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Sun Microsystems, the company that is about to close its acquisition by Oracle, has reportedly dropped development of its code-named Rock central processing unit (CPU) that was targeted at high-end servers and would succeed octa-core Sun UltraSPARC T1/T2 processors launched in 2005. 

Sun Rock processor is based on 64-bit SPARC V9 micro-architecture with VIS 3.0 SIMD instruction-set extension. The Sun UltraSPARC RK (the official name of the processor) should have 16 processing cores each capable of processing two threads at once. Being made using 65nm process technology and with maximal frequency of about 2.30GHz, the chip could dissipate 250W, according to some sources.

Sun originally planned to release its Rock processors commercially in 2007, but only managed to tape them out to demonstrate them running Solaris operating system in the middle of the year and then delayed the launch to 2007. However, after further delays, the company said it would install the processors into servers due in late 2009. However, the New York Times claims that Sun has discontinued development of the new chip.

The issues with Rock microprocessors were by far not the first time for Sun to delay or even cancel certain chip projects. The legendary server company of the eighties and nineties, Sun Microsystems started to lose market share in the past several years after its processors, such as UltraSPARC III, faced delays and appeared to be slower compared to competitors designed by companies like IBM or Intel. Back in 2004 the company dropped development of UltraSPARC V and Gemini central processing units to concentrate on 8-core Niagara (UltraSPARC T1/T2) and 16-core Rock.

It is not completely clear whether Sun decided to cancel development plans for the Rock processor because it ran into massive technological issues and it made more sense for the company to use other processors, for example, Fujitsu SPARC64 VIIIfx (Venus) with eight cores (which are made using low-power 45nm process technology and only consume about 35W), inside its future servers; or the firm decided to cancel development of CPUs completely in the light of the take over by Oracle.

Earlier this year analyst firm Technology Business Research said that it would expect Oracle to spin off or sell off some parts of Sun’s hardware and software business following the acquisition. Likely purchasers of Sun’s hardware business include Fujitsu, EMC, Dell and HP – any of which may benefit from adding Sun offerings to their portfolio. On the software side, TBR believes Oracle will retain the Java, Solaris and MySQL businesses.

“In our estimation, Oracle will lay off between 10 000 to 15 000 Sun employees and gain annual savings of $1.5 billion in operating expense in year one and more than $2.0 billion in the second year,” analysts Stuart Williams and Josh Farina from TBR said.

Back three years ago TBR predicted that Sun would cut spending on development of microprocessors.

Sun did not comment on the news-story.

Tags: Sun Microsystems, Sun, Sparc, Rock, Venus, 45nm, 65nm, Oracle


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