New Sun servers to use old Sun chip

Sun is upgrading its lower-end UltraSparc-based servers--but the systems will arrive with chips introduced three years ago.

Sun Microsystems is upgrading its lower-end UltraSparc-based servers--but the new systems will arrive with a chip family introduced in 2003 instead of the faster successors the company had planned.

The UltraSparc IIIi+ processor, code-named Serrano, was to be the major new feature that distinguishes three as-yet unannounced servers--the Sun Fire V215, V245 and V445--from their current UltraSparc IIIi-powered equivalents, the V210, V240 and V440. Instead, those new systems will arrive with the UltraSparc IIIi "Jalapeno" processor, which first arrived in 2003.

"The Sun Fire V215/245/445 systems will come to market with UltraSparc IIIi processors," Nick Suh, a field development manager for Sun, said during a Sun-sponsored online question-and-answer forum Wednesday.

And it's possible the IIIi+ won't arrive until mid-2007, more than a year and a half after its expected due date. Suh's comment came in response to a remark from a person identified only as "spp," who said, "The V215/245 and the V445 will be shipped without the USIIIi+ because of manufacturing/yield issues and we shouldn't expect to see them until mid-year next year." Spp's remark was labeled as a "private response for Martin," apparently meaning another forum participant, Sun product line manager Martin Shepard.

Sun's new UltraSparc T1 "Niagara" processor arrived ahead of schedule, but the UltraSparc IIIi+ hitch is a return to the bad old days for Sun processors. The company suffered multiple delays for its UltraSparc III processor, for example, which arrived years late.

Sun wasn't immediately able to respond to requests for comment.

Texas Instruments manufactures Sun's UltraSparc processors. The UltraSparc IIIi processor is built with a relatively old manufacturing process with 130-nanometer electronics elements. The IIIi+ uses a 90-nanometer process that frees up more silicon surface area, permitting an increase in high-speed cache memory from 1MB in the IIIi to 4MB in the IIIi+ .

At Sun's analyst conference in February 2005, David Yen, then in charge of Sun's Sparc processors and servers, said, "Later this year we also will refresh with the IIIi+, followed by its speed bump." However, later in 2005, the company's Sparc marketing chief, Andy Ingram, said Sun was considering releasing Niagara first and pushing UltraSparc IIIi+ back , because Niagara would help Sun's business more.

The 1.75-inch-thick Sun Fire V215 and 3.5-inch-thick V245, both are variations of a dual-processor design code-named Seattle. The V445, code-named Boston, is a four-processor model 7 inches thick.

Lacking a new processor, the new systems will be distinguished chiefly by a faster input-output system. The new systems include PCI Express for input-output, a faster communications technology than the older PCI used in the V210, V240 and V440.

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About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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