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Oracle to resell Fujitsu 'Athena' Sparc64-X servers ... worldwide

The more Sparcs, the merrier, apparently

Solaris customers looking to upgrade their Sparc server iron will have a second set of choices now that Oracle has admitted that it will be reselling the Fujitsu "Athena" servers that use the Japanese company's Sparc64-X processor.

Oracle's launch today of the Fujitsu Sparc M10 server lineup is not really much of a surprise. El Reg noticed that when Fujitsu did a soft launch of the kit in Japan back at the end of January, the "Oracle | Fujitsu" brand was clearly visible on three of the Fujitsu machines. What was not clear at the time was whether Oracle would be reselling the Sparc M10 servers outside of Japan.

Neither Oracle nor Fujitsu would talk about the plan back in January, and Larry's firm was still silent on the subject during its launch two weeks ago of its own midrange and high-end servers based on its home-grown Sparc T5 and Sparc M5 processors.

These Oracle Sparc chips are based on its own S3 core, used in the Sparc T4 processors initially, with different core counts and cache memory amounts to give different levels of performance. The Sparc T5 is a 16-core chip running at 3.6GHz with a pretty small amount of L3 cache, only 8MB or 512KB per core, while the Sparc M5 has six cores running at 3.6GHz with a total of 48MB of L3 cache, or 8MB per core.

The Sparc T5 chips connect gluelessly with a crossbar interconnect with two, four, or eight sockets and a maximum of 4TB of memory, 128 cores, and 1,024 threads. The M5 machines cross-couple four 4-socket motherboards together for a single system image with 16 or 32 sockets for a maximum of 192 cores, 1,536 threads, and 32TB of main memory.

You say Tofu, I say Rock - put 'em together ...

The Fujitsu Athena Sparc64-X processors are very different from the Sparc T5s, but the interconnect seems eerily similar. It could turn out that Oracle and Fujitsu worked together to modify their respective "Rock" and "Tofu" interconnects – one from a long-dead UltraSparc system designed by Sun and the other the supercomputer interconnect used in the K supercomputer – to create a new interconnect that both companies are using on their high-end systems.

As El Reg pointed out last fall, when Fujitsu lifted the veil on the Athena systems a little bit at the OpenWorld extravaganza, the Athena interconnect looked a lot more like a distributed crossbar than the 6D torus Tofu interconnect used in the K machine.

The Sparc64-X processor, which El Reg detailed here last summer, has sixteen cores running at 3GHz and 24MB of L2 cache – not L3 cache – that spans those cores. The processor has two threads per core and has the hardware features to support the Logical Domain (LDom) hypervisor that Sun created for the Sparc T series chips. This also runs on the Sparc M5 but has not been available for prior generations of Sparc64 processors from Fujitsu. The Sparc64-X processor has two DDR3 memory controllers on the die and a five-port NUMA interconnect that allows up to four of the chips to be linked together gluelessly.

The Sparc M10 Athena servers come in three variants. There's a single-socket Sparc M10-1, which clocks the chip down to 2.8GHz and has only 22MB of L2 cache. There's a four-socket SparcM10-4, which has the chips running at 3GHz and the full 24MB of L2 cache. And there is a Sparc M10-4, which is a cluster that links sixteen of the four-socket Athena mobos together to create a massive 64 socket machine with 1,024 cores and 2,048 threads with up to 32TB of main memory.

Oracle did not launch a single-socket Sparc T5 machine in a rack form factor (there is the Sparc T5-1B blade server, but frankly, it is hard to believe Oracle sells many of these into enterprise accounts), and Fujitsu did not launch a two-socket Sparc64-X machine, but they could have. The Sparc T5-4 from Oracle and the Sparc M10-4 from Fujitsu will overlap in capabilities. Fujitsu did not launch an eight-socket Sparc M10 machine, but it could easily make one, El Reg is sure, by just gluing two four-socket boards together with its distributed crossbar. The Sparc M5-32 from Oracle and the Sparc M10-4S clusters obviously will overlap in capability, too.

While Oracle is reselling the three Sparc64-X machines from Fujitsu, it does not look like Fujitsu is reselling the new Sparc T5 and M5 machines from Oracle*. Fujitsu still has the Sparc T4 machines in its catalog, as does Oracle, which pitches them as entry machines coming in below the Sparc T5s. Fujitsu is also still reselling Oracle's Sparc T3 boxes, although it is hard to imagine anyone wants them unless they are being given away at firesale prices.

Specs AND prices... why can't EVERYONE list those?

Oracle and Fujitsu put out a boilerplate statement announcing the availability of the Sparc M10 machines through both Oracle and Fujitsu today, but it doesn't really say much more useful more than that and the fact that the Sparc M10 machines support both Solaris 10 and 11.

Oracle did, however, put together configurations of the Sparc M10 machines with pricing information, which is useful. Credit to Oracle for following along with this Sun tradition. It is a real pain in the neck to get pricing for IBM Power Systems and Hewlett-Packard Integrity and Superdome boxes. However, Oracle did not provide pricing on its high-end Sparc M5-32 system last month, and it is not providing pricing for the Sparc M10-4S cluster, either. So Oracle, you're slipping.

Oracle is charging $16,323 for a small Sparc M10-1 configuration with that single Sparc64-X processor plus 32GB of main memory and two 600GB 2.5-inch SAS drives; add another $1,959 per year for premier support on the system.

Bumping the memory up to 128GB pushes up the price to $20,723 plus $2,487 for premier support. Pushing the memory up to 512GB using much more expensive 32GB memory sticks makes the machine cost $64,483 plus $7,738 for support. Solaris 11 is pre-installed on these machines and the support contract provides a year of Solaris support as well as hardware break/fix support.

A base Sparc M10-4 machine has two of the 2.8GHz, 16-core Sparc64-X processors installed in the chassis. With 128GB of main memory and two 600GB disks. Oracle is charging $41,946 and another $5,034 for premier support on the box (covering the hardware and Solaris 11 operating system).

A medium configuration of the M10-4 machine has all four processors in the chassis plus 512GB of memory and those two 600GB disks for $80,893 plus $9,707 for premier support. A large configuration bumps up the main memory to 2TB and costs $255,933 plus $30,712 for premier support.

We'll be gathering up some performance and pricing information to try to see how the Sparc T5 and Sparc M10 machines stack up against each other. At first glance, it looks like Oracle is charging a bit more money for its Sparc T5 boxes than the very roughly equivalent Sparc M10 machines.

*Bootnote: We asked Fujitsu what the plan was for reselling Oracle's Sparc T5 and M5 machines, and here is what John Bard, vice president of product marketing for server products in Fujitsu's North American operations, said: "Fujitsu has the rights and will be selling all the members of the Sparc family, whether they were designed by Oracle or Fujitsu. We have been reselling the T4 products along with the M-Series, and will be an active reseller for Oracle Sparc T5/M5 products as well as the M10, depending on the customers' needs and preferences." ®

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