Niagara II

The Niagara II architecture is on the way, and it promises to double the throughput of the original T1 (Niagara) CPU and provide a host of other benefits.The Niagara CPU (T1) as provided in the T1000 (read my T1000 in more detail review) and T2000 (read T2000 faster than I need) support 8 cores, with 4 threads per core, and a single, shared, FPU. That single FPU becomes a problem in high volume floating point work, because it can slow down the work of all the other cores and threads.The multiple threads make use of the slower access to RAM to trigger a context switch, so although they are not executing four threads simultaneously, the potential drop in performance of a single thread as it has to access more data enables another thread to run until the data is available. This enables you to get a lot of execution power out of the single core, based on the fact that it would otherwise be sitting there idle.With the Niagara II CPU there are four significant improvements, based on the same eight-core approach:

  • Doubling of thread support to eight simultaneous threads, and therefore 64 simultaneous threads on the one CPU.
  • Each core now has it’s own FPU, improving the rate of floating point calculations.
  • Upping of the CPU rate to 1.4GHz.
  • Support for dual-CPU systems.

That last item is very interesting, because it means that you’ll be able to support a single system with 128 simultaneous threads. If Sun could squeeze that into a 1U unit like the T1000, you could support an impressive 5,376 simultaneous threads within a standard full-height rack.Of course, to back that up, there are some additional changes. The replacement for the T1000 is expected to support 64GB RAM (twice the current) and the T2000 128GB (also twice the current), and 10Gb Ethernet will be standard on the motherboard.The rest of the key features will remain the same, including the ability, through software, to control the individual cores and lower power consumption. I’ve mentioned it before, but I still think there could be potential for a portable version of the T1 – the Intel dual core CPUs show that multi-core technology of this type is something that can be applied in a laptop.The Ultra 3 Mobile Workstation (read Ultra 3 Review) is not a small unit, although the size of the T1 CPU is such that it would take up a significant portion of the case…Even a 4 core/4 thread version of the Niagara would be an interesting concept, and would keep the size and power requirements down.Until then, I’ll just have to keep testing the T1000. I’ve spent 3 days now trying out the Cooltools, and I’ll probably be posting the preliminary results this week.