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Sun UltraSPARC Processor's Transactional Memory to Revolutionize Database Servers

Enterprise computing

DB, Data Access Middleware
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By Ken North

Sun Microsystems will ship in 2008 a new multi-core UltraSPARC processor that will alter the database server landscape. In a paper to be presented at the International Solid-State Circuits 2008 conference, Sun engineers will describe the revolutionary new UltraSPARC product currently known as the Rock processor. The Rock processor is expected to be the first server microprocessor that implements transactional memory technology.

Rock is the third generation of Sun's chip multi-threading (CMT) processors. Its multi-core architecture supports as many as 16 cores. The Rock processor represents an approach to parallel programming that will increase the performance of database servers, which experience bottlenecks from concurrency control features such as row and page locking. Besides transactional memory, the Rock processor includes a feature, known as hardware scout, that supports pre-fetching with multi-threaded hardware.

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Multi-core processors have altered the pricing models for database software licensed on a per processor basis. DBMS vendors such as IBM and Oracle have changed their licensing model to lower pricing for database servers that make use of multi-core processors.

Oracle, IBM and Microsoft have been in competition for years for the best performance on TPC-C, the transaction processing benchmark from the Transaction Processing Council. The best performance has come from multi-CPU test configurations.

The TPC-C results also report the best price/performance ratio among tested systems. Multi-core architectures with reduced DBMS licensing fees will undoubtedly be found in systems that move to the forefront of the TPC-C price-performance metrics. They will see widespread industry deployment in an era of virtualization and server consolidation.

Sun Looks to Consortium for Atomic Transaction API

Sun is reportedly looking to a new consortium to define an application programming interface for the implementation of atomic transactions. Sun's Solaris operating systems will provide support for atomic transactions. Solaris and the software implementing the new atomic transaction API are expected to be available as open source software.

Sun has previously released the eight-core Niagara processor to early access customers. Each Niagara core can process four software threads simultaneously. The 16-core Rock processor supports 32 threads plus 32 Scout threads.

Marc Tremblay, chief architect of the Scalable Systems Group at Sun, is the father of its multicore, multithreaded products (Niagara, Rock). He's been involved in hardware architecture at Sun since the development of the UltraSPARC I processor. In 1995, he and Sun co-founder Bill Joy developed the Microprocessor Architecture for Java Computing (MAJC), which pioneered the dual-core architecture.

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz described the recent MySQL acquisition as being the most important in Sun's history. Sun probably had the Rock processor in mind when it made the deal for MySQL. The MySQL architecture supports pluggable storage engines so it could easily integrate with a transactional storage engine that exploits the Rock processor's transactional memory.

The Rock processor is expected to be in systems available in early 2008.

About the Author

Ken North is a consultant, author, conference chair for LinkedData Planet and editor of Visit his company's web site at

2008, North Summit Media. All rights reserved.