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Here Comes Oracle’s New Sparc Servers

The servers, set to compete against IBM and HP, mostly IBM, are supposed to be designed for the cloud

Larry Ellison's latest scheme for proving his multibillion-dollar investment in Sun was a brilliant scheme will be to move features from the Oracle database like accelerated queries and Java middleware into Sun silicon.

"Software in silicon is redefining enterprise computing," he said.

Larry dropped this little nugget Tuesday when he rolled out the latest generation of Solaris-based Sparc machines claiming they housed the world's fastest processor.

The servers, set to compete against IBM and HP, mostly IBM, are supposed to be designed for the cloud and include an entry-to-mid-range T5 and a high-end M5. They're said to offer "near linear scalability" from one to 32 sockets.

Both chips, each 28nm and based on the S3 core design, but different in their core count and L3 cache, clock in at 3.6GHz.

The T5 chip, the world's fastest et cetera et cetera, is in a server that can have up to eight processors, which are twice as fast the old T4, and are supposed to be good at running databases and Java middleware - at least at the high end of the family. The T5 chip is fitted out with cryptographic and encryption accelerators.

The eight-chip T5 box costs under $500,000. A $270,000 model is supposed to be 12 times faster at running Java software than a much bigger IBM system priced at $990,000.

The T5 line starts with a single-socket 1B blade server, Oracle's only single-socket model. Ten blades can fit in the old Kealia chassis Sun got when it bought Andy Bechtolsheim's start-up way back when. The blades virtualize the I/O to the network and storage.

The M5, with its six cores per die and 48MB of L3 cache, is said to run the Oracle database 10 times faster than the similarly priced M9000 server it's replacing. It can have 32 processors inside and 96 M5 processors can be lashed together to form a shared-memory system.

Immediately, Oracle is only shipping one M5 box, the M5-32 with - as you might expect - 32 sockets. All decked out it can have 192 cores, 1,536 threads, and 32TB of main memory. That's more memory in a single image than anybody else's got.

With 1.4TB/sec of memory bandwidth, 3TB/sec of system bandwidth, and over 1TB/sec of I/O bandwidth, it's for the really big workloads that financial services and telco companies come up with.

It has 32 drive bays that can accommodate 600GB disks or 300GB SSDs.

The M5 launch means Oracle is finished upgrading the Sparc line it acquired in 2010. Sun and then Oracle's M systems used to come from Fujitsu. Whether Oracle is going to rebadge any of the latest swat of Fujitsu Sparc machines is unclear.

Both the T5 and M5 boxes come with VMware's hypervisor and Solaris 11.1. Earlier versions of the operating system are also supported.

Larry said last week when Oracle's fiscal Q3 results showed Sun hardware dropped another 23% to revenues of a mere $671 million - with operating profit down 37% to $123 million - that these new boxes would be unveiled this week. He blamed the fleet of salesmen new to company who have been hired in the last 18 months for the shortfall.

Customers have been expecting them so some of the decline can be attributed to their waiting for the new machines but Ellison isn't expecting growth until Oracle's fiscal Q1. Oracle is targeting telecoms, banking and manufacturing.

Oracle is fighting an uphill battle against a global decline in Unix sales. Gartner says they were down 26% to $2.03 billion in Q4. IBM has 63% of the market. Oracle and HP each have 17%.

Oracle's big mover is its Intel-based Exa-series appliances, but it's not an Oracle-size revenue center.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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