Sun this week is unveiling its long-touted "Niagara" processor, the third major rollout in the past two months for the Santa Clara, Calif., company, which is aggressively trying to separate itself from its past as a vendor focused solely on its SPARC-Solaris platform for high-end customers. UltraSPARC T1, which will start appearing in systems by the end of the year, marks the largest advance to date in Sun's Throughput Computing strategy.
The chip offers eight cores per chip running up to four instruction threads each and addresses the growing issues of energy consumption and heat generation by using only 70 watts of power.
I recall being briefed on the Niagara roadmap circa 2000. Sun has had a poor delivery record in Sparc over the past several years. That has hurt the company; some say it has hurt badly. Wouldn't this technology have been market-turning, say, mid-2002?
With today's big Wall Street Journal story on computer power consumption, Sun's eight cores in a 70-watt envelope is the right recipe. Niagara is a big help to Sun's Sparc base, but I doubt it will shake the market's penchant for x64-based servers, in Sun's case, AMD Opterons.