Sun's new chip group welcomes first customer

Marvell Technology Group licenses the revived microelectronics specialist's design for networking chip technology "Neptune."
Written by Stephen Shankland, Contributor
Sun Microsystems has lured its first chip technology customer since reviving its microelectronics business.

Marvell Technology Group has licensed the design of "Neptune," a chip technology for building 10-gigabit-per-second Ethernet connections into either servers or server network cards, Sun said Tuesday. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but Marvell plans to pay Sun royalties.

Using Neptune, Marvell plans to build server-networking products to sell to others, spokeswoman Diane Vanasse said. "These products will broaden Marvell's LAN (local-area network) product portfolio into the server segment, beyond enterprise and consumer PC markets."

Neptune, formally called the Sun Multithreaded 10 Gig E Networking Technology, is geared specifically for multicore processors, said David Yen, who last week was appointed executive vice president of Sun's new microelectronics group.

Yen earlier led the company's development of the UltraSparc T1 "Niagara" processor, which has eight processing engines, called cores, each able to run four instruction sequences, called threads.

With 32 threads total, Niagara is the most aggressive multithreaded processor, but Intel, Advanced Micro Devices and IBM all have multicore or multithreaded designs and are moving further in that direction.

"With a traditional network interface design, based on a single-thread concept, you have a bottleneck," Yen said. Neptune is designed to recognize the parallelism in the stream of data packets flowing across a server's network connection, he added.

Sun will employ Neptune technology in both its x86-based and Sparc-based servers. The technology is built into Sun's Niagara 2 processor, a 64-thread chip due to arrive in servers in the second half of 2007.

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