Sun preps 2048-thread monster

256-thread minis in the meantime


Exclusive Sun's latest Niagara and Rock details have reached El Reg, and they confirm that the hardware maker is up to some very ambitious stuff.

First off, Sun looks set for the imminent release of its first Niagara II-based servers – the T5120 and T5220 systems. Customers will see 1U and 2U boxes, respectively, each with one of the "Niagara II" or (more formally) UltraSPARC T2 chips. It looks like the eight-core, 64-thread chip will arrive at 1.5GHz.

In addition, Sun had added support for Niagara III, aka Victoria Falls, aka Niagara II+, into the next release of Solaris, code-named Nevada. Sun has planned a pair of NiagaraII+ boxes code-named Maramba and formally named the T5140 (1U) and T5240 (2U).

(Sun is set to reveal Victoria Falls at the upcoming Hot Chips conference.)

Sun has also been rumored to have a 4U "Botaka" system in the works for the new chip.

The Niagara II chip is due out any day now and will show a dramatic increase in floating-point performance as it packs a math unit into each core rather (with Niagara I, there;s just one per chip). The Victoria Falls chip, due out in the first half of 2008, then takes Sun to 128 threads and to multi-socket boxes.

Also of note, we've discovered that Sun's next version of Solaris has been tweaked to handle up to 256 cores with an option to stretch all the way to 2048 cores. (Sun seems to be interchanging cores and threads at this point.)

The descriptions we've seen in Sun's code – thanks, you know who – show Sun describing four-socket servers with support for 64 threads per socket. That sounds an awful like a Rock-based box to us when you consider that the Rock chips, due out at the end of next year, will have 16 cores and support 32 threads. So, a two-way, one-socket system would support 64 threads. Sun then talks about an eight-socket box with 256 threads per socket with CPUs sitting above and below the main board.

Confused? Have a look here.

Um, well, say what you will about Sun's chip woes over the past six or seven years. You sure won't find IBM or Intel talking about 2048-thread systems by 2008.

We maintain our doubts as to Sun's ability to ship this kit on time. If it does, however, look out. ®

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