Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Niagara 2 i.e. UltraSparc T2

It's very sad that most of the processor news in the world is confined to x86 only. When I commented on processors last year, I mentioned Niagara chip ie UltraSparc T1. Now Sun has come out with the second version of the energy efficient Niagara 2, officially named UltraSparc T2. With 8 cores in the chip and 8 threads per core it will have a total of 64 hardware threads. The 8 threads in each core would run in an I/O multiplexed way i.e. at any time only 1 thread can run and another thread will switch in if the running thread enters I/O cycle. That means at any point of time, 8 threads will be running simultaneously in the chip. UltraSparc T1 was similar but had 4 threads per core, for a total of 32 threads.

From the webcast on Sun's page, I found the following interesting information on T2 chip:

One major difference between T2 and T1 is that T2 has a floating point unit on each core. T1 had one such unit for the entire chip that made it practically useless for floating-point intensive tasks. T2 thus seems to have taken care of that limitation. T2 threads run at 1.4 GHz.

For crypto intensive tasks there is a cryptographic processor unit on each core. Also, there are two PCI express I/O ports on the chip as well as integrated 10 Gb Ethernet.

Sun aims to sell this chip to other vendors as well if they want to use it in their servers. This is a departure from its earlier policy where it used its chips only in its servers and sold those servers.

This chip seems great for multi-threaded applications written in languages such as Java.

One thing that was funny in the webcast was that T2 was getting marketed as the fastest processor at 89.6 GHz. It was simply calculated by multiplying 64 by 1.4 GHz.
It was like saying a train with 10 coaches running at 100 miles/hr the fastest vehicle at 1000 km/hr!

A few times during the webcast it was mentioned that 64 Operating systems could run simultaneously in 64 threads due to LDom technology. I think they were talking about zones, and not really different OS's. Or is it possible to really run different OS's in that way? I think not but correct me if I am wrong.

UltraSparc T2 sure is a great chip with energy efficiency and should give good throughput for well written applications, at a very low form-factor in a data center.

2 comments: said...

I'm curious about this as well. Is the thought that Xen will be ported to work on the T2 and that Sun is really going to be making a push to make it stable?

Also, I've heard talk of being able to buy the hardware without buying a whole Sun box, I'm sure it will still be entirely too expensive for home users, not that a home user would really capitolize on all of that power anyways.

If you know anything on this subject please let me know:
mschenck AT tek-ops DOT com

Anonymous said...

LDOM is not Zones. Yes, you can boot multiple operating systems at the same time. Think of it as hard partitioning, and zones as soft.