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Sparc M7 Tops 10 Billion Transistors

September 9, 2014

Author: Tom R. Halfhill

It’s a good thing Oracle doesn’t sell millions of Sparc server processors, or the world might run out of sand. The next-generation Sparc M7 weighs in with more than 10 billion transistors on a die we estimate at about 700mm2. Each of its 32 CPU cores can simultaneously execute eight threads, and the chip has more than 70MB of cache. The biggest Sparc M7 system can encompass 64 sockets, which would total 2,048 CPUs, 4.4GB of cache, 16,384 threads, and up to 128 terabytes (TB) of physical memory.

Since Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems in 2010 and took over SPARC development, it has executed a surprisingly aggressive roadmap that has new processors coming out every year. And because Oracle is virtually the only customer for these processors, the architects can tune them for the company’s famous enterprise software. Consequently, Sparc processors are gradually evolving into Oracle ASICs—without sacrificing general-purpose programmability.

The Sparc M7 organizes its 32 CPUs into quad-core clusters grouped in the corners of the chip. Dominating the center of this layout are the L3 caches, on-chip interconnects, and logic required for cache-coherent multiprocessing. On the outside of the chip lie four DRAM controllers and some hardware accelerators optimized for Oracle’s enterprise software. TSMC manufactures the chip in its new 20nm high-k metal-gate (HKMG) process.

Oracle unveiled the Sparc M7 at the recent Hot Chips Symposium but presented only a technology overview, not a formal product announcement. Some details are still under wraps, including the production date (sometime in 2015), the CPU clock frequency (more than 3.6GHz), power consumption (looks hot), and system pricing (looks expensive). But for enterprises running large Oracle databases, the highly tuned design of recent Sparc processors makes other choices increasingly moot. Oracle says the Sparc M7 is three times faster than the Sparc M6 on several benchmarks.

Subscribers can view the full article in the Microprocessor Report.

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