A Primer on Fujitsu's SPARC Heritage
Important stuff you need to know if you're betting the server farm on
editor of the
SPARC Product Directory
- July 5, 2004
Surviving the Solaris
the Dots in OpenSPARC
Last Market Report on
Sun Compatible OEMs?
Looking Back at 3rd
Party SPARC Technology Firsts
EMC - dissecting the surreal positioning of AFA startups
- A Primer on Fujitsu's SPARC Heritage |
|Two years ago, in July
2002, I wrote an article called
Sun Users Waiting
for Fujitsu? in which I said that Fujitsu might be the only hope for Sun
customers who were suffering from Sun's inability or unwillingness to push
forward the SPARC performance envelope and keep pace with competing
architectures. Little did I imagine that it would actually take so long for this
In October 1993 in my article
Are Sun's Days
Numbered? I ran a report that Sun and Fujitsu were talking about
collaborating on future SPARC chip developments and merging product lines. We
had to wait till June 2004 for confirmation of this in a joint Sun and Fujitsu
in June 2004 came the
from Fujitsu that it would be shipping servers using its 5th generation 1.89 GHz
SPARC64 processor in September. This is a SPARC processor which is 60%
faster than any single SPARC processor which you can buy today from Sun, and
it's the start of the roadmap for all forseeable future high performance SPARC
servers from Sun.
Here's the important part.
have investments in SPARC servers then, looking ahead, it's going to be Fujitsu
that delivers future enhancements in SPARC chip technology and not Sun. There's
no one else left in this market who will come in as a white knight and save the
SPARC market from being a dinosaur. You have to feel comfortable with that or
start making plans to switch to another platform.
Most of you won't be
familiar with Fujitsu's track record in the SPARC market, and that's why I put
together this article to pull together some snippets of
from our archives.
Some Past SPARC Milestones by Fujitsu
SPARC products have left a weak impression in the minds of most Sun users.
That's partly because the company's past efforts have been fragmented,
disjointed and sometimes unsuccessful in the market.
Within the SPARC
systems segment the company has created and then killed or stealth marketed
brands more often that Buffy the vampire slayer has saved the world from
armaggedon. Fujitsu's SPARC systems companies and brands have included:- HAL
Computer, turboSPARC, ICL, Amdahl, Fujitsu Siemens (in Europe), Fujitsu
Technology Solutions (in the US) etc.
1993 - Fujitsu's
European subsidiary ICL previewed its GoldRush Megaserver, a 64 SPARC
CPU capable server, originally rated at 6,000 transactions/second. It ran Unix,
but not Solaris. ICL later merged into Fujitsu Siemens Computers.
- Fujitsu owned HAL Computer launched the industry's first workstations based on
a 64 bit CPU, HAL's independently designed first generation SPARC64.
HAL's workstations did run Solaris, but failed to make a dent in the Sun
compatible market. Within a few years, Fujitsu closed down HAL and merged its
server and chip technology into the short lived Fujitsu Technology Solutions,
which then became Fujitsu Computer Systems.
1997 - Fujitsu
Microelectronics's 32 bit TurboSPARC was a user installable upgrade chip for
Sun's SPARCstation 5
2001 - Fujitsu's independently designed
SPARC servers didn't suffer from the cache design problems in Sun's own
systems (see the article
Any Speed?). That was first sign that Fujitsu's combination of semiconductor
and computer experience could deliver a vastly more reliable SPARC
server than Sun's inexperienced designers who made a fundamentally bad design
2002 - Fujitsu's SPARC servers started making
headlines for their performance, as in this December 10, 2002
"Fujitsu Technology Solutions Inc. today announced best-in-class results in
industry-leading benchmarks on its PRIMEPOWER 850 SPARC compliant, Solaris
2003 - In October the pieces of the
jigsaw started to come together. We
a news story today in JapanToday.com speculates that Sun Microsystems may reduce
development costs by pooling resources with Fujitsu on the design of future high
end SPARC servers.
...Later - in April 2007 - the results of
this partnership emerged as the "SPARC Enterprise" product brand.
