Oracle Delivers On SPARC Promises


When I returned to Forrester in mid-2010, one of the first blog posts I wrote was about Oracle’s new roadmap for SPARC and Solaris, catalyzed by numerous client inquiries and other interactions in which Oracle’s real level of commitment to future SPARC hardware was the topic of discussion. In most cases I could describe the customer mood as skeptical at best, and panicked and committed to migration off of SPARC and Solaris at worst. Nonetheless, after some time spent with Oracle management, I expressed my improved confidence in the new hardware team that Oracle had assembled and their new roadmap for SPARC processors after the successive debacles of the UltraSPARC-5 and Rock processors under Sun’s stewardship.

Two and a half years later, it is obvious that Oracle has delivered on its commitments regarding SPARC and is continuing its investments in SPARC CPU and system design as well as its Solaris OS technology. The latest evolution of SPARC technology, the SPARC T5 and the soon-to-be-announced M5, continue the evolution and design practices set forth by Oracle’s Rick Hetherington in 2010 — incremental evolution of a common set of SPARC cores, differentiation by variation of core count, threads and cache as opposed to fundamental architecture, and a reliable multi-year performance progression of cores and system scalability.

Geek Stuff – New SPARC Hardware

The SPARC T5 is an evolution of the current SPARC T4, which has already claimed a series of impressive performance records since its introduction in late 2011. The T5, moving from the T4’s 40 nm process to a 28 nm fab process, doubles the core count from 8 to 16, each core with the same 8 threads of the T4, improves I/O and memory bandwidth by moving from PCIe 2 interfaces to PCIe 3, and doubling the number of memory controllers from 2 to 4. Along the way they also increased the maximum clock from 3.0 to 3.6 GHz. Oracle has also increased the number of CPU coherency links so that the T5 can be assembled into glueless 8-socket systems. Although Oracle has not formally announced systems, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to predict that 2 and 4 socket T5 systems will be announced shortly, and an 8-socket system will follow.

Oracle has been somewhat cagey about the “enterprise” variation of the T-series CPU, the M4, intended to anchor the replacement for the current M-series servers. All indications point to a mid-2013 announcement of a CPU that has fewer of the T-series cores with reduced thread counts but massively scaled cache and more sockets in new servers with memory configurations that could be as large as 32 TB. While these new M-Series systems will be interesting as engines for the largest Oracle environments, the T5 systems will be such a significant performance improvement for Oracle that they will probably subsume much of the demand for previous generation M-Series systems. Consider an 8-socket T5 system with 128 3.6 GHz cores in (my guess here) a 5U – 8U enclosure – this is a lot of compute power, capable of running at least 90% of the existing Oracle UNIX workloads, and with Solaris 11’s strong virtualization capabilities capable of being sliced and diced as needed into a large number of VMs for a very flexible enterprise computing resource. Expect T5 modules to rapidly become part of the Oracle Engineered Systems portfolio.

What Does It Mean For SPARC And Solaris Users?

So, geeky technology details aside, what does this mean for current or prospective Oracle system customers? In a nutshell, SPARC/Solaris customers are looking at a predictable long-term future of improved and very competitive performance and price-performance scaling for Oracle hardware, especially when coupled with Oracle software in its “engineered systems.” Oracle and IBM will remain in a strong competition for performance and price-performance across a variety of workloads, and competitive pressures will ensure a decade of strong systems platforms for high-end UNIX workloads regardless of the eventual fate of HP’s Itanium platforms.


Potential huge advantages in Software (Oracle RDBMS) licensing

If the per thread performance of the T-4 and T-5 is on par with SPARC VI/VII in the M series this is a huge cost advantage since we can using Zones/Container to control the licensing. Potentially a 4 fold reduction in licensing costs when going from the 2 thread SPARC VI/VII to the 8 thread T4.

A T4-4 with 2 CPU's and 256GB is not out of the world pricewise. <$50K, maybe twice what you could possible gather together in the X86 world but much cheaper from a software licensing perspective. An extra $25K is 'noise' when running enterprise RAC editions of Oracle, etc..

Currently benchmarking our app on a T4-4 versus the existing SPARC VI/VII M4000. The strength of the M series is not in raw throughput but linear scalability. Simply provides consistent response time until it is maxed out at 250% load. They however die quick after that point. If T4/T5 can achieve this on per thread basis a huge win.

Handy comparisons


Many Oracle customers have very successfully migrated their M-series environment on T4 servers during 2011/2013. Do not hesitate to ask your Oracle representatives to engage the Oracle Solution Center for more information.

-Benoit Chaffanjon

This post seems oriented

This post seems oriented around *Oracle's* commitment to SPARC/Solaris Technology. Does Forrester have some research specific to the *industry's* commitment to SPARC/Solaris? Gartner suggests that SPARC/Solaris is nearing the "Dusk of Obsolescence", expecting to sunset within 2 years.

Solaris and "Dusk of Obselescence"

Obviously I'm officially not fond of GG taxonomy, but it certainly is legitimate to worry about ISV support for any architecture. However, ISV support exists in a very plastic relationship with user enthusiasm for a given product, so I kind of have to reject any rigid categorization of "dusk" until we see how this new product cycle strengthens the user base commitment. Also, the SPARC/Solaris base has a very high percentage of custom apps/code running, and these tend to be stickier than ISV applications.

Gartner = Jim Kramer- CNBC

Gartner = Jim Kramer- CNBC (stocks guys).. he never gets anything right, still there are people watching him

Full commitment on SPARC

Oracle is fully committed on SPARC and SOLARIS development and is on a very clear roadmap for the next 5 years. We will announce new products very soon - stay tuned !

SPARC, T5, and Solaris

The UltraSPARC T2+, SPARC T3, and SPARC T4 were announced/released April 2008, September 2010, and September 2011. With the March-April Oracle Magazine being released shortly, a SPARC T5 release may not be out of the question.

With the release of Solaris 10 Update 11 (aka Solaris 10 1/13) - one might suspect the SPARC T5 release is very close to being realized. There does not appear to be another Solaris 10 release on the SPARC road map, so T5 support may be embedded within.

Hopefully, Oracle will not delay the T5 release until Oracle World 2013 in September.

It is a very good thing that

It is a very good thing that Oracle is committed about SPARC. It is definitely a good news to all SPARC and Solaris Users.

it seems that Oracle is very

it seems that Oracle is very much into SPARC! they both will definitely come up with good new products..