Sun announces 64-thread processor UltraSparc T2

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Santa Clara (CA) – Sun today announced the UltraSparc T2, previously code-named Niagara 2, successor of the UltraSparc T1. Sun claims that the CPU will be the "world's highest performing microprocessor" that can run an operating system on each of its 64 supported threads.   

Sun is not especially known for being modest with its claims, so it is not too surprising to actually hear that Niagara 2 is the world's fastest processor. However, Sun has put some features into the CPU, which could make it very attractive to potential UltraSparc customers.

Servers with the T2 processor will not be available until later this year and not all specifications have been revealed by the company. But we were told that there will be multiple version of the chip, with different numbers of cores and different power consumption specifications. Compared to its predecessor, it will aim for more applications than just servers, with Sun targeting storage devices, networking devices and set-top boxes as well.

On the higher-end, the T2 will integrate eight cores – like the T1 – but support 64 threads, up from 32 in the T1. According to Sun, the T2 is capable of running an operating system of each thread, up to eight per core and up to 64 per CPU. In terms of performance, Sun says that the CPU is about twice as fast as the T1, "without increasing the CPU clock frequency or quadrupling its cache sizes." T2 will include quad memory controllers with an aggregate bandwidth of more than 50 GB/s, according to Sun. The chip will also integrate eight cryptographic acceleration units to process security algorithms without performance penalty, eight floating point units, two virtualizable and multithreaded 10 Gb/s Ethernet ports and eight PCI Express lanes.

Sun also claims that the CPU has a better power efficiency than other, competing microprocessors. For example, the company said that a quad-core Xeon processor consumes about 30 watts per thread, or about 120 watts per processor, according to Sun. The T2 in comparison consumes less than 2 watts per thread, which puts the total power consumption of the processor into the 120 – 130 watt league.