Sun to speed servers with new chip

Sun Microsystems Inc. will boost its server performance later this year with new processors that set a speed peak for the company but still consume less power than competing products, it announced Wednesday.

Sun customers will see new 1.2GHz UltraSPARC III chips arrive near the end of this year or early next year, said David Yen, executive vice president of Sun's processor and network products group. The chip will first appear in Sun's workstation and higher-end server lines alongside current 900MHz and 1.05GHz chips. The latest processor will be built by Sun partner Texas Instruments Inc. on a 130-nanometer production process and consume 53 watts of power -- a 30 percent reduction from the 75 watts consumed by the 1.05GHz chips, Yen said.

"This one basically shows that we are continuing to execute on our roadmap and are providing more enhancements," Yen said.

Sun competes with IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Intel Corp. in the high end 64-bit processor market. Some analysts have charged that IBM's Power4 processor and Intel's Itanium 2 processor outperform those from Sun when running certain types of business software and when churning through transactions. Sun, however, maintains that processor speed is just one factor that contributes to making a solid server.

For example, the low power consumption of Sun's new chips could give it an edge over rivals, as it will reduce the amount of heat produced inside a server, lowering the chance for other component failures. In addition, Sun will be able to push its chip far down the company's product line into dense rack and blade servers that can be affected by high temperatures. Intel's Itanium 2 chip is one of the most power-hungry chips on the market consuming up to 130 watts. Intel does plan next year to introduce a chip code-named Deerfield that runs at 70 watts.

Sun, based in Santa Clara, California, uses its UltraSPARC chips in a wide variety of servers from one processor Web servers to 106 processor high end systems used for demanding tasks such as scientific computing.

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