Oracle Launches the Latest Member of the SPARC Family, the M8 Processor

By Mark Benson, Esteem Director of Marketing & Alliances

So I've written several articles this year which discuss whether SPARC and Solaris have a future, and if you have followed the news in the last week or so, you will have heard that the nails have been firmly hammered in the coffin.  All we are waiting for is for the last individual to turn the lights off as they leave the Oracle office.

At the same time, it was rumoured that a new processor was to be launched at 6.00pm on 18th September 2017 and having witnessed the online announcement, the rumour has been confirmed.  Now this is not a real surprise as it was on the roadmap which I shared in my January blog - 'Oracle Solaris - What's Going On?', but it's safe to say that it has delivered on all its promises. 

The Oracle M8 builds on the M7 (launched in 2015), and is the eighth processor to be launched by Oracle in the last seven years (an impressive feat!) So what do we know about the latest chip from Oracle? 

  • It has 1.5 times the single thread performance of the SPARC M7
  • It has twice the performance of X86 when dealing with either Java or database
  • It is the highest processor frequency that Oracle has ever launched at 5.06GHz
  • It comes with the latest version of Software in Silicon (V2)

Also all of the other great features from the M7 have remained, including Security in Silicon, DAX (Database Analytics Accelerator) and DIMM Sparing (the protection of dimms from failing through memory remapping).

The new family looks very similar to the last one with a T8-1, T8-2, T8-4 and the M8-8. There is also a new version of the Supercluster, the M8, which Oracle states is the most powerful machine for applications and databases. Oracle also continues with its Solaris Binary compatibility guarantee, which is now 20 years and counting. The small twist in the new story is that the T7, M7, S7, M10 and M12 are going nowhere and will receive extended life to allow customers to move onto the best platform for their workload. For once, Oracle is giving customers some breathing space to catch up with all the chips that have been launched recently.

Now some of you at this point will think, ‘Great, a new chip but what about the future of Solaris?’. Well the good news is that 11.4 is coming and support is there until 2034, however, we are going to have to wait a little while longer as the release is planned for Autumn 2018. This is the only disappointing news from the big launch, as we have all been waiting for the latest version of Solaris and it is a surprise that we have yet another year to wait for the new point release.

So is SPARC dead then? Not quite. Some people will see this announcement as delaying the inevitable, and that eventually it will be put out to pasture, but it lives on to fight another day. I’m glad to see some competition in the world of Intel and Linux, and if you are running mission critical workloads, then the obvious choice should be a SPARC processor and Solaris Operating System.

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