Sun Microsystems' code-named Rock chip crumbles due to delays

As Oracle closes in on its acquisition of Sun Microsystems, Sun has voluntarily decided to lose some weight by canceling its Rock server chip project.

After five years in development, Sun’s commitment to the Rock chip has crumbled, even though the chip was key to Sun’s turnaround in the high-end server market, according to the New York Times. It’s a little sad in some ways, since the computing industry is going to lose some of its biodiversity as a result. The industry is likely to become even more dependent on the Intel and Advanced Micro Devices computing architecture.

Rock was unique because it had many cores, or processors, on a single chip. That has become fashionable in today’s low-end chips, but Rock was going to take the concept to an extreme with 16 cores, each capable of running two threads, or distinct programs, at the same time.

Much of the server market has shifted toward low-end chips using Intel and AMD. That’s one of the reasons Sun’s been struggling in the first place. Now it’s almost inevitable that more of the market will move that way. For Sun, that’s troubling since it will have less ability to differentiate itself from other server makers.

Back in April, 2007, Sun chief executive Jonathan Schwartz said he had received the first test versions of Rock. But the New York Times cited sources as saying Rock had been canceled. Sun had talked about launching Rock last year. Sun is now expected to continue using Fujitsu chips for its high-end servers.

The cancellation is likely to lower costs for Oracle going forward.

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