Sun Abandons Rock Processor Project: Report

The New York Times.

Quoting two unnamed sources within Sun, the Times wrote that the server vendor canceled the Rock project after five years of development and after numerous shipment delays.

In January 2009, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz told Wall Street analysts that the Rock server processor was still expected to be shipping this year.

As recently as late last year, Sun was introducing technical details about the SPARC-compatible Rock processor, plans of which were originally unveiled back in 2004.

The Rock was slated to be available with 16 processor cores and 16 floating point and graphics units (FGUs) arranged in four clusters. Each core was designed to simultaneously run two threads, for a total of 32 threads per chip.

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Within the chip, the clusters were slated to be interconnected using a crossbar architecture.

The processor was designed with several features to improve application performance, including Hardware Scout, which takes advantage of idle chip execution resources to grab instructions before they are required and place them into cache so they are ready in advance. This process, known as "prefetch," speeds up processor performance.

A Sun presentation on the Rock processor can be accessed by clicking here.

If it ships, Rock would have competed with multicore processors from Intel and AMD, as well as other multicore processors from Sun and its chip partner, Fujitsu.

Mark Teter, CTO of Advanced Systems Group, a Denver-based solution provider and Sun partner, said he would not be surprised to see Sun kill its Rock processor project, especially given the upcoming acquisition of Sun by Oracle.

"Oracle's whole mantra has been, run Oracle RAC on low-cost servers which scale horizontally," Teter said. "It makes sense for Oracle-Sun to let Fujitsu take over."

However, Teter said, it would be sad to see the Rock project end, as it could mean that Sun's entire UltraSPARC processor family eventually falls by the wayside.

"But the good news is, Sun Solaris is the best operating system for managing multi-thread processors like Intel's Nehalem," he said. "And Oracle can leverage Solaris in its software stack to create a high-performance offering."

Sun declined to respond to the news.

Oracle said in April that it plans to acquire Sun in a deal worth about $7.4 billion.