I just came across a link from OSNews about Sun dropping development on the ROCK processor. At first I was a bit surprised by this, given the ROCK feature set Sun had been touting for several years. But in practice, this decision doesn’t surprise me for a few reasons:
1. By the time the ROCK was feature complete and ready for market, Intel and AMD should be able to match its performance when you took cost into account.
2. The cost of the ROCK processor would be significantly more than the Intel or AMD counterparts, especially when you factor in things like system redundancy.
3. While the ROCK has some killer technology (e.g., transactional memory), software isn’t quite ready to take advantage of these features.
4. Few applications can truly take advantage of large numbers of hardware execution threads (and using virtualization to run multiple apps on these hosts has its own drawbacks).
5. More and more people are migrating away from SPARC, so I’m not entirely sure a market would exist for the product when it eventually shipped.
While this is definitely a bummer for the SPARC followers, this may actually be a good thing for Sun. I would love to see them focus more on their X64 product line, and use their top notch hardware designers to get more bang for the buck out of their X64 product line. At the end of the day things always boil down to the cost/performance ratio, and given recent advancements in X64 hardware, it’s extremely hard to justify spending an order of magnitude more for SPARC gear when you can get X64 gear at a fraction of the price. I would love to hear what others think about this topic.