Thursday, August 9, 2007

UltraSparc T2 : Mainframe-on-a-chip?

In my previous post, I wondered whether Niagara 2 (ULtraSparc T2) could run 64 different OS instances or were they just Solaris Zones (containers). It is confirmed that it could indeed run 64 OS instances using LDom built-in technology in T2. I found this Sun blog post that demonstrates 64 instances of Solaris running in 64 T2 threads. In another post it goes further and shows Solaris and Ubuntu running simultaneously. That makes T2 one helluva multicore chip!

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.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Preventing Gmail cookie stealing

There has been a news of a vulnerability from the use of cookies by email sites like Gmail at Wi-Fi hotspots. Cookies can be stolen by using sniffing softwares and entire session can be hijacked to do malicious things on the target accounts. A simple method to stop such attacks is to use SSL for the entire session, not just for login that gmail does by default. A nice add-on from CustomizeGoogle can be used for making sessions use SSL. In addition, there are many other cool features we get on installing this add-on to Firefox browser. These features can be selected from Tools menu of Firefox and includes options such as making ads invisible in gmail and google search results. Also, links to search results from Yahoo and other popular search engines can be added for the same search string in Google search.