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Sun prepares for UltraSPARC upgrade

Sun Microsystems expects to release the next major upgrade to its UltraSPARC line of processors before the middle of next year.

The company will phase out UltraSPARC III, which runs at 900MHz or 1.05GHz. Sun will sell the 1.2GHz UltraSPARC IIIs and the UltraSPARC IV chips side by side for a time.

Sun plans to build UltraSPARC IV with copper interconnect technology and a 0.13-micron manufacturing process. The figure refers to the dimension of features etched onto the surface of chips.

The UltraSPARC V chip is slated for the early part of 2005, according to Sun's roadmaps. That chip will debut at 1.8GHz and reach 3.0GHz by the end of its lifecycle.

Sun may boost the speed of the UltraSPARC V further if customers show interest, said Sue Kunz, director of product marketing for Sun's processor products group. Sun plans to build the UltraSPARC V on a .10-micron manufacturing process.

Sun plans to move from its midrange UltraSPARC IIIi line to the UltraSPARC IVi line when the older chip reaches 1.4GHz. The UltraSPARC IVi will reach speeds of at least 1.6GHz, and follow-on chips in this series are planned to hit 3GHz.

Sun's entry-level line of chips, which include the UltraSPARC IIe, will also have speed bumps over the next few years, with the present generation hitting 1.1GHz and then 2GHz and beyond with the next generation. Release dates were unavailable for those entry-level products.

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