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UltraSparc T2 launch: [keanu] Whoa! [/keanu]

Posted by joshy on August 7, 2007 at 10:19 AM PDT

I know this isn't really Java related, but I just got an email that Sun's UltraSparc T2 launched today. Even though I'm not a hardware guy and I've forgotten most of my CompE classes from college, I'm still interested in the changing state of the art chip design.

It simply amazes me how things have changed in the decade since I was in school. The priority has shifted from single threaded speed to slower but massively multi-threaded CPU cores. Case in point, the new T2 has 8 cores in a single chip, with 8 simultaneous threads per core; (not to mention dedicated floating point and crypto units that I have no idea how to use). That's incredible! When I was in school the idea of getting to code for a dual CPU system was considered exotic. Now I could haul out my old Java applet raytracer and render 64 lines at a time! Yes kids, my first official Java program was a very slow sphere-only raytracer applet on my 486 33mhz SX! If only I'd had Hotspot then. :)

Even more of a change, the focus in CPU design has gone from pure performance to performance per watt. I didn't realize this until recently but, thanks to changes in both the CPU and energy industries, it can cost more to power your server for a year or two than to buy the server in the first place. That really changes how people thing about building out data centers. Air conditioning is more expensive that your hardware. Perhaps we should all build our datacenters in Greenland.

So here's a more Java related question to my readers. Now that a 64 thread machine is available (and probably cheaper than you'd think), and many laptops have multiple cores now (as nowcrash becomes reality more each day). So here's my question: if you had a massively multi-threaded CPU what sort of client applications would you write? I know that most (all?) of these new T2s will go into massive app-servers or Ebay-like search engines, but I'm a client guy and I care about client stuff. What sort of really cool desktop apps could we do with massive multi-threaded CPUs?

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