Sun's Rock CPU Could Be a Gem for Oracle

Upcoming processor first to use "transactional memory," a boon to programming multicore processors

3 min read

It’s clear that the main attractions for Redwood Shores, Calif.–based Oracle Corp. in its proposed US $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems are Sun’s software assets—Java and the Solaris operating system. But a bit of hardware might turn out to be a hidden gem in the deal. Some industry insiders say that the database giant has an opportunity to get ahead of competitors by pioneering the technology behind Sun’s Rock CPU, which is scheduled for release later this year.

Rock will boast 16 processor cores—more than any other server CPU on the market—and, even more important, it will also be the first chip to offer a performance-enhancing feature called transactional memory. Transactional memory, or TM, allows programs simultaneously running multiple threads (short strings of instructions) the ability to read from and write to memory registers more easily and without accidentally overwriting the data that other threads require.

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The State of the Transistor in 3 Charts

In 75 years, it’s become tiny, mighty, ubiquitous, and just plain weird

3 min read
A photo of 3 different transistors.
iStockphoto
LightGreen

The most obvious change in transistor technology in the last 75 years has been just how many we can make. Reducing the size of the device has been a titanic effort and a fantastically successful one, as these charts show. But size isn’t the only feature engineers have been improving.

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