Niagra 2: Powerful, not Power Hungry

Sun is rolling out the new Niagra 2 chip today, calling it “the World’s Fastest Commodity Microprocessor”.
On Sun’s Innovation Blog, our CTO of Sun Microelectronics, Rick Hetherington, talks about how this “server on a chip” measures up in terms of power consumption:
“Well, overall, if you measured absolute power, Niagara 2 is slightly higher than Niagara 1. We’ve added more functionality in terms of the additional floating point units. And the network-interface unit as well as the root complex for PCI express. So the latter two for IO itself adds about 15 to 20 watts to a chip that you would otherwise find externally as chip sets on our competitors’ processors. So from a power perspective, power performance per watt, if we measured in that extent, we definitely have taken – extended – the performance per watt on Niagara 2 by about 50 percent.”
“So the chip itself, it depends on the workload and the frequency, so we’ll be announcing two speed bins, 1.2 and 1.4 gigahertz. At the very high end, let’s say 1.4 gigahertz running a floating point-intensive application, you might see power as high as 120 watts. On the lower end at 1.2 gigahertz running a job application, Niagara 2 can be as low as 80 watts, so we operate in that range of power. But one single Niagara 2 chip typically has performance of two sockets of all of our competitors. That’s essentially where we’re at. And then being the leader in power efficiency, we paid special attention to how we can manage power internally, so we do have features like clock-gating, extensive clock-gating throughout the core. So if one is not running a floating point application, the clocks are not being submitted to that floating point unit. So that is a savings of power there. We have a savings of power in our fully buffered DIM memory where we can control clocks and turn off clocks to ranks that are not being accessed. And so that has a significant drop in power even though SPDM has a reputation for being a power-hungry design.” Full Story

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About Rich
FlexRex began his life as a cartoon character I created a Sun Microsystems. As the world's first "fictional blogger," he appeared in numerous parody films that made fun of the whole work-from-home thing. Somewhere along the line, the Sun IT department adopted FlexRex as their spokesman in a half-dozen security awareness films for employees. So when I left Sun recently, I started FlexRex Communications, a Marketing company in Portland, Oregon.

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