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SPARC It Up! M7 Promises Once in a Generation Innovation

Oracle's microprocessor received a lot of coverage at Oracle OpenWorld 2014. The extreme performance, efficiency and optimization gains will rewrite the rules for price and performance value, plus speed the time it takes to deploy technology. Masood Heydari, SVP of Hardware Development at Oracle, provided an update to the SPARC M7 roadmap, first revealed at the Hot Chips conference in August 2014.

 

Click here to view Masood's "SPARC Server Strategy and Roadmap" presentation.

Software in Silicon
Heydari explained, "The goal of our strategy is to make Oracle engineered systems running on SPARC the best systems on which to run Oracle applications, period. That means optimizing around the best execution environment, best reliability, best management, etc." He emphasized Oracle has innovated on this strategy by placing software functions directly into the processor, calling them "software in silicon," an Oracle phrase that’ll be repeated as products featuring M7 near release. This design approach is where specific software functions are performed in hardware, enabling applications and operations to run faster. For example;

SPARC will incorporate in-memory query acceleration engines that take over certain database search functions so that database queries "speed up query performance by 10x and spit out results at the speed of memory," according to Larry Ellison.

Ellison made his first public appearance as Oracle's CTO and executive chairman of the board. He talked about the importance of doing things differently when running a database in memory. "Within the acceleration engine is decompression. When you compress and decompress data, the ratio of reading the data is 10 to 20 times more frequent than loading the data in memory. The magic to speeding things up isn’t compression, but decompression. We're processing data that runs at 120GB/second. That's a shocking number," and equivalent to 64 CPU cores.  

The most important innovation in the M7 is its new memory protection features. The computer will notify the developer when an application is tampering with another application. This "always on" memory protection is hard-wired in the silicon to defend against memory violations, speeding up software development and resulting in more secure and available applications. 

"It means applications can only access the memory they're supposed to access. Otherwise, the hardware will stop them" Ellison said. "Even smart programmers make mistakes and those mistakes can be really hard to find. Those are some of the hardest bugs to find. The failures are intermittent; they're extremely hard to trap. They're extremely hard to trace. With memory protection, you can discover those bugs really early, so it saves you a fortune in finding really difficult bugs. But the cool thing about it is because it's in hardware, you can leave this memory protection on without paying any performance price."  

The upcoming SPARC M7 will be available across the Oracle server product line in 2015. Tell us, which M7 features or applications do you look forward to?  

To learn more about SPARC technology, click here.


Rick O'Herron is the director of content strategy in Oracle's brand communications team.   

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