SAN JOSE, Calif. - Looking to leapfrog its rivals, computer maker Sun Microsystems Inc. announced a server chip that it claims will deliver more performance while requiring less electricity than competing microprocessors.
The UltraSparc T1 processor, code-named Niagara, has eight computing engines on a single chip, with each core capable of handling up to four tasks at once, Sun said Monday. It expects to ship systems based on the processor by the end of the year.
The new chip uses about 70 watts of power on average, significantly less than the 150 watts to 200 watts required by server chips from Intel Corp. or International Business Machines Corp., Sun claimed.
"We can enable (customers) to provide more services within the same envelope of space, power and cooling that they have today," said Fred Kohout, vice president of marketing at Sun's scalable systems group. "They don't have to add more space, more power and more cooling to add more services or run more activities on the Web."
Sun also is touting its new chip as "eco-friendly." It said removing the world's Web servers and replacing them with half the number of UltraSparc T1-based systems would have the same effect on carbon dioxide emissions as planting 1 million trees.
"It's time the technology industry took a stand - tripling your datacenter performance shouldn't mean tripling your power bill and needing more coal-fired plants," said Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's president.
Most chip makers, including Sun, already offer processors with more than one computing engine on a single chip. Some higher-end chips also have multiple cores that can execute more than one task, or thread, at the same time to improve efficiency.
"The other companies, like Intel and IBM, are trying to take existing CPU architectures and get to this massive threading. But they can't," Kohout said. "We are probably five years ahead, maybe two or three generations ahead."
If it lives up to the claims, the UltraSparc T1 could help Sun boost its traditional business of selling servers based on its own Sparc chips and Solaris operating system. It has been struggling since the high-tech bust of 2000, as customers flocked to less expensive systems built with commodity Intel chips and less expensive or free software.
After years of tuning its strategy, Sun now offers a wide range of servers, including servers that are powered Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s Opteron chip. Sun also now supports a number of operating systems, including its recently updated Solaris software.
The UltraSparc T1 chips will be used first in a line of Sun Fire servers that are expected to be available before the end of 2005. Sun did not disclose pricing details.