Is Sun's UltraSparc T1 the ' Terminator'?

Is Sun's UltraSparc T1 the ' Terminator'?

Summary: Sun has started shipping some systems based on its UltraSparc T1 processor (see the news story) with claims of "blowing away" industry standards for performance, setting seven world record benchmarks and delivering a five-fold performance increase at one-fifth the power consumer versus Dell, HP and IBM systems.  The 'T' in T1 technically stands for 'Throughput,' but from its marketing stance, Sun might as well call it the 'Terminator.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Oracle
9

terminator.jpgSun has started shipping some systems based on its UltraSparc T1 processor (see the news story) with claims of "blowing away" industry standards for performance, setting seven world record benchmarks and delivering a five-fold performance increase at one-fifth the power consumer versus Dell, HP and IBM systems.  The 'T' in T1 technically stands for 'Throughput,' but from its marketing stance, Sun might as well call it the 'Terminator.'

"Sun has once again leapfrogged the competition, establishing a five year lead over any other processor architecture in the world," Jonathan Schwartz, Sun president and COO, beams in the press release.

Now that Sun's new eco-friendly T1 server systems are in play, we can determine whether the T1 is really a Terminator or a harbinger of Sun's exit from the processor business. Rivals will be forced to respond to Sun's bold claims, and will start with more aggressive pricing and different intepretations of Sun's benchmarks. For example, Stephen Shankland's news story reports that IBM isn't convinced that the T1 will gain traction beyond a small low-end market segment, and that HP launched a Niagara (UltraSparc T1) "bashing" Web site. The HP site mentions "disappointing" single-thread performance and asserts that a new software development paradigm is required to optimize software for the T1. Sun is shipping new software development tools for optimizing performance on the 32-thread T1. It boils down to a simple cost benefit issue, not a paradigm shift.

Sun created a three-dimensional rack server benchmark, SWaP (space, wattage and performance), to measure the efficiency the multithreaded, multicore processor systems. The formula--SWaP = performance / (space x power)--can be used to compare systems from various vendors.

Space: The space a server occupies can be measured by the rack unit height of the system; information found on a company's web site.
Wattage: Metrics on the server's power consumption can be obtained using data from actual benchmark runs or vendor site planning guides, recorded in watts. Estimated system power consumption from calculators or datasheets can be also used to assess wattage.
Performance: Information about the level of performance or throughput a server maintains can come from any industry-standard or ISV benchmark.

Of course, in Sun's benchmarking the T1 systems come way out on top compared to IBM's Power 5 and 5+ and Intel's Itanium 2 and Xeon EM64T. 

ultrasparc2000.jpg

Based on the benchmark claims, and comments from a handful of initial customers, the T1 sounds like a Terminator for a broad class of servers. In Sun's press release, Larry Lorzon, vice-president of datacenter services at EDS, said initial testing showed a 50-percent decrease in power consumption, and that the T1 systems would "lay the foundation for a tech refresh strategy focused on improving application performance while reducing space and power consumption." Sun also guarantees binary compatibility on the Solaris on the T1 Sun Fire T1000 and T2000 servers, although some applications would have to be tweaked to take full advantage of all the parallelism.

Initial customers include eBay, EDS, NEC, NTT Data and Air France. It's surprising that Google isn't on board given all the recent lovefest with Sun? Maybe Google is happy with its flavor of Linux and thousands of low-cost, x86-based racks. In that case, Sun would like to unload its AMD Opteron systems in Google's datacenters.

Sun is sweetening the pot, offering a 90-day test drive of the new systems. As I've said before, even if the claims about the processor architecture lead and benchmarking results don't fully pan out, it's hard to see how Sun doesn't get significant wins in 2006. If a strong business for UltraSparc T1 systems fails to materialize, then something is very wrong within Sun or the competition has something up its sleeve we don't know about yet...

Topic: Oracle

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

9 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • What's not to like?

    Competition is beautiful! Adam Smith would be proud! :)
    Roger Ramjet
  • Sun UltraSparc

    Hey look. Yet another reason to put Sun before any other OS. Do you Intel people get it now?
    molly.messersmith
  • What is the issue?

