SAN JOSE, Calif. Sun Microsystems is designing its own multi-port 10G Ethernet chip called Neptune and completed the initial design of its next-generation Sparc. Called Rock, the new CPU will now be sent to Texas Instruments for first-pass implementation in silicon.
Neptune will be used broadly in Sun's Sparc and X86 systems. The chip is also being built into its next-generation multi-core processors, including the Niagara-2 announced at last year's Hot Chip's conference.
Sun has been working with startups including S2io Inc., testing Sun's new Solaris TCP/IP stack on their 10G Ethernet adapter cards that use TCP offload and remote direct memory access technology. However, the company has found third-party Ethernet cards are already hampering the performance of Sun's heavily multi-threaded processors.
Sun believes it can obtain a 4x throughput increase using Neptune because it will eliminate an "impedance mismatch" between its Niagara processors and third-party networks cards, said Ariel Hendel, a Sun distinguished engineer.
Neptune will use new techniques to intelligently allocate threads to the correct cores on an eight core, 32-threaded Niagara, Hendel said. It will also help reduce nagging head-of-line blocking problems. Neptune will support dual and quad-port Ethernet connections running at 10 or 1Gbit/second in a single PCI Express card, he added.
The new Sun ASIC will also support Sun's Crossbow project under Open Solaris. The support will let high-level networking policies be mapped down to low-level hardware queuing algorithms, Hendel said. That could give Sun's systems a boost in I/O virtualization, he added.
Separately, Sun said Rock will incorporate up to 16 Sparc cores, twice as many as the Niagara chip Sun now ships in Web servers. Rock is aimed for application and database servers that will ship starting in the second half of 2008.
The company also said it has raised the speed of its Niagara chips which include up to eight cores from 1.2 to 1.4 GHz and doubled available system memory on its Niagara based servers to 64Gbytes DRAM. The improvements lead to a 30 percent net performance increase on Sun's T2000 servers, the company claimed.