Sun aims at broad market for UltraSparc T2

While the UltraSparc T2 will be used in Sun Microsystems’ computer servers, the company also hopes to start a new business and sell the processors to third-party manufacturers of set-top boxes, storage equipment, networking devices, routers, and other computer equipment.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun on Tuesday said the eight-core microprocessor, is the world’s fastest commodity product. Formerly under the codename of “Niagara 2,” the processor is capable of executing 64-threads at once, compared with the one to four threads offered by competing chips. Sun said the UltraSPARC T2 is the first processor to bring together the key functions of multiple systems, including virtualization, processing, networking, security, and energy efficiency.

“All I know is the marketplace outside of Sun is going to be broader than the marketplace inside of Sun,” Jonathan Schwartz, Sun’s CEO, said. “And just as we took Solaris and right now are adding a lot of value to HP and IBM customers running it on their systems, we’re approaching the same marketplace and in fact growing a new marketplace with our microelectronics team.”

The UltraSparc T2 is the most energy efficient processor in watts per thread, said David Yen, executive vice-president of microelectronics at Sun.

The potential success of this venture may be based on how Sun’s competition reacts, according to some analysts. Michelle Warren, senior analyst at the Info-Tech Research Group, said that she expects competition to intensify over the next six months, as AMD and Intel release its new products in this market, with companies like HP and IBM also offering chips in this space.

“AMD’s server chip is codenamed Barcelona and that’s going to be a quad-core,” Warren said. “And what Intel’s doing right now is the Core 2 Extreme quad-cores.”

But, Warren said, Sun may have the leg-up on Intel and AMD in this space because of the timing of this release.

“When you consider that it’s July and there is going to be increased demand for these products come the New Year, it looks like a good move” Warren said. “They can do any testing that needs to be done over the next couple months and then the product can really hit the mainstream for enterprises looking to upgrade their larger servers.”

But Dean McCarron, principle analyst at Mercury Research, said he sees the UltraSparc T2 as a move for Sun to solidify its position in the high-end server market rather than to compete directly with Intel and AMD.

“It’s been pretty evident that x86 has been taking over larger and larger portions of the market,” McCarron said. “But there’s still some market segments that aren’t directly addressed by x86, and Sun has been focusing Sparc at these segments, particularly in the higher performance server space and need to continue to introduce products there.”

However, he said for the product to be successful, it will most likely be Sun’s traditional customer base supporting it.

“Sun has got an established track record of having its own processors and its own systems serving this soft of mission critical and high performance segment,” McCarron said. “And this will allow them to continue on with this product line, so those same customers who are looking to upgrade would be the most likely candidates to purchase these systems.”

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