Sun spices up chip line with UltraSPARC IIIi

Sun Microsystems Inc. unveiled a new chip Tuesday designed to pack more processing power into a smaller physical space for its lower-end server line.

Code-named Jalapeno, the new UltraSPARC IIIi microprocessor is for Sun servers with between one and four processors, the company said in a statement. The chip features large Level 1 and 1M-byte Level 2 on-chip memory caches.

When Sun designed the UltraSPARC IIIi, it brought off-chip subsystems onto the main processor chip, which simplifies the system design and reduces the number of components. Texas Instruments Inc. will manufacture the chips for Sun using its 0.13 micron technology and copper interconnect process. The chip range will start above 1GHz while keeping power consumption below 60 watts, Sun said.

Sun is expected to introduce the UltraSPARC IIIi in servers next year, according to a source familiar with the company's plans. The vendor will release a two-way server and a four-way server, code-named Chalupa, as replacements to its Netra line.

The new chip could help Sun compete against servers using Intel Corp.'s processors and Microsoft Corp.'s software in the low-end space. Sun aims to create powerful servers while keeping costs low to match such "Wintel" systems.

One analyst expects the chip price to be relatively low although it will bring more power to small servers running Sun's Solaris operating system.

"You can't afford to put a thousand-dollar chip in a thousand-dollar workstation," said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst with Insight 64 in Saratoga, California. "It is following on what they did with the UltraSPARC II chips."

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