SUN'S NEXT processor line will pack 16 cores and tape out by the end of the year, according to a report on News.com.
With all the fuss over Intel versus AMD, it is sometimes forgotten that multicore processors are nothing new and that IBM and Sun had the lead on both of the best names in x86 design. Codenamed Rock, the Sun chip will double the core count of the current UltraSparc T1 generation, still better known by its Niagara codename.
The report suggests that Sun CPU engineers will have to wear a tie if they donâ€™t make their 31 December deadline for the tape-out.
Sounds pretty rosy, doesnâ€™t it? However, although a milestone, taping out does not mean that volume supplies are just around the corner. Indeed, Rock-based servers are not expected to arrive until 2008, says the report -- that will be five years after the project was first publicised by Sun.
By the time Rock servers are available, Sunâ€™s processor division might have yet more questions to answer, despite winning the mainstream CPU crown for numbers of cores and powering part of Sun's best server line-up in years. Even though Sun does not fabricate, CPU design is still immensely costly and Sun is already hedging with its AMD relationship. It also has an ongoing lawsuit with Azul Systems, designer of the 48-core Vega CPU for offloading Java work.
Donâ€™t be surprised if Sun next year goes further than its May 2004 announcement of a shared server development plan with Fujitsu, under the resoundingly literal name of Advanced Product Line, or APL. However, even that project has not seen smooth progress. Originally scheduled for delivery this year, there is still no sign of the merged lines.