This morning Sun Microsystems will officially introduce their Niagara 2 processor, which consists of eight processing cores and is capable of handling 64 threads simultaneously. It's official name is the Sun UltraSPARC T2 and it will be unveiled at their Executive Briefing Center in Menlo Park, California. We were invited to this event, but we had run into scheduling problems at the last minute though we do have some information to share with you in this technical brief.
The Niagara 2 predecessor (the UltraSPARC T1) also had eight cores, but each of the eight Niagara 2 cores support eight threads, which is twice the number that the Niagara 1 had possessed. Sun is focusing upon "Throughput Computing" with this 64-thread beast. Another Niagara 2 advantage is that it's built upon 65nm manufacturing as opposed to 90 nanometers with the original Niagara. The UltraSPARC T2 has 4MB of shared Level 2 cache and four dual-channel FB-DIMM memory controllers. FB-DIMMs, or Fully Buffered Dual Inline Memory Modules, are used on Intel's LGA-771 Xeon motherboards with the Dempsey, Woodcrest, and quad-core Clovertown processors. However, AMD hasn't adopted FB-DIMM modules for their Socket F Opteron 2200 CPUs. For more information and performance metrics with FB-DIMM memory, check out our Q3-2006 or Q4-2006 (quad-core) FB-DIMM Linux benchmarks.
Niagara 2 servers also support two 10/1 Gigabit ethernet ports and one PCI Express x8 port. Each Niagara 2 SPARC core supports an advanced cryptographic unit with all eight of these being able to handle 10Gb ethernet ports encrypted. There is also one Floating Point Unit (FPU) per core. To prevent all eight cores from fighting for the 4MB of L2 cache, Sun Microsystems uses Crossbar switches for exchanging data between the cores and the cache.
The Niagara 2 looks to be an excellent replacement for the UltraSPARC T1 "Niagara 1". In fact, the Niagara 2 is double the performance per Watt of the UltraSPARC T1. It looks like we will have our hands on a Sun UltraSPARC T2 server this fall, so stay tuned for performance details. The Sun UltraSPARC T2 should go very well with the latest Solaris technologies.
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