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Like a Wet T-Shirt, Niagara's Form Vaguely Seen

Like a Wet T-Shirt, Niagara's Form Vaguely Seen

Sun was at Hot Chips this week talking about its upcoming Niagara “throughput” processor, a little four-thread/eight-core number that’s reportedly hit silicon and should turn up in boxes in 2006.

As glamorous as all this threads and cores business sounds, Niagara is still a relatively low-end chip that chip watcher Nathan Brookwood describes as “edgy” and meant for boxes that are “network facing, not data facing.” It’s not a number cruncher, but more of a web server platform. He said it was “very different and if it works, it’ll be a real boost in price/performance.”

The promise of Niagara along with Sun’s upcoming number-crunching chip Rock, with even more threads and cores, may keep some of Sun’s customers from jumping ship.

Sun has said Niagara is spec’d for throughput 15 times an UltraSparc IIi, which could be compared to a Pentium or low-end Xeon.

Niagara was designed to address the generic chip problem of memory latency. It’s an SMP chip and its multi-core architecture comes from Sun’s Afara acquisition. Basically the threading gives the chip something to do while it waits for the poky old memory to give it more data. The chip is also supposed to address the issue of energy efficiency and price/watt.

Specs are still pretty scarce. At this point we know that it’s got a bandwidth of 20 GB/s, an L1 i-cache of 16KB and a d-cache of 8KB and a 3MB L2 cache.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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