Note : This page may contain outdated information and/or broken links; some of the formatting may be mangled due to the many different code-bases this site has been through in over 20 years; my opinions may have changed etc. etc.
Yesterday, Sun announced the availability of their new CoolThreads powered servers. They’re powered by the latest incarnation of the UltraSPARC range of processors - so naturally, you get all the full binary compatibility assurances that brings. Sun are making much of the efficiency and "greenness" of these new boxes; but while I’m all for saving penguins and polar bears, what really stands out is the sheer performance these boxes bring. Check out the entry-level T1000 , for instance. £2,200 (list price according to the Sun UK catalogue) gets you a 6-core system, which can run 4 threads per core, making a total of 24 simultaneous threads.
This thing will absolutely make mincemeat of serving web pages, or pretty much anything else you can throw at it that doesn’t require stellar floating point performance. According to their benchmarks using the industry standard SPECweb range of tests, The single CPU 1 GHz 8-core T1000 system was over two times as fast as a Dell system with dual 3.8 GHz Xeons. Read that again - a single processor clocked at nearly one fourth of the clock speed of a single Xeon beat a dual-Xeon system, and also soundly thrashed a IBM x346 with 2 dual-core processors. That is, by any metric, a stunning display of performance. And it only takes up 1-U of rack space.
Or, there’s the T2000 - which at £8,400 for a 8*4 core (32 simultaneous threads!), 8Gbs of RAM, Quad Gig-E, dual 10K RPM disks, PCI-X and a funky brushed metal case, stacks up very favourably against a similarly spec’d dual-processor UltraSparc IIIi V240 - at only a grand more. Interestingly, UltraSPARC IIIi based kit has just taken a drop in price!
Whilst the AMD kit Sun have been pushing out represents fantastic value for money and great flexibility (one platform, multiple OS’s - even Windows, if you so desired), this is the first time in a long while I’ve been excited at the launch of a new SPARC server. These things will collectively own the datacentre. It’s a 64-bit SPARC processor, running Solaris - so there’s no changes, no recompiling - just suddenly your applications will start to fly, and there’s none of the costs involved in jumping to a different architecture. Can’t wait to have a play on one of these…