    As each processor manufacturer has reached the limits of current technology they have all said that software needs to be rewritten to make better use of multiple threads, that includes Intel and AMD. Microsoft says that as well as does most *nix vendors. So when it works to HP's advantage they state the opposite? Typical marketing :) Even if single threaded performance takes a hit with these 8 core processors I can't remember the last time that I saw a machine that ran just one thread since my last MS DOS PC. Even on my Windows workstation I normally has something like 70 processes (active and idle) running at all times. If Windows 2003 server could run on a T1 server it would probably run faster than it does on a HP Intel server.

    I wish that the Intel type of processors came in an 8 core model even if I had to take a hit on single threaded performance.
    balsover
  • Is Sun's UltraSparc T1....

    Actually, who really cares. Its been known for a long time that Sun and Novel have the edge in the Server / workstation department - but don't discount Big Blue - over both the PC and MAC platforms. They were built for stand-along and peer-to-peer networking.

    If you have a big network situation you seriously need to consider IBM, Sun and Novel. If you have a smaller network or stand-alone needs then the PC with Windows/Linus or MAC would be your choice. Or even an IBM PC - they after all started this craze?

    But if you are considering "buying new now" then I still say "go AMD". $ for $ and performance for performance, AMD will deliver what none of the others can - low cost high performance from either the PC or Server platforms. Then determine which O/S will give you what you need there - Windows, IBM, Linux - MAC is good but doesn't fit into this equation - and "do it".

    Windy - email windy@uniserve.com
    windy@...
  • Little SUN is innovating left and right

    even though they are not doing so well in terms of sales.

    Is Niagara a good idea? It definitely fits well to certain workloads that are thread-intensive. Many interactive, DB and server based ones are such.

    Is a non-AMD approach a viable one? In the long run it is. Eventhough the AMD-64 has a very good implementation, it still supports the IA-32 to 64 bits. It is a very OLD ISA and it is bound to extinct. How soon nobody can tell, since the extinction of Fortran and COBOL has been announced several decades ago.

    I like the multi-threaded idea since it has its place. A top small thread count performer is also needed. There are occasions where top performance for 2 threads is needed for optimal processing. This happens in scientific workloads.

    This IS interesting times: Hypertransport and PCI-express, Power5 and Itanium-2. I sure hope that SUN will NOT leave behind the standard super-scalar ILP intensive pipelines. Bottom line is that a good scalar processor can be more easily nade to perform better, as for CMT and SMT one needs good support by the OS, run-times and languange compilers.

    Nevertheless, good show SUN and all the best. ALl this innovation effort HAS to start paying off at some time.
    michael_t
  • Little SUN is innovating left and right

    even though they are not doing so well in terms of sales.

    Is Niagara a good idea? It definitely fits well to certain workloads that are thread-intensive. Many interactive, DB and server based ones are such.

    Is a non-AMD approach a viable one? In the long run it is. Eventhough the AMD-64 has a very good implementation, it still supports the IA-32 to 64 bits. It is a very OLD ISA and it is bound to extinct. How soon nobody can tell, since the extinction of Fortran and COBOL has been announced several decades ago.

    I like the multi-threaded idea since it has its place. A top small thread count performer is also needed. There are occasions where top performance for 2 threads is needed for optimal processing. This happens in scientific workloads.

    This IS interesting times: Hypertransport and PCI-express, Power5 and Itanium-2. I sure hope that SUN will NOT leave behind the standard super-scalar ILP intensive pipelines. Bottom line is that a good scalar processor can be more easily nade to perform better, as for CMT and SMT one needs good support by the OS, run-times and languange compilers.

    Nevertheless, good show SUN and all the best. ALl this innovation effort HAS to start paying off at some time.
    michael_t
  • The "Terminator"???

    well, it seems that this new chip could very well boast some bitching-power. why noT?

    give it a gun and see how well it terminates the other chips
    jesus_of_suburbia344
  • T1000 is ruthless

    http://sharikou.blogspot.com/
    sharikou
  • Floating-Point

    Given that there are 8 cores but only one floating-point unit on this thing, it would make sense for it to rock at webserving, but it's going to suck suck suck at any measure of flops.
    stevesliva