18 August 2003 Sun Microsystems is to unveil a new range of microprocessors designed to maximise the power of its blade servers, while minimising electricity consumption and heat dissipation.
Sun believes the processors will it to establish a clear lead in its battle to fight off rival servers built around Intel microprocessors.
Dubbed Gemini, the chips will contain two microprocessor cores embedded on one piece of silicon. The design will enable the chip to process two application threads and four instructions at the same time.
Combining the two cores onto the one chip will boost performance by between 80% and 90%, says Harlan McGhan, strategic marketing manager at Sun. The cores are also based on Sun’s UltraSparc II rather than the more recent UltraSparc III for two reasons, says McGhan.
First, the older cores consume less power and therefore emit less heat, which is a critical consideration for tightly packed blade servers. Second, using the older technology has enabled Sun to develop the new chip in just two years, helping it to get the product to market quicker.
Sun is following the example of rival IBM, which in October 2001 released Power4, the first server microprocessor to contain two cores. But Sun is also planning a successor, called Niagara, which will feature eight cores and be capable of handling a total of 32 instructions at any one time.
However, it is the software,the tools, the compilers and the operating systems that will largely determine the success or failure of the initiative.
The chips will debut at a modest clock speed of between 900MHz and 1.2GHz, will contain a 1MB cache, 512 kilobytes for each core, and will be built with 0.13 micron process technology. Servers featuring Gemini will appear from mid-2004 and Niagara from mid-2005.