IT Innovation

Blazing Performance

New SPARC microprocessors power the world’s fastest database, Java, and middleware servers.

By Diana Reichardt

July/August 2013

Oracle unveiled two new SPARC microprocessors, SPARC T5 and SPARC M5, and introduced a portfolio of systems based on these chips at a live event in Redwood Shores, California, on March 26. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison introduced the SPARC T5, calling it “the world’s fastest microprocessor,” and reported that the new SPARC T5–based systems have set 17 world records.1

Specifically, the SPARC T5-8 server achieved more than 8 million transactions per minute on the TPC-C benchmark,2 Oracle Executive Vice President of Systems John Fowler told the audience. “It’s simply an astonishing level of capability at a cost and performance point that no one has ever seen before, and it’s a huge step for us,” Fowler said.

Targeted at midrange computing, the new SPARC T5 servers provide high throughput and computing density along with built-in virtualization and extreme scalability. These highly efficient platforms are designed for large-scale, mission-critical applications and are well suited for multitier enterprise applications with Web, database, and application components.

What’s Inside?

The SPARC T5 processor is a 28 nm processor featuring 16 S3 cores, 128 threads, dedicated 128 K L2 cache per core, 8 MB shared L3 cache, and a high-frequency (3.6 GHz) clock. It includes a new high-performance directory-based protocol, which enables SPARC T5 systems to scale to 8 sockets without any additional silicon needed to maintain memory coherence links.

The SPARC M5 processor has 48 MB of L3 cache for outstanding single-thread performance, making it ideal for just about any workload. It has 8 threads per core and 6 cores per processor for a total of 48 threads per processor. It supports 1 TB of memory per processor, which allows the SPARC M5-32 to scale up to 32 SPARC M5 processors, 192 processor cores, 1,536 threads, and 32 TB of main memory, all of which can be used by a single instance of Oracle Solaris or by many instances using SPARC M5-32 partitioning technologies.

“It’s fascinating,” Ellison said. “[The T5-8 server] is not very big, but there’s been no single server that’s ever run the [Oracle] database faster than this on an official benchmark.” What’s more, he said, the SPARC T5-8 is also the fastest Java server and middleware server in the world.

The superior performance of SPARC T5 servers begins with the extreme speed of the SPARC T5 microprocessor.

“This will come as a big shock to a lot of people, but these machines offer better integer performance than the IBM Power series,” Ellison announced. “The [SPARC] T5 microprocessor itself delivers better integer performance than IBM Power [CPU].”

SPARC M5 Chip and Servers

Ellison and Fowler also introduced the SPARC M5-32, a high-end server that offers huge performance gains over the previous generation. It uses the new SPARC M5 six-core processor running at 3.6 GHz and delivers roughly 10 times performance improvement over the SPARC Enterprise M9000 server that it replaces.

Oracle’s goal with the SPARC M5-32 and the entire SPARC M5 line of systems is to change the economics of high-end servers, Fowler said. “We wanted to actually step the high end up, to allow you to tackle a different class of applications and a different level of capability, but do that in a cost-performance point that still makes the high end a very attractive enterprise platform,” he said.

The Oracle Solaris Connection

Running a machine the size of the SPARC M5-32 server puts tremendous stress on the operating system, said Oracle CEO Larry Ellison at the SPARC launch event, and he explained that Oracle Solaris is architected to manage the thousands of processors, hundreds of terabytes of memory, extremely large storage arrays, and highest bandwidth networks that are found in Oracle’s SPARC systems.

Oracle Solaris is also designed and tested to protect customer investments in software. The Oracle Solaris Binary Application Guarantee enables customers to purchase new systems or upgrade the OS on older systems and continue to run their existing applications.

These new vertically scalable servers contain large pools of resources that can support dozens of workloads of various sizes and types to simplify consolidation and application deployment. New applications can be added, eliminating the need to install a server for each new application, and existing applications can grow by taking advantage of the extra headroom available.

Using virtualization technologies such as Dynamic Domains, Oracle VM Server for SPARC, and Oracle Solaris Zones, customers can consolidate many applications on high-end SPARC M5-32 servers to increase server utilization and business flexibility.

Moving Software to Silicon

Ellison said that to maintain and increase its leadership position in processors and the systems that use them, Oracle needs to continue to double performance every year and move more software features into hardware, a process that he referred to as “the ultimate optimization.” Plans include putting database and Java accelerators right on the chips as well, he noted, emphasizing that Oracle has done this kind of thing before. For example, Oracle has already moved encryption into silicon. The SPARC T5 processor accelerates all the most common bulk encryption ciphers so that applications can offload the encryption processing to improve performance.

A Different Way of Designing

In the past, Fowler noted, systems design focused primarily on connecting networking with storage and the operating system to build a product—with an arm’s-length approach to applications. Oracle is able to achieve so many new world records because the database team, the Java team, and the middleware team work together and influence every aspect of the system design, he said. “It’s a lifestyle here. The teams do intensive microbenchmarks and simulations in the design phase to create these systems.”

The new SPARC T5 and SPARC M5 systems leapfrog the competition with up to 10 times the performance improvement over the previous generation, Fowler said, offering an unbeatable value for midrange and high-end enterprise computing.

“We set out to design the world’s fastest database machine, the world’s fastest Java machine, and the world’s fastest Java middleware machine,” Fowler said. “We also ended up with the world’s fastest processor, and the ability to execute an enormous range of applications with technical performance leadership as well as cost leadership.”

1 All world record claims can be found at and
Oracle’s SPARC Server Benchmarks

Next Steps

 WATCH the SPARC T5 and SPARC M5 launch Webcast

LEARN more about
 SPARC servers
 Oracle benchmarks
 Oracle Solaris
 the Oracle Solaris Guarantee Program

 READ “SPARC T5 Deep Dive: An Interview with Oracle’s Rick Hetherington

 TRY the SPARC T5 Systems Demo


Photography byToa Heftiba,Unsplash