Sun Vows Processor Plans Won't Go Dark

Sun canceled development on a processor code-named Millennium to shift resources to two new processor platforms, code-named Niagara and Rock, confirmed David Yen, who last week was promoted to executive vice president of Sun's Throughput Systems unit.

Yen is now responsible for all SPARC-based processors and servers. Also last week, Sun said Neil Knox, executive vice president of volume systems products, is leaving the company to pursue other interests.

>> Niagara will be used in network handling and Web tier servers; Rock will target midrange servers.

Early on, Sun called Millennium "UltraSPARC V," but that later confused some people who thought canceling the project signaled an end to the UltraSPARC platform, Yen said. Sun also canceled its Gemini project some months ago. As with UltraSPARC IV, which is based on two UltraSPARC III cores, plans called for Gemini to be built on two UltraSPARC II cores. Gemini development had reached the point where processors were working in sample systems, Yen said.

"It was as fast as UltraSPARC IIIi in single-thread operations and had a bit faster overall performance," he said. "But Sun already has two UltraSPARC product lines and is working with AMD on entry-level processors. So we decided that for the slight delta in performance, Gemini was too confusing."

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Sun plans to move from the current 120-nanometer to 90-nanometer technology for both UltraSPARC lines, at which time UltraSPARC IIIi performance will get another boost, Yen said.

Going forward, Sun will focus on the Niagara and Rock processor projects. Niagara, to be used in network handling and Web tier servers, is based in part on technology obtained from Afara Web Systems, which Sun acquired more than a year ago, Yen said.

Slated to follow Niagara, Rock is aimed at midrange and high-end servers and will leverage Afara technology and Sun designs such as the MAJC graphic processor.

"Sun is paring down some of its R&D projects and picking its battles," said Rob Wolfe, president and CEO of AvcomEast, a Silver Spring, Md., Sun solution provider.