Sun’s 16-Core Processor Seems to Be Cancelled

Sun’s Rock Hits The End

by Anton Shilov
08/22/2009 | 11:03 AM

Sun Microsystems, a leading maker of servers, does not have intention to unveils its code-named Rock processor at an upcoming conference. This fact may indicate that Sun had cancelled the development of its 16-core chip.

According to the agenda of Hot Chips conference, which will be held at Stanford University later this month, Sun will not unveil anything new during the show. This either means that the Rock chip has been cancelled or Sun has come to a conclusion to delay its release.

 

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.

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.