Sun readies new UltraSparc chip for release

Sun Microsystems Inc. plans to start selling a new, faster version of its 64-bit UltraSparc III microprocessor by the end of October, the company said in a statement issued Monday.

The chip, first offered in September last year at 750MHz in its Sun Fire servers and Sun Blade workstations, had been expected to start shipping in Sun’s high-end server in March. The company said Monday that the UltraSparc III has finally passed its internal tests and is expected to go on sale in Sun Blade 1000 workstations within the next 90 days. The company didn’t say when the new chip would be available in a server.

Now at 900 MHz, the UltraSparc III is touted as Sun’s fastest commercially available processor to date for workstations and servers. Sun competes against IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Inc. in the market for high-powered Unix systems.

The latest chip from Sun features lower power consumption, high reliability and lower memory latency, Sun said in a statement. It also combines copper interconnects with a technology called low-K dielectric, which reduces the electrical interference between wires that can drain power and performance. Previously, the microprocessor used aluminum interconnects.

Texas Instruments Inc. is Sun’s supplier of the UltraSparc III. The 900Mhz part is the first commercial chip Texas Instruments has produced with copper wiring. The chips are being manufactured using Texas Instruments’ 0.15-micron manufacturing process. The figure refers to the dimension of features etched on the surface of silicon chips; one micron is about equal to 1/100th the width of a human hair.

The UltraSPARC III has 29 million transistors and can pass data between computers at 9.6G bytes-per-second, Sun said. The chip also supports 8M bytes of external cache memory.

Sun Microsystems of Canada in Markham, Ont. is at