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November 16, 1995

SUN DUBS ITS ULTRA PORT ARCHITECTURE THE LYNCHPIN OF THE ULTRASPARC DESIGN

By CBR Staff Writer

Sun Microsystems Inc styles its Ultra Port Architecture, which replaces the existing memory bus, as the lynchpin of the UltraSparc design, by describing it as a switch-based interconnect of the kind usually found in supercomputers, linking processor, input-output, graphics, memory and networking. It transfers data at up to 1.3Mbps. A Visual Instruction Set is built on the motherboard to give up to five times graphics and multimedia performance improvements over other systems without add-in boards. The Creator Graphics graphics engine, said to perform at 133 PLBwire93 and 185 PLBsurf93, includes Sun’s 3D-RAM, frame-buffer memory architecture developed with Mitsubishi Electric Corp and claimed to combine the best of video RAM, dynamic RAM and static RAM. It is said to improve complex graphics performance by as much as 10 times. Creator Graphics comes as Creator and Creator3D; both provide 24-bit colour, 1,280 by 1,024 resolution and accelerated image and video processing, windowing and two-dimensional animation. Creator3D adds double-buffering support for complex three-dimensional graphics. Market researcher D H Brown Associates Inc said Creator leads other rasterisation boards such as Digital Equipment Corp’s ZLX-L2, in performance, but lags behind accelerators that are designed to stress floating-point operations such as IBM Corp’s GXT1000-2 and the Hewlett-Packard Co Visualize-48 although It is ahead of them on price-performance. Creator’s wireframe performance is superseded only by Hewlett-Packard Visualize-48 and Electronic Design Corp’s ZLX-E2/3 – and beaten on price-performance by DEC’s ZLX-E2. Although Sun is one of a number of recent OpenGL graphics library converts, it doesn’t provide OPC Viewperformance numbers and is unlikely to do so until it releases a native, tuned version of OpenGL, DH Brown observes; perhaps confirming criticism that the 3D-RAM architecture will not directly support all of the OpenGL per-fragment operations. 10/100Mbps Fast Ethernet and fast-wide SCSI support is built onto the 170E Creator motherboard or is available from next month as a $1,100 SunSwift single-wide SBus adaptor. Version 2.0 of the SunFastEthernet 10/100 SBus adaptor costs $800 and is available in January. Its third-generation 155Mbps Asynchronous Transfer Mode Adaptor 2.0 (including support for ATM Forum’s LAN Emulation 1.0 spec) is $1,000 (twisted-pair) or $1,300 (fibre-optic). There are also new 4.0 versions of the SunFDDI Adaptor – $2,500 for single-attach, $3,800 for dual-attach.

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