparc IV+ chip -- the Sun Fire V490, V890, E2900, E4900 and E6900 models -- according to Fred Kohout, vice president of marketing at Sun's scalable systems group. The servers are available Tuesday, with entry-level pricing starting from $30,995.
The new UltraSparc IV+ servers will be the same price as existing models powered by UltraSparc IV chips and feature the same level of power emission as their predecessors, Kohout said in an interview last week.
"We've increased performance five times over the UltraSparc III-based systems we came out with in 2001 and double the performance of the UltraSparc IV," Kohout said describing the new UltraSparc IV+ chip. "We moved the level 2 [memory] cache onto the chip for better reliability and throughput, and we added a brand-new level 3 cache." The on-chip level 2 memory cache is 2M bytes, while the off-chip level 3 cache is 32M bytes, he added.
When Sun gave customers and analysts a first look at the UltraSparc IV+ processor at the Fall Processor Forum in October of last year, the company said the chip would ship in the middle of 2005 and have an initial clock speed of 1.8GHz. The next version of UltraSparc IV+ will ship with a 1.8GHz clock speed, Kohout confirmed, but he wouldn't commit to a release date for the chip. "It's on our radar," he said.
"Clock speed isn't the predominant issue [for our customers]," Kohout said. "We ship the frequency that we can deliver in the predicative fashion customers expect."
The UltraSparc IV+ processor is the first Sun chip to be manufactured using a 90-nanometer production process. Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) makes the chips to Sun's specifications. The new manufacturing process enables the placement of more features on the chip such as the level 2 cache, according to Kohout.
Organizations that have already tested UltraSparc IV+ include DaimlerChrysler, Nortel Networks, Northrop Grumman, and Oregon State University.
The College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences (COAS), a graduate research college of Oregon State University, carries out in-depth research on the interfaces between the oceans and the atmosphere, oceans and ice, land and sea, land and air, as well as deep oceans and the sea floor. The work involves computer modeling and simulations based on what Chuck Sears, manager of research computing at COAS, describes as "a series of intense workflow tasks created over many, many years."
Getting the right throughput from the college's computers is vital for its research. "The systems are absolutely critical to us," Sears said in an interview Monday. "We're very, very excited about UltraSparc IV+," he added. "It's an addition to the [Sparc] product line that allows us to get throughput at a very, very good ROI [return on investment]."
For COAS to try and improve throughput for its older Sun servers would take the college three to five man years for very little additional performance gain, he said.