On September 18th, Oracle announced the latest generation of the SPARC processors for the 8th generation of SPARC servers. The new M8 and T8 servers were designed to easily integrate into existing systems. Oracle claims that these new processors will do just about every server-related task twice as fast as x86-based processors. That's a very bold claim that I won't be able to test, so let's dive into the hardware!
A SPARC T8 server powered by the SPARC M8 processor. Courtesy of Oracle
The SPARC M8 incorporates 32 on-chip Data Analytics Accelerator engines, which is also known as DAX. You can learn more about it in the video below.
These DAX engines perform the structured query language (SQL) tasks. Oracle says that these DAX engines accelerate the Oracle Database 12c to perform faster than previous models. The processor uses inline decompression to store up to twice as much data in the same memory footprint as previous models with no decrease in performance.
Like the M7 processor, the M8 employs Silicon Secured Memory, a term coined by Oracle for their end-to-end implementation of memory-access done in hardware instead of software. Oracle claims that Silicon Secured Memory reduces cost by cutting down on software instrumentation for hardware monitoring.
The M8 processor chip. Image from the datasheet.
Each of the processor's 32 cores includes a cryptographic instruction accelerator, which enables more than a dozen industry standard ciphers (see hardware specs below). The 32 cores support up to 256 hardware threads which support a large number of virtual machines. The processor can run 256 hardware threads or dedicate more resources to individual threads in order to make it flexible for various tasks.
Oracle uses a lot of terminology that only applies to their systems. If you'd like a more approachable explanation of what these systems do, check out Oracle Academy's video series below.
Hardware Specs and Datasheet
- 32 SPARC V9 cores, maximum frequency: 5.0 GHz
- Up to 256 hardware threads per processor; each core supports up to 8 threads
- Total of 64 MB L3 cache per processor, 16-way set-associative and inclusive of all inner caches
- 128 KB L2 data cache per core; 256 KB L2 instruction cache shared among four cores
- 32 KB L1 instruction cache and 16 KB L1 data cache per core
- Quad-issue, out-of-order integer execution pipelines, one floating-point unit, and integrated cryptographic stream processing per core
- Branch predictor and hardware data prefetcher
- 32 second-generation DAX engines; 8 DAX units per processor with four pipelines per DAX unit
- Encryption instruction accelerators in each core with direct support for 16 industry-standard cryptographic algorithms plus random-number generation: AES, Camellia, CRC32c, DES, 3DES, DH, DSA, ECC, MD5, RSA, SHA-1, SHA-3, SHA-224, SHA-256, SHA-384, and SHA-512
- 20 nm process technology
- Open Oracle Solaris APIs available for software developers to leverage the Silicon Secured Memory and DAX technologies in the SPARC M8 processor
- SPARC M8 Datasheet (PDF)
Will Oracle's SPARC Processor's Overtake x86?
Oracle's marketing department makes it sound like the SPARC M8 will make x86-based servers obsolete. I'd like to know what some our members who know far more about cloud servers than I do think in the comments!