McNealy touts planned eight-core processor

Von Geoffrey P.

Scott McNealy, president and chief executive officer of Sun Microsystems, toured Asia?s biggest IT markets recently, personally delivering his company?s big news -- Sun is shipping this year an eight-core processor capable of 32 simultaneous threads.

McNealy, who chatted with a handful of IT journalists from the Asia South region here in this city state in between his trips to China and Japan, announced Sun?s new AMD Opteron-based servers and kicked off what the company calls the ?age of participation.?

Sun?s newly-launched 64-bit Opteron-based servers, collectively called Sun Fire, are already creating a buzz among corporate customers. These new servers will run Solaris 10, Linux, and Windows and are expected to support the planned eight-core processors later this year.

The Sun Fire is based on the designs of Andy Bechtolsheim, one of the original founders of Sun. These machines, code-named Galaxy during production, run on AMD?s 64-bit processor but the bigger news, McNealy said, is that they are ?60 percent more energy-efficient, 60 times faster, half the cost, and a quarter of the size of a comparably-configured server from Dell Computers.?

?We?ve really taken on the Dell and HP gang very aggressively,? he said.

Sun plans to release an eight-core processor later in the year or in 2006 that will power the Sun Fire family of servers; it will support 32 simultaneous threads and run on 60 to 70 watts.

?Intel is hoping in 2007 they will get to two cores. We are shipping eight cores, 32 threads, this year,? McNealy said.

The new processor, code-named Niagara, will be designed to consume just two watts per thread on a 32-thread, eight-core chip, compared to Intel?s Xeon processor which consumes 60 to 100 watts per thread. ?That?s 30 times price-performant,? he said.

?We?d be doing a lot of Intel right now, except that Opteron is way faster and way lower power, and way lower cost and way more scalable than Xeon. That?s not my fault. I?m not picking on Intel. At different times Sun hasn?t been price-performant. Intel is not price-performant right now, they know it, in the server space,? he added.

McNealy challenged Intel to respond to Niagara. ?Now they all better respond to Niagara, because when you have 32 threads on a single piece of silicon, that?s pretty small. I?ve actually got one in my notebook there, I?ll show you. It runs in 60 to 70 watts. They all better respond to that.?

Aside from announcing the new Sun Fire servers, McNealy also ushered in what the company calls ?the age of participation.?

This is a time when technology is helping people connect to various networks and the Internet to participate and ?share? information and knowledge globally. ?We?re going to build the infrastructure that allows that participation, and we?re going to do it,? McNealy said.

Part of this effort is the creation of large communities, such as communities built around the development of open source technology, which Sun has pledged to support.

McNealy said Sun will continue to offer its products to the open source community, similar to what it has done with its Solaris operating system. Since June this year, Sun has tracked down around 2.5 million downloads of its Solaris 10 operating system based on an open source licensing model.

Sun?s first batch of Sun Fire servers will include the single-socket x64 rack-mount X2100 server, priced from US$886; the x4100 four-way server, priced from $2,611; and the x4200 four-way server, priced from $3,088.