MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. Sun Microsystems Inc. is rolling out an embedded version of its 64-bit Ultrasparc II that it expects to have in production by November, targeting rack-mounted servers, line cards, telecommunications switches and network routers. The IIe device also will be aimed at chronically I/O-bound applications, such as storage-area networks and RAID controllers, where the I/O processor of choice often is Intel Corp.'s outdated 32-bit 960 family.
Sun is homing in on an increasingly active space in the embedded market, where 64-bit architectures from MIPS Technologies Inc., from PowerPC vendors Motorola Inc. and IBM Corp., and others are gaining design wins.
The Ultrasparc IIe offers a 64-bit word width, internal buses that support 144-bit-wide data and 64-bit-wide instruction transfers, 64-bit I/O and a 128-bit-wide memory to CPU bus. The Ultrasparc II architecture will support 600-Mbyte/second sustained, and 1.6 Gbyte/s peak, I/O bandwidth.
Also incorporated in hardware are features to accelerate certain operations in an operating system that deal with I/O, such as block load/store. Instruction set extensions are optimized for a range of networked multimedia applications.
Sun sees blue sky ahead for the IIe, said Craig O'Sullivan, the Ultrasparc IIe senior product manager. The high end of the embedded market is growing so fast that the device will succeed, he said, both with internal customers at Sun and in the commercial marketplace.
"We see the market for high-end embedded 32- and 64-bit processors reaching $3.12 billion annually within two years," O'Sullivan said. "Networking and communications, the segments for which the IIe is well suited, are predicted to be $1.4 billion annually and [are] growing at 22 percent a year."
Emerging applications include "embedded servers," or dedicated modules embedded within the server farms maintained by Internet and application service providers. Placed at critical choke p oints, a 64-bit CPU could relieve I/O problems in areas such as e-mail and Web page caching, O'Sullivan said.
But Sun faces competition in the rack-mounted server space. Network Appliance Inc.'s NetCache, for example, uses a 64-bit Alpha and a proprietary real-time OS. Another player, Cobalt Microserver Inc., uses a 64-bit MIPS RISC chip and a customized version of Linux.
Beyond servers, O'Sullivan sees opportunities for the CPU as an adjunct processor in central office switches. "And switched-fabric alternatives such as gigabit/second Infiniband will need all the help that the IIe could provide," he said.
No matter how high the performance requirements, those applications fall into the embedded space, because developers must keep an eye on Mips per watt and Mips per dollar as well as performance metrics.
Sun engineers have integrated on-chip functions such as a 256-kbyte Level 2 cache, a 32-bit industry-standard 66-MHz PCI bus and an SDRAM controller. Fabr icated with an 0.18-micron, six-layer aluminum CMOS process at manufacturing partner Texas Instruments Inc., the embedded version will operate at 1.5 volts in the core and 3.3 V at the external I/O.
The device, packaged in a 370-pin ceramic pin grid array, draws 8 W maximum at 400 MHz and 1.5 V. Built-in power-management functions keep consumption at no more than 3 W in sleep mode, allowing the CPU to meet U.S. government Energy Star requirements.
The 400-MHz version will be priced at about $145 each in 50,000-unit annual volumes; the 500-MHz version will cost $225 apiece. The IIe will support Wind River RTOS products as well as the Sun Solaris operating system.
Sun eventually expects to move to flip-chip packages.