Sun Microsystems announced on Monday the first of a new generation of processors for computer servers that the company says offers faster performance with less energy use.
Sun hopes that the new chip, called the UltraSparc T1, will help it win back the market share it lost to higher-performing yet less expensive Unix servers the last few years.
The chip, code-named Niagara while in development, is designed for a specific niche of the server market: high-volume Web service operations, like those at Google and eBay. Sun has not yet announced the specific server models that will use the new chip, but the company's executives said the servers would be available before the end of this year, several months ahead of the original schedule.
The UltraSparc T1 uses about 70 watts of electricity, closer to that of standard household light bulbs, and less than the 150 watts to 200 watts that most microprocessors in servers consume. It has eight processing cores, each able to execute four threads. As a result, the chip includes the same processing power and features of an entire network server, said Greg Papadopoulos, Sun's chief technology officer.
"It's really a race to the death for the microprocessor," Mr. Papadopoulos said. "The systems are being placed on the chip." Sun could now have a five-year leap on the Power chip from IBM and Intel's Xeon processor, two competing chips.
Sun has invested heavily in developing new servers and server processors in the last few years as its struggled to regain its business momentum. In September, the company announced a revamped server technology called Galaxy for the lower-end market.
Sun has revamped its products to reflect an industry shift to lower-cost computer servers, namely those using Intel-compatible chips made by Intel and AMD, and is moving to a more subscription-based model for selling its hardware, computer services and business software.