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  1. Technology
November 8, 1993


By CBR Staff Writer

Sun Microsystems Inc’s Sparc Technology Business has for the first time begun selling and supporting its own Sparc microprocessors, including the newly launched microSparc-II for low-end and embedded systems – and the new 64-bit UltraSparc chip for high-end machines that it plans to have out by late 1994. Sparc Technology will also sell supporting application specific integrated circuits, Sparcengine boards, Sparcstation and Sparc CPU designs, including technology early access licences and design and testing tools via a worldwide direct sales team and distribution channels. Customers will pay between $100,000 and $500,000 depending on the use to which the resultant Sparc chip will be put. Although Sun said it has already offered customers these services on a case-by-case basis, it was, in the past, more usual simply to go to a Sparc manufacturer, such as Texas Instruments Inc, buy components and build a chip yourself without any help. While these manufacturers will still sell silicon, primarily, Sun reckons, to high volume users, Sun is setting itself up as a complementary channel or one-stop-shop for new customers. The aim behind this is to build up volume sales – at the moment, out of the 500,000 Sparc chips that ship each year, about 350,000 go into some form of computer – between 85% and 90% of which are Sun machines.

New MicroSparc-ll

The rest go to the telecommunications market and are embedded in such devices as network switches, and to embedded instrumentation control markets for use in areas such as robotics. Within two or three years, however, Sun hopes to sell 1m units per year, and says it wants to see 40% of them used in the non-Sun, non-workstation market. As for the Sparc microprocessors themselves, Sun launched the new MicroSparc-II last week. This is based on the Sparc version 8 32-bit architecture and, although fabricated by Fujitsu Ltd now, will be licensed to other manufacturers for derivative applications in future. Sun claims that it operates at 3.3V, integrates 2.3m transistors compared with MicroSparc’s 800,000 and offers between two and three times the performance of the MicroSparc a 70MHz to 100MHz version is said to run at between 51 and 63 Specint92 and between 43 and 56 Specfp92. The new chip also has 16Kb of instruction cache and 8Kb of data cache – four times that of the MicroSparc – a local graphics bus, providing four times the graphics throughput, and an integrated floating point processor that doubles the execution rate of double precision floating point operations. The MicroSparc-II is targeted at the low-end desktop, server and portable markets and at the high-end embedded market. It is sampling in 70MHz versions at the moment, but versions clocked at between 70MHz and 125MHz will go into volume production from early 1994, at a price of $1,040 in quantities of 1,000 or more. The next Sparc chip to emerge, in late 1994, will be the first member of the 64-bit bi-endian UltraSparc family – which will be high-end multiprocessing chips. There are plans to make the mid-range SuperSparc-11 processor, which is also due out in 1994, bi-endian as well. The UltraSparc-1 will be based on the Sparc version 9 architecture and will deliver 250 Specint92 and 300 Specfp92. It will also be binary compatible with future members of its family UltraSparc-11, scheduled for release in 1995, will evolve out of it, but will have a higher clock speed at around 160MHz. UltraSparc-111, which is due out sometime during 1996, will be a re-architected version, however, with new pipeline and process features. In the meantime, Novell Inc’s NetWare should be put up on Sparc during 1994, and Microsoft Corp’s Windows NT is likely to go onto MicroSparc III.

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