NEW YORK -- Sun Microsystems Inc. here today unveiled its UltraSparc III processor generation with initial speeds of 600-to-900 MHz and an on-chip memory controller that handles up to 8 gigabytes of storage.
Sun also laid out a new product roadmap, setting a target for 1.5-GHz UltraSparc III processors in 2001 and successive MPU generations that lead to the introduction of a 2.1-GHz UltraSparc V in 2003.
The new UltraSparc III chip is being produced by Texas Instruments Inc., which is using a 0.15-micron process technology to make the RISC processor. The high-end 900-MHz UlraSparc III is being made with copper interconnects, while the initial 600- and 750-MHz processors are being fabricated with aluminum-metal layers. The UltraSparc III has 29 million transistors and seven layers of metal interconnect. The memory controller and system controller functions occupy one-third of the UltraSparc III chip, according to Sun.
The 900-MHz copper-based UltraSparc III processor will be ready for system shipments in the first quarter of 2001, said Ron Melanson, senior director of engineering for Sparc processors at Sun. "We are now ramping copper production [at TI] and have 900-MHz processors in-house for qualification of systems," he told SBN after the product launch this morning in New York City.
Sun said it new RISC chip supports a 9.6-GHz-per-second data rate in for cache-address data transfers inside the processor module--from Level 2 cache memory to the processor. The system have a bandwidth of 4.8-GHz/sec. from memory to the central processor. This speed is up to four times the bandwidth of previous Sparc processors, said Sun officials. The new processor runs all existing applications that also operate on existing UltaSparc II central processors.
The Palo Alto firm rolled out a 600-MHz UltraSparc III for low-end workstations and server applications. Sun itself will use the processor in low-end computer products that will be sold to customers in an auction format over the Internet. The faster systems will be sold through Sun's traditional distribution channels.
The UltraSparc III has been designed to linked up to several hundred processors and the processor contains a large amount of logic for multiprocessing support. The 9.6-Gbyte-per-second address bus allows coherent cache storage among a massive array of interconnected processors, said Sun managers during the introduction in New York.
The new RISC processor--a year-and-half late to the market--is urgently needed by Sun to update its five-year old chip architecture. With Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) planning to introduce 64-bit processors with gigahertz performance next year, Sun needs a new MPU to hold its lead in workstation and server markets. Sun officials claimed that the company has a 60% market share in the workstations. They also said Sun was tied IBM Corp. with a 20% share in the technical server market.
Later this year, Sun said it will announce UltraSparc III-based system configurations, starting as low as $10,000 later this year. A dual 750-Mhz Sun Fire 280R server--with 8 Gbytes memory and external storage disk array of 327 gigabytes--will be available by the end of the year. It will be priced at $89,995.
--Additional reporting by SBN.