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Sun Microsystems Technology

Sun To Release 8-Core Niagara 2 Processor 214

An anonymous reader writes "Sun Microsystems is set to announce its eight-core Niagara 2 processor next week. Each core supports eight threads, so the chip handles 64 simultaneous threads, making it the centerpiece of Sun's "Throughput Computing" effort. Along with having more cores than the quads from Intel and AMD, the Niagara 2 have dual, on-chip 10G Ethernet ports with cryptographic capability. Sun doesn't get much processor press, because the chips are used only in its own CoolThreads servers, but Niagara 2 will probably be the fastest processor out there when it's released, other than perhaps the also little-known 4-GHz IBM Power 6."
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Sun To Release 8-Core Niagara 2 Processor

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  • Trust me... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak@@@yahoo...com> on Friday August 03, 2007 @04:17AM (#20098443) Homepage Journal
    ...If they put THESE under the GPL, along with the T1, they'd be getting more press than they could imagine. If they used these a bit more aggressively - such as using them as a graphics processor on a PC - they'd be getting some amazing press. If they keep them locked in a server closet, it's only then that nobody will care.
  • Re:low...... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by dread ( 3500 ) on Friday August 03, 2007 @04:44AM (#20098535)
    Well, we tend to have jobs that are somewhat interesting and potentially even what is commonly known as "a life". This may be an unfamiliar concept but it includes things that are more important than the processing capability of the latest SUN processor (though not by much) but a lot of the added value comes from the fact that conversations with a two year old are generally more interesting than debates here.
  • by brucmack ( 572780 ) on Friday August 03, 2007 @06:17AM (#20098909)

    In terms of chip design, the circuitry on the silicon is what matters, not how you package, integrate, or market it.

    I agree with you on this point.

    Moreover, it does matter to a customer if marketing speak fobs him with two dualcore chips on a cracker instead of an integrated four core design.

    I don't agree with you here. What matters to the customer are costs and performance. They shouldn't have to care about how the package works, as long as it works correctly.

    From Intel's perspective, they had two options:

    1. Start with a new design that integrates all four cores on a single chip.
    2. Put two existing chips onto one package. Chips that they've been manufacturing for quite some time, so yields are good and there's headroom for higher clock speeds or lower power consumption.

    From the customer's perspective, those two options correspond to:

    1. A chip that performs a bit better, but probably costs more and definitely comes on the market later.
    2. A package that's got some performance drawbacks in certain situations, but is available now at a reasonable price.

    What do you think Intel and their customers prefer?

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Friday August 03, 2007 @07:15AM (#20099147)
    Also Intel's seems to have shown that having two units that need to communicate across the FSB doesn't really cause any problems. Worked fine for their Pentium Ds (2 single cores) works fine for the quads. While bus contention assuredly becomes a problem at some point, with just two units it doesn't seem to be for normal tasks.

    Thus it makes it a worthwhile design to go with. I could see it continuing too. Maybe their next gen chips are 4 cores on a single unit which goes mainstream, and then an 8 core 2 unit job for higher end stuff. At some point there may be too many cores per unit to do with without bus contention, but them maybe not since the speed of the bus keeps getting increased. Also I could see OSes being made aware of this, if it continues, and knowing that each X number of processors is a unit and you can shuffle all you like withing that, but shuffling across units incurs more penalties and thus isn't done unless it has to be. So if a process had 4 threads, and a unit was 4 cores, it'd make sure all the threads were running on the same unit.

    Regardless, you are correct that at this point it is an excellent idea. Doesn't matter if it is the most technically correct solution or not, what matters is that it works well and is cheap.

    We make concessions like that all the time in the computer world. Memory would be a good example. For a good while on desktops, memory, the FSB, and the processor ran at the same speed. You had a 30MHz 386, you were running 30MHz memory. Multipliers weren't a things you worried about. Then, we started to run in to limits of what memory could do. We could scale processors faster than RAM, or at least faster than RAM could be done cheaply. Thus the start of clock multiplied chips. This works, but at some point the memory is just too slow. So then we start getting in to tricks like DDR RAM, which transfers twice per clock cycle, and interleaving RAM, so that the processor has two channels to get faster access and so on. Currently you can have a CPU at one speed, an FSB at another, and memory at a third. Right now I've got a 2.66GHz CPU, a "1333MHz" FSB (it's not really 1333MHz, FSBs are quad pumped so it really runs at 333MHz) and "667MHz" RAM (again not really, it's DDR so the actual memory clock is 166MHz, bus clock is 333MHz, it just does 667 million data transfers per second hence the rate) and this is not an uncommon setup.

    None of this is an ideal setup. Ideally, the FSB would run at the same speed as the processor and so would the RAM. This would lead to the processor having almost no wait time for memory data and very little need for trickery to try and prefetch data and such. However alas, if it were possible at all it would be too expensive to do. Thus we have this somewhat hacked solution. However in reality it matters little, though a hack it may be, it works real well. It has given us memory that can get the data to the CPU in a timely fashion and doesn't break the bank.
  • by MysteriousPreacher ( 702266 ) on Friday August 03, 2007 @07:28AM (#20099197) Journal
    A few points.

