SPARC M7 chip takes it up a notch with 32 cores

Oracle released the SPARC M7 chip at the Hot Chips 26 conference in Cupertino, CA. It promises a major boost in performance, new features and 32 cores -- allowing you to make a really big machine and consolidate.

Oracle's new SPARC M7 chip, which has 32 cores with 10 billion transistors, is keyed in for large servers, according to one technical consultant.

Christo Kutrovsky, principal consultant at Pythian said the processor -- which Oracle unveiled Aug. 12 at the Hot Chips 26 conference in Cupertino, CA-- is made to work particularly well in large machines with a lot of chips. This allows more data to be consolidated into fewer yet bigger machines. To give a sense of scale, he explained that if a two-core processor were a car, the SPARC M7 processor would be a whole train.

 "This chip allows you to have a really, really, really big machine," he said. "If you want something with 32 cores, that [SPARC M7] is pretty much your only option."

John Fowler, Oracle VP of systems, said SPARC M7 chip performance will increase up to 4x over SPARC M6. Features include an embedded in-memory database and the ability to run data in a compressed format to save space. It also has features built right into the silicon, including the In-Memory Query Accelerator. The M7 Query Engine can speed up in-memory processes like Format Conversion and Value and Range look-ups.

The SPARC M7 chip will have integrated semantics, decompression, real-time application data integration and error checking of all data at full performance. Integer multipliers on common queries will drive decompression on memory bandwidth. Fowler also stressed features like higher clock speed, improved technology pipelines, lower memory latency and layered architecture.

The SPARC M7 chip provides virtual address masking for Java, garbage collection efficiency and coherent and non-coherent interfaces. According to Fowler, low latency clusters between RACs will be faster than with Infiniband. "It won't be subtle," Fowler said.

The SPARC M7 chip will be available to non-Oracle databases, though the In-Memory features are part of Oracle Database 12c and will not carry over to products not using that database operating system. The SPARC M7 chip will run on Solaris 10 and Solaris 11 and will be able to handle Solaris 8 applications. Some key features will only be available for Solaris 11, but Oracle said the SPARC M7 chip will improve performance regardless of the Solaris edition.

The SPARC M7 chip will be released in both engineered systems and regular servers incorporating Solaris and will ship in 2015 with no change in pricing from the M6.

Next Steps

Oracle Virtual Machine 3.3 is the first of the Oracle Virtual Machine series to have full support for SPARC.

SPARC-powered Knappsack is an open source mobile application management tool.

Intel's new processor challenges SPARC with a new processor packing up to 15 cores.

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