by May 5, 2003 0 comments

Almost two years and several delays after it was first announced, Sun has finally released the much talked about UltraSPARC IIIi processor. By releasing this 64-bit processor, available at a speed of 1.06 GHz, Sun is hoping to regain at least a part of the market share it lost to the ‘cheaper’ Intel/AMD-based servers in the low to mid-range servers market.

Also known in some circles as Jalapeno (though it is now reliably known that Sun has officially dropped this name), this processor contains three times as many transistors (87.5 million) than its predecessor, the UltraSPARC III, which had ‘only’ 29 million. The processor has been fabricated using a 0.13 micron and has a seven-layer copper interconnect. This allows the processor to be rated at a far-from-hungry 59 W peak power consumption. It also boasts of 1 MB on-chip L2 cache and a large L1 cache as well: 64 KB Data, 32 KB Instruction, 2 KB Pre-fetch and 2 KB Write. All caches are 4-way and the instruction and data caches have parity protection. Another interesting and useful feature is a (Dual) TLAB (Translation Look Aside Buffer) with support for multiple page sizes. What this means is that the page size is software controlled and can be set to a variety of values from 8 kilobyte to 4 megabyte.

The UltraSPARC IIIi has been designed to optimize performance in a multi-processing environment containing between 1-4 processors. Any system containing the UltraSPARC IIIi must have a JBus and a JIO. JBus serves as a 128-bit wide, 200 Mhz high-speed ‘Glueless logic’ interconnect between the processors. It provides bandwidth up to 3.2 GB/s and provides an ideal backbone for multi-processing systems. The JIO chip is a companion chip to the UltraSPARC IIIi processor designed to provide an interface to external I/O and graphics to it.

The UltraSPARC IIIi has a die size of 178.5 mm2 and a 959 pin Ceramic uPGA package. The 64-bit processor can, of course, address more memory locations, thus allowing the system to have additional memory. Each UltraSPARC IIIi supports up to 16 GB of DDR1 (Double Data Rate) SDRAM interface @ 133MHz speed/266MHz throughput, which translates into 64 GB of high-speed RAM (in a 4 processor system, 4 CPUs X 16 GB) running at a maximum throughput of 4.25 GB/s.

Keeping in mind the target audience for the UltraSPARC IIIi, special effort has been made to enhance its RAS (Reliability, Availability, Scalability) support by providing, amongst other things, ECC/parity protection on all interconnects. This translates into less downtime and higher availability. Add to that the already mentioned advantages of high speeds at low power consumption and price, and the UltraSPARC IIIi surely looks very promising.

The UltraSPARC IIIi is sure to spice up the battle for a share of the market for low to medium-range servers. This is especially significant as market analysts predict that with companies expecting IT to do more for them with less, these servers would constitute at least 50 percent of all server sales in the near future. Sun is doing its bit to grab its share of the pie and make up the ground it has lost in the recent past by pushing its processor aggressively. It has already announced products based on the UltraSPARC IIIi–the Sun Fire V210 and Sun Fire V240 servers–which might well be available in the market by the time you read this.

Kunal Dua

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