SAN JOSE, Calif. Sun Microsystems Inc. has taken the wraps off the first silicon implementation of its MAJC architecture, a dual-processor device that is scheduled for tapeout by year's end.
The company has been touting the underlying architecture through the summer, and this chip is just the first of what is expected to be a broad, highly scaleable product line that Sun thinks will eventually offer some extremely powerful devices.
"We wanted to come up with an architecture that would work for the next 20 years, just like SPARC has worked for the past 20 years," said Bill Joy, chief scientist at Sun. "In 20 years, we envision systems using 1,000 processors, each of which delivers 1,000 times the processing power of today's processors."
The key behind Sun's microprocessor architecture for Java computing MAJC is the design of a single processing core that can be replicated many times within a chip to scale the device's processing power up and down. Marc Tremblay, chief architect for the project, has stated that a single MAJC chip could ultimately offer enough power to render in real time an entire digitally animated film such as Pixar's Toy Story.
The MAJC 5200 chip was unveiled at the Microprocessor Forum technical conference, and will sample in the second quarter of next year. It will be produced at the 0.22-micron level with six layers of metal and copper interconnect technology, and it will run at 500 MHz. The company plans to quickly migrate to the 0.18-micron processing level next year, which will allow the frequency to be bumped up to 700 MHz, and will also use a seventh layer of metal.
Tremblay said the design offers 6.16 Gflops of single-precision processing power. "These are good flops," he noted. "It puts the MAJC chip easily in the same class as Intel's Itanium chip, but at a fraction of the cost."
Joy hinted that the MAJC 5200 is just a teaser for later implementations of the architecture.
"Within the next decade, people will think a PC is something they carry around in their pocket. MAJC is in a funny situation, because it is a solution before people even know they have a problem," he said. "This first MAJC chip is probably not going to be the most interesting use of the architecture."