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Sun and TI Release Copper Interconnect-Based UltraSPARC III 900MHz CPU

(July 30, 2001)
Sun Microsystems, Inc. and Texas Instruments Incorporated confirmed that copper interconnect-based versions of the UltraSPARC III microprocessor have passed all internal qualifications tests and are planned for shipment in Sun Blade 1000 workstations within the next 90 days. At 900 MHz, the new version of the UltraSPARC III processor combines copper interconnect with low-K dielectric, and a 100 nanometer gate transistor to maintain its status as the world's fastest commercially available 64-bit workstation-server processor.

David Yen, vice president and general manager, Sun Microsystems Processor Products Group said: "Implementing copper, low-K dielectric and a new transistor deliver a triple play in giving us enhanced flexibility to field new variations of the UltraSPARC III chip that offer higher clock speeds, lower power consumption, greater reliability, lower memory latency and other features essential for workstation and server computing. While clock frequency speed bumps have their benefits, working with TI, we focus our engineering program on developing processors that deliver real-world application performance and end-customer value."

Julie England, vice president of TI's Sun Business Unit, commented: "As Sun's supplier of the UltraSPARC III processor, TI is proud to help Sun achieve industry-leading levels of performance and power efficiency through TI's advanced process technology and manufacturing. By combining copper, low-K dielectric and 100 nanometer transistros on TI's 0.15 micron process we have boosted performance over competing devices. TI looks forward to working with Sun to enable the UltraSPARC processor roadmap well into the GigaHertz era."

Initially launched last September, the UltraSPARC III processor forms the heart of the new generation of Sun Microsystems' workstation and server products. Previous versions of the processor utilized aluminum interconnect technology. Migrating to copper for the high volume version of the 900 MHz UltraSPARC III processor enables a clock speed increase while dissipating the same power as the aluminum interconnect-based 750 MHz UltraSPARC III chip. Successfully managing power consumption as processor speeds and technology advances is not only important in these times of energy scarcity, but it reduces the need to build extensive heat management subsystems into products, lowering their manufacturing costs and improving their reliability.

Sun and TI also confirmed today that after evaluating test chips using silicon on insulator (SOI) substrate technology offered by a number of vendors, they believe bulk silicon offers competitive performance at lower cost than SOI as UltraSPARC products move to smaller process geometries.

The copper version of the UltraSPARC III processor is TI's first high performance commercial chip utilizing this interconnect system. This highlights the unique design and manufacturing technology relationship between Sun and TI, which recently celebrated its 13th anniversary. Through the collaboration, Sun and TI co-plan and co-engineer advanced process technologies that go to market first in Sun's UltraSPARC processors. Sun benefits from the relationship by getting first access to the latest technology. In return, TI gains a development driver and first customer for high performance technology that is implemented across TI's world-leading digital signal processors and DSP-based system solutions in end equipment areas such as wireless and broadband.

Also, engaging with TI for leading edge processor manufacturing means that Sun can stay cost- and technology-competitive with others in its marketplace without making multibillion dollar investments in a Sun-owned fab. Sun management credits the technology relationship with TI as one of the reasons that the SPARC architecture proved successful and commercially durable even as the microprocessor market consolidated around otherwise dominant players over the last decade, and Sun faced down companies much larger than itself in its system products marketplaces.

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