notes on Oracle’s new lineup of SPARC T5 and M5 servers

Larry Ellison himself just announced the latest generation of SPARC processors. Both he and John Fowler talked a lot about benchmarks and how these systems compete with IBM power series systems. Very exciting stuff but the announcement lacked a bit of technical details. I have compiled some information about these new systems:

The T4, T5 and the M5 share more than the names suggest. All of those CPUs are made up of the same basic building block: The S3 core. So each of those processors has the same basic per-core features of 8 threads, two pipelines and everything else that has already been present in the T4. The T4 has 8 of those S3 cores per chip and 4MB of L3 cache. The difference to the T5 is it packs twice the cores and memory: 16 cores and 8MB L3 cache and clocked at 3.6GHz compared to the T4’s 2.85GHz (3GHz in the T4-4).
The name M5 would suggest a successor to the chips used in the M3000 to M9000 series systems, the SPARC64. But in fact the M5 CPU is really made up of the same S3 core as the T4 and T5 with 6 cores and 48MB L2 cache. So all of these chips will support Oracle VM for SPARC (I still like to call it LDoms) even with live migration across these machines. They also all feature 10GbE and acceleration for cryptographics directly on the CPU.

The T4 systems are still available and won’t be EOL’d anytime soon. In fact, the T5 completes the portfolio on the top end while smaller and mid-size systems are still only being covered by T4 systems. The glueless 8 socket T5-8 systems is the top end of the line with 128cores that all access the same main memory with a single hop. But even when you compare the 2 and 4 socket variants it becomes clear that for T5, size does matter. What Larry and John did not mention was that in addition to the T5-2, T5-4 and T5-8 there will also be a T5-1B blade module with just a single T5 CPU but there will be no T5-1 (as of today).

I am obviously a big fan of Solaris but I am also very curious if Oracle will ever bring Linux to the SPARC platform. Back in the very old days, SUN hat a cooperation with ubuntu on the T1000 and T2000 systems for some time but it was not a huge success. Larry has made some comments in the direction of wanting to port OEL to SPARC in 2010 but still has to follow suit.

Oracle has yet to update the core factor table to include the factor for T5 chips. Anything but 0.5 would put a dent into all performance/price calculations. The core factor table has been updated and lists both the T5 and M5 processors with a factor of 0.5 which means that organizations can upgrade existing SPARC or Intel database systems to the same number of T5 cores without having to worry about adding extra costs for new DB licenses. Additionally, LDom virtualization and hard partitioning help out by allowing to run a database on a subset of cores and only license what you actually need or use.

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