December 5, 2005 9:00 PM PST

Sun begins Sparc phase of server overhaul

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A complete Niagara system--including memory, hard drives and other subsystems--consumes about 180 watts for the T1000 and 325 watts for the T2000, Yen said.

To tout the power features, Sun has added a new element to standard speed tests that divides the score by power consumption measured in watts and server space measured in 1.75-inch rack units. The test--called SWaP, short for space, wattage and performance--divides a performance score by a server's space and power consumption, which means the relative scores go up for small, energy-efficient machines.

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Video: McNealy on Dell
At a press event unveiling a T1 chip-based server line, Sun CEO Scott McNealy explains how his company lost market share, but is bouncing back.

Both systems require Sun's newest operating system, Solaris 10. Among about 100 customers so far are eBay and Air France, Sun said.

To salvage imperfect UltraSparc T1 chips, Sun will sell models with four and six cores as well. And in the first quarter of 2006, it will release the cheapest models that use chips running at 1GHz.

With Niagara, a given thread won't be executed as fast as with conventional processors. But with 32 threads in process at the same time, the T1000 and T2000 systems are designed to run lots of tasks at the same time.

"Aggregate performance is what really counts," said Microprocessor Report Editor-in-Chief Kevin Krewell.

Speed test scores
Sun broke its silence on Niagara performance, publishing several speed tests to tout it. Among them:

• On the SPECjbb2005 test of Java server software, the T2000 scored 63,378 business operations per second compared with 61,789 for an IBM p5-550 with two dual-core Power5 chips and 24,208 for a Dell PowerEdge SC1425 with dual single-core Xeon processors.

• On the SPECweb2005 test of Web server performance, the T2000 scored 14,001, compared with 7,881 for an IBM p5-550 with two dual-core Power5 processors, 4,850 for a Dell PowerEdge 2850 with two dual-core Xeon processors, and 4,348 for an IBM x345 with dual single-core Xeon processors.

• On the NotesBench test of Lotus Notes performance, a T2000 accommodated 19,000 users at $4.35 per user and got a NotesMark score of 16,061. In comparison, an eight-processor IBM p5-570 had 17,400 users, a cost of $10.19 per user, and a NotesMark score of 14,740. But the average response time of the IBM system was 270 microseconds compared with the slower 400 microseconds for the T2000, demonstrating the relatively slow single-thread performance of the Sun system.

Despite the good scores, it's not clear whether Niagara is a "home run," Olds said.

"Right now, it's kind of a niche product--it's a big damn niche to be sure, but still a niche. I think Sun needs a compelling story for general-purpose computing in order to return to health, and I just don't see that right now."

IBM, unsurprisingly, remains unconvinced the UltraSparc T1 will escape a small low-end market segment.

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Video: McNealy heralds 'participation age'
Sun's CEO explains why the Information Age is history and how consumers are interacting with the Web more than ever.

"With Niagara, you're talking about a very niche architecture that is going to confuse the market with yet another alternative from Sun when going after Dell's customers for small workloads," Freund said. "It has no place as a general-purpose computer running databases."

And Sun has been damaged by its past processor performance. "This roadmap they've been touting now for quite a while has very little credibility and is not strong," Freund said.

And HP set up a Niagara-bashing Web site, casting aspersions on its single-thread performance and raising questions about whether software will have to be optimized for the new chip. (Sun argues that current software will run just fine on Niagara.)

Sun remains bullish that Niagara will help the company compete against rivals x86 and Unix systems. "It is a crossover product," Yen said. "The timing is right as the Internet build-out continues. We expect a significant wide adoption."

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Too bad for Sun
We just switched some of our Sun machines for IBM machines. The Sun machines are just not what they used to be, motherboards are failing, memory gets out of whack etc etc I am not taking about peanuts either, this is a 1.2 million dollar contract

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Posted by SqlserverCode (165 comments )
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What are you talking about exactly?
Sun's server quality has been getting better over the years. You have not touched the T2000. The T2000 is for web serving not SQL. You don't even reference which Sun systems gave you problems. All server vendors have certain systems that people complain about. What does your post have to do with this particular system? Do you feel threatened by this system in some way?
Posted by zkysr (78 comments )
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recent memory failures unlikely
I find memory failures increasing rather unlikely.

The memory chip in high end SUN servers have been the same technology for MANY years.

I guess bricks start to catch on fire on the 5th story of buildings because they are not what they used to be on the first story of buildings
Posted by DavidHalko (18 comments )
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Not quite there yet?
The T1 sounds like a great step forward to me, however (as often happens) the software world will need to catch up and provide better tools for creating parallel processing multi-threaded software before it becomes a real success - maybe they should give the tools away to encourage us :-)
On the plus side Sun also have the single-threaded apps covered with their Opteron boxes, so I suppose you can buy both and take your pick as necessary :-)
Posted by cndkc (3 comments )
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Actually there are a very large number of apps which can exploit thread level concurrency now and which will therefore run well on the T1000 and T2000.

Most Web, AppServer workloads using say Apache and a J2EE app server should perform very well and Sun's initial SPECweb/SPECjbb/SPECJapp results show this and these workloads are very common.

In addition the T2000 (T1000 does not have enough I/O) should be good for DBMS's particularly OLTP, fileserving, mail/messaging servers, fp servers, and workloads like search engines. Sun have published a very good Notes benchmark result and a SAP SD result for the T2000.

At the same time major commercial customers are struggling with Datacenter power and heat budgets and concern is rising about the unit cost of powering ever more power hungry servers.

So far from the T2000 not being quite there yet I would say it has arrived at exactly the right time.
Posted by andrew243 (9 comments )
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