I'm reminded of the 25 year old battle between Intel and AMD in
the x86 compatible chip market. In 1980 AMD was persuaded by Intel to drop its
support for the competing 16 bit Z8000 processor which AMD was making as a
second source to Zilog, and instead to support Intel's 8086. For over 20 years
AMD struggled to make money from its x86 processors, and then Intel made a
terrific blunder by launching a 64 bit CPU which was not x86 compatible. Now AMD
owns the 64 bit x86 market and is on a roll with that product.
Sun lost its repuation for making reliable servers because of its badly designed
cache memory which was sensitive to alpha particle radiation and which didn't
include adequate error checking and correction. In the period 2001 to 2004 - Sun
lost the performance lead of SPARC over Intel by late to market and badly
executed semiconductor design. Fujitsu, a world leading chip company, now has
products which can put SPARC back onto a competive track. Sun has tacitly
admited that it will take a back seat in chip design and stick to tweaking the
Solaris OS and marketing. Both jobs which Sun does well.
setbacks with some SPARC products haven't stopped Fujitsu's support for this
technology. They have kept plodding on when dozens of other server companies
have exited the SPARC market. Without that long term investment and consistency
- SPARC wouldn't have much of a future today. ...Fujitsu profile,
SSD design processors used in SSD controllers and systems
Terrorbyte loved sitting around|
the campfire, discussing the good old days
|In Memoriam:- Some Dead and
Past SPARC Chip Companies|
Solbourne - made its own SPARC
chips, workstations and servers in the 1980s and early 90s. Also the first
multiprocessor SPARC systems
Weitek - introduced the SPARC
power microP, in 1993, a user installable CPU upgrade with clock
doubling technology aimed at customers of SPARCstation 2's, and IPX's. These
competed directly with Sun's own board swap upgrade program, and showed that the
installed base of SPARC computers had reached a critical mass. This product was
a one hit wonder.
Ross Technology - announced its hyperSPARC
CPU's as user installable competitive upgrades to earlier MBus machines from Sun
in 1994. In later years, hyperSPARC and Sun's own superSPARC competed for MBus
slots in the factory as well as the installed base. Later that year, Sun started
to include hyperSPARC models as alternative choices in its SS-20 family.
owned HAL Computer - launched the industry's first workstations based
on a 64 bit CPU, HAL's own SPARC64 in 1995
Microelectronics' - 32 bit TurboSPARC (in 1997) was a user installable
upgrade chip for Sun's SPARCstation 5
Texas Instruments - has
been a silicon foundry (chip making subcontractor) for Sun's SPARC chips
throughout the 1990s and upto 2004. TI doesn't have a stake in SPARC
architecture and has never had the rights to market SPARC chips.
- doesn't own a wafer fab, which is why it can't recruit the world's best chip
designers. But that helps its bottom line too, because chip making is an
expensive and complicated business.
Other SPARC chip manufacturers
have been focused on the SPACE and embedded markets and don't make commercially
/ Fujitsu SPARC Server Line Finally Sees Light of Day|
- April 17, 2007 - Fujitsu and Sun Microsystems, Inc. today
unveiled a new line-up of co-developed mainframe-class servers. |
new servers, based on the SPARC architecture and running the Solaris 10 OS, are
the fastest SPARC servers ever, and will be marketed by both companies and
affiliates under the "SPARC Enterprise" product brand. This the
culmination of over two years of joint development between Fujitsu and Sun,
building on their 20-year strategic relationship.
The new servers
(available today) address the growing customer need to maximize system
utilization by offering an array of highly granular partitioning and domaining
technologies. The SPARC Enterprise servers are also designed to ensure minimal
downtime. The systems marketed by Sun and Fujitsu are identical except for
branding, and Sun guarantees 100% Solaris binary compatibility. ...Fujitsu profile
comments:- I first reported on the start of this project 4 years ago in
|Many of the important and
sometimes mysterious behavioral aspects of SSDs which predetermine their
application limitations and usable market roles can only be understood when you
look at how well the designer has dealt with managing the symmetries and
asymmetries which are implicit in the underlying technologies which are
contained within the SSD.|
|how fast can your SSD
|Can you trust SSD market
reports and the handed down wisdom from analysts, bloggers and so-called
heck no! - whatever gave you that silly idea?