Sun and Fujitsu update Sparc64 VII chips

Sun is touting improved database performance and low upgrade costs in an effort to fight back against competition from IBM and HP
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Sun and Fujitsu on Tuesday announced new quad-core Sparc64 VII processors and an enhanced memory controller for the Sparc Enterprise server line.

The new hardware arrives as Sun and Oracle seek to reassure customers over the future of Sun's hardware business and its place within an increasingly competitive server market.

The new processors run up to 25 percent faster than the previous generation due to memory access improvements, and are aimed at uses such as large-scale databases and ERP, according to Sun.

Sun and Fujitsu introduced the first Sparc64 VII chips in 2008.

Sun's Sparc Enterprise servers can use both Sparc64 VI and VII processors in a single domain, meaning the new chips can be added into older servers without requiring other hardware changes, Sun said.

The new processors run at 2.88GHz for the Sparc Enterprise M9000 and M8000 servers and 2.53GHz for M5000 and M4000 servers. The improved memory controller is built into the M8000 and M9000 servers and speeds up throughput for memory-intensive workloads, Sun said.

The company noted that Oracle's database software has been tuned to work with the dynamic memory management in Sun's Solaris 10 operating system, meaning an Oracle database running on the system could immediately take advantage of the new memory controller.

Sun executive vice president John Fowler stated that the new chips deliver "mainframe-class" performance, and said the option to continue using older hardware means customers can upgrade at a far lower cost than the purchase of comparable IBM technology.

IBM has been a popular target during Oracle's OpenWorld conference this week. On Sunday, Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison said Sun hardware running Oracle software had claimed the top spot in the TPC-C performance test from an IBM Power 595 server running AIX and DB2.

Ellison claimed the Sun/Oracle system had 25 percent more throughput, consumed six times less power, took up eight times less floor space and had the added advantage over its IBM rival of being fault-tolerant.

Oracle is in the process of buying Sun, but the acquisition has been delayed by an expanded antitrust investigation by the European Commission, announced in August.

In the meantime, competitors such as IBM and HP have launched programmes to woo Sun customers, including HP's Sun Complete Care and IBM's Migrate from Sun.

The drawn-out Oracle buyout has caused serious problems for Sun, which was already "struggling", according to Illuminata analyst Jonathan Eunice.

"It's no secret that competitors have observed Sun's M&A saga... with a sense of glee," he wrote in a report published last month. "Customer and partner uncertainty is inevitable, even in the best of circumstances. And when the acquired company is struggling, as Sun has been, the uncertainly about what product lines will continue, or at what level of emphasis and investment, is considerably magnified."

Eunice said Sun's efforts to beat IBM's TPC-C benchmark show the company is serious about hitting back at the competition, noting that improving the benchmark figure was likely to cost tens of millions of dollars.

"That's a substantial investment in achieving a single number," he wrote.

The new Sparc Enterprise systems are available immediately from Sun, Fujitsu and their resellers. Sun and Fujitsu are also offering upgrade programmes for existing systems, with details available via their websites.

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