Sparc returns to Ellison’s eyes

oracle-founder-larry-ellisonAfter seeing its Sparc processor as its red-headed stepchild, Oracle has started getting motivated about the chip again.

It has been talking about selling a Sparc M7 processor since 2014, It’s a RISCy business.

Oracle has done so with all the speed and motivation of an archaeologist on his way to a dig at Palmyra.

Now suddenly Oracle’s chief oracle, Larry Ellison, is talking about the 64 bit CPU’s security defences.  Yesterday, Ellison was sitting in front of lots of slides which suggested that the M7 will have the ability to tag regions of memory so software hijacked by hackers cannot read or write data.

It should render vulnerabilities such as Heartbleed useless to attackers.

The M7 has a defence mechanism called Silicon Secured Memory (SSM) which seems incredibly similar to Oracle’s Application Data Integrity (ADI) technology.

When an application requests some new memory to use via malloc(), the operating system tags the block of memory with a version number, and gives the app a pointer to that memory. The pointer also contains the version number, which is stashed in the top four bits.

When a pointer is used to access a block of memory, the pointer’s version number must match the memory block’s version number, or an exception will be triggered.

This would stop all major Adobe Flash and Internet Explorer exploits.

Ellison reckons it would have stopped the OpenSSL Heartbleed and QEMU Venom buffer-overrun attacks dead. He was keen to stress this feature will be always switched on and available.

“We’re pushing security down into the silicon. This gets us ahead of the bad guys,” Ellison told his audience.

Oracle reckons its M7 has broken “world record results in over 20 benchmarks.” The M7 is a 4.13GHz 32-core, 256-hardware-thread CPU with 64MB of on-chip L3 cache. It can scale up to 512 cores and 4,096 threads, and address up to 8TB of physical RAM. The CPU architecture is Sparc V9.

New Servers

The chips will be seen in the following new servers:

SPARC T7-1 32-core 4.1GHz M7 CPU, up to 512GB of RAM, four 10GbE ports, up to eight 600GB or 1200GB 2.5in SAS-3 drives, or up to eight 400GB SSDs or four 1.6TB NVMe drives. Oracle Solaris 11.3 or later recommended.

SPARC T7-2  Two 32-core 4.1GHz M7 CPUs, up to 1TB of RAM, four 10GbE ports, up to six 600GB or 1200GB 2.5in SAS-3 drives, or up to six 400GB SSDs or four 1.6TB NVMe drives. Oracle Solaris 11.3 or later recommended.

SPARC T7-4  Two or four 32-core 4.1GHz M7 CPUs, up to 2TB of RAM, four 10GbE ports, up to eight 600