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Oracle announced its new, lower-cost SPARC processor -- Sonoma -- at the Hot Chips 27 conference in Cupertino, Calif., earlier this week. Sonoma is designed to handle enterprise workloads, but at a lower cost than pre-existing versions of SPARC.
By lowering the entry cost to SPARC-engineered systems, Oracle hopes to attract new and different buyers. Sonoma aims at the kind of environments run by cloud service providers: scale-out, as opposed to scale-up, settings.
These environments are currently dominated by systems powered by Intel's x86 processors and Xeon chips. With Sonoma, Oracle could put itself into a position to rival Hewlett-Packard and IBM. However, no details have been released yet concerning the release date of the new processor.
Software in silicon technology
Like the SPARC M7 released in August 2014, Sonoma is a 20 nm chip. However, whereas the M7 was top of the line in every respect Oracle could make it, Sonoma's capabilities match its lower price.
According to Oracle's slides from the Hot Chips 27 presentation, as published by The Register, Sonoma has eight fourth-generation SPARC S4 cores, with PCI Gen 3 and InfiniBand integrated into the silicon. It has direct-attached DDR4 memory and a range of software features, including concurrent memory masking, real-time application data integrity and database query offload engines. Sonoma has a shared 8 MB Level 3 cache, shared Level 2 caches and an individual Level 1 cache. It also comes with an integrated cryptographic unit that supports security and encryption across the Oracle stack, as well as cryptographic instructions, such asAES, Camellia, MDS and RSA.
SPARC M7 was the first SPARC chip to have software in silicon, which puts software function directly into the silicon hardware of the chip. M7 brought software in silicon to the high-end systems. Sonoma also has software in silicon, which brings a formerly high-end only feature to low-end, more affordable systems.
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