Sun customers will see the 1.2GHz UltraSPARC III chips arrive at the end of the year or early next year, said David Yen, executive vice-president of Sun's processor and network products group.
The chip will first appear in Sun's workstation and higher-end server lines alongside exisiting 900MHz and 1.05GHz chips. The latest processor will be built by Sun partner Texas Instruments on a 130-nanometer production process and consume 53 watts of power - a 30% reduction from the 75 watts consumed by the 1.05GHz chips.
Sun competes with IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Intel in the high end 64-bit processor market. Some analysts have charged that IBM's Power4 processor and Intel's Itanium 2 processor outperform those from Sun when running certain types of business software and when churning through transactions. Sun, however, maintains that processor speed is just one factor that contributes to making a solid server.
Sun claimed the low-power consumption of Sun's latest chips could give it an edge over rivals as it will reduce the amount of heat produced inside a server, reducing the chance of other component failures.
In addition, Sun will be able to push its chip far down the company's product line into dense rack and blade servers which can be affected by high temperatures. Intel's Itanium 2 chip is one of the most power-hungry chips on the market, consuming up to 130 watts. Intel plans next year to introduce a chip, code named Deerfield, that runs at 70 watts.
Sun uses its UltraSPARC chips in a wide variety of servers from one processor Web servers to 106 processor high end systems used for demanding tasks such as scientific computing.