Tuesday, April 3, 2012

POWER, AMD, Itanium, and SPARC

[IBM POWER5 Multi-Chip Module]
POWER, AMD, Itanium, and SPARC

[Sony Playstation]

Remembering the loss of POWER on the desktop and anticipating the loss of POWER on embedded gaming consoles, it seems AMD might pick-up the gaming console business.
Whatever manufacturer AMD will choose, with its heterogeneous systems architecture (HSA), it's facing interesting new challenges. The signs indicating that Sony intents to switch to x86 processors and AMD GPUs for its next Playstation generation (2013/2014) are mounting. That Cell is not an option for Sony anymore already became largely clear when Cell partner IBM pulled out. With AMD's HSA concept, Sony could even fit the chip with its own extensions (FPGAs, media processors, DSPs and so on). And also Microsoft is supposed to be highly interested in an extended cooperation with AMD, for its next Xbox generation.
August of 2011, IBM unplugged POWER on their high-end Super Computer.
The Power 755 was supposed to be at the heart of the petaflops-busting "Blue Waters" super at the University of Illinois, but IBM pulled the plug on that deal last August.
POWER 7+ is more than 6 months late, with the press being virtually silent about it. It seems the high-end, mid-range, low-end, desktop, and embedded gaming consoles are all experiencing POWER problems with IBM.

[Intel Intanium Processor, courtesy Kazor-PT]
Itanium Death Knell

There has been much discussion from Oracle, regarding the ceasing of Itanium application development. It seems Larry Ellison was really "The Oracle" he projected to be - Itanuim may officially be dead in 2016. (new link)
Oracle's fraud counter-claim against Hewlett-Packard was dismissed by a Californian Superior Court, but during the proceedings it became clear that the Itanium line really doesn't have much of a future anymore. About two years after the eight-core chip Poulson, scheduled for this year, rolls out, the Kittson is supposed to follow, and we might still see the minimally improved Kittson+. Then, around 2016, the Itanium line will finally be ceased.
It seems, with how big of an issue Itanium discontinuance rumors were, that there would be more press regarding the now confirmed death of Itanium.

[Japan's Oakleaf-FX petaflopper at the University of Tokyo courtesy The Register]
Fujitsu SPARC64

As other RISC and VLIW vendors are finding themselves on sinking ships, Fujitsu releases another generation of SPARC CPU for their #1 performing supercomputer platforms.
Fujitsu has fired up the first installation of its PrimeHPC FX10 massively parallel Sparc-based supercomputer, a machine called Oakleaf-FX that weighs in at 1.13 petaflops of peak raw performance... For the PrimeHPC FX10 machines, Fujitsu has etched a new 16-core Sparc64-IXfx processor that runs at 1.85GHz
SPARC under Fujitsu doubles down and lives on - with a very occasional article about about the vendor who creates the fastest supercomputer in the world.

[SPARC public roadmap February 2012, courtesy Oracle]
Oracle SPARC M-Series

When Oracle adjusted the SPARC roadmap - another M-Series with 6x the throughput was noted. The 16-64 socket platform has virtually no one in the industry speculating, which baffles this author.

An "unknown" blogger posted a comment, regarding the 10 month old #1 Fujitsu SPARC Super Computer article:
Too bad we'll probably never see those chips in an Oracle Server.
This writer is not exactly sure where an M-Series with 6x throughput will come from (in the next 6 months), unless it comes from Fujitsu's Super Computer investment. It seems pretty clear that the processor has to come from Fujitsu.

Oracle/Fujitsu M-Series receiving a significant boost is very good news for SPARC - considering other vendors (IBM POWER and Intel/HP Itanium) continue their decline.

[Oracle Magazine 2012 Cover with SPARC T5]
Oracle T Series

The March 2012 edition of Oracle Magazine had an image of the SPARC T5 processor, slated to be released later this year. With a doubling of the cores per socket and a doubling of the sockets per chassis - this should be a very nice addition to the SPARC family.

The addition of compression engines (in the T5), in addition to the well-know crypto engines in the SPARC T Series will be a welcome capability addition for general purpose computing. Fewer proprietary crypto cards, proprietary network devices with crypto engines, and proprietary disk arrays (sporting compression, encryption, and dedup) will be needed - to achieve outstanding performance of general purpose applications running under SPARC.

Oracle Magazine provided a comforting photo of another next-generation open architecture SPARC chip (SPARC is an open specification designed & manufactured by multiple vendors), as single-vendor proprietary CPU's from IBM (POWER) and Intel (Itanium) continue to demonstrate their decline.

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