    1) Sun is not trying to win the hearts and minds of home users - that is not their market. Sun would see few benefits from pushing their products in the mainstream media. Trade press is where they reach the decision makers. How many Oracle adverts do you see in game magazines and tabloid newspapers? Not very many, they tend to advertise in business oriented outlets such as The Economist.
    2) Some small businesses don't care about computers at all. The companies that need Sun will buy Sun. The companies who can run their business out of a box of post-it notes will do the former.
    3) When you buy mission critical hardware, you don't look for a '3 year warranty'. You look for a service and support contract based on how critical the hardware is to your business. If you can run your business on a home-made 486dx system running Minix then that is probably the best option.
    4) Sun being worth 10% of Intel is irrelevant. The Economist sells far fewer copies than The Sun (a pretty terrible UK tabloid) but I know which one I'd chose for a serious overview of world news.
    5) This is a techie web site so news like this seems pretty relevant here, even if most of us can't afford to buy the kit.
  • by TeknoHog ( 164938 ) on Friday August 03, 2007 @07:45AM (#20099305) Homepage Journal

    I'd be glad to have any kind of 4-way SMP system. Whether they're all on different chips or all on the same, I'd still get 4 CPUs of processing power. Of course, inter-CPU communication makes a difference in certain applications, but people have worked with traditional SMP systems for decades, and we know how to make good use of them. Putting them on the same die won't solve the basic problems of parallelization.

  • by ricky-road-flats ( 770129 ) on Friday August 03, 2007 @08:52AM (#20099785)
    It's already been said, but that's a big glossy load of poop.

    The quads from Intel provide four physical cores per socket. That is the definition of a quad in this context. The exact workings of how many bits of silicon there are, how they talk to each other and to the rest of the system is, to 99.999% of users and computer buyers, background fluff.

    This was the same as when Intel put two single-core chips into a package to release a 'dual core'. Lots of people like you jumped up and down and pointed out it wan't *real* dual core, and how the FSB issue would cripple performance. Amazingly, it wasn't the case - they sold in droves, and real-world performance was good enough to carry Intel through to the 'true' dual core, the Core 2 Duo.

    If the competition had anything out that was the same cost and performed significantly better than the 'fake' quad cores, you would have an argument. But they haven't and you don't. Bear in mind I'm talking about the huge x86/x64 market, not the relatively low volume non-x86 server market.

    What Intel did back then and again now is perfectly sensible. They have millions of high yield, robust dual core chips being churned out, and they have built into the infrastructure the ability to put two into a package, lower the speed a bit to drop the per-core heat output, and sell reasonably priced (now) quad core chips. When the drop to 45nm happens, they will release their 'real' quad cores, and pretty quickly put two of those into a package to start selling oct-core (whatever we're going to call them). And so it goes.

    What's the alternative? Not sell quads until 45nm comes out? Not working out too well for AMD is it? I've asked the question before here and on realworldtech.com - at what point will the FSB problem actually become a painful problem for the Intel chips? Well, not yet (4 core) is the answer, despite dire predictions from the AMD camp for years. My gues is that, shock of shocks, Intel have actually thought it through - and that's why CSI is coming. When the number of cores gets to the point where FSB will actually hurt performance relative to the AMD architecture, that's when CSI will kick in. Maybe at 8 cores, maybe at 16.

    What, you don't need quad core yet? Fine, stop your bitching and choose what's right for you. Vive la difference, and 3 cheers for a market that gives us the choice.

  • The new Sun Moto: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by teknopurge ( 199509 ) on Friday August 03, 2007 @09:35AM (#20100263) Homepage
    "Do No Evil"

    It's like it's 1999 all-over again, except this time Sun actually has revenue in-line with expectations. I continue to maintain Sun is this century's Bell Labs and Xerox PARC all rolled into one.
  • by Eukariote ( 881204 ) on Friday August 03, 2007 @09:43AM (#20100351)

    The quads from Intel provide four physical cores per socket. That is the definition of a quad in this context.

    Well, yeah, and if I say the context is the motherboard, then I can define a four-socket board holding single-core CPUs to be a quad core chip. It would be equally ludicrous in the context of chip design.

    ... the FSB issue would cripple performance. Amazingly, it wasn't the case - they sold in droves

    I take it you haven't looked at proper SMP benchmarks. Sitting on the same FSB sucked rather badly for SMP scalability. What sells is a function of marketing and perception. When it comes to managing that, Intel rules. That's why you have to search hard to find any real-world SMP benchmarks being done by the various bought-and-paid-for review websites.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 03, 2007 @12:16PM (#20102687)
    All that and the 64 threads run at 84 watts maximum (not TDP)

    Please note that it doesn't *run* 64 threads simultaneously. It *manages* 8 threads per core -- but each core has only two integer units, one load-store unit, and one floating point unit. At best a core can have ops from four different threads in simultaneous execution, but this will be a very rare case (when int, int, float, load/store happen at same cycle). Most often each core will be able to simultaneously execute instructions from just one or two threads -- which all is still excellent for 84W!

    It just irks me when people read "manages 64 threads" as "is a 64-core uber-chip", when what they have is just a wider version of Intel's idling-eliminating HyperThreading (in each of the eight cores). Surprisingly Sun PR hasn't made much of an effort to remedy the misconception :-P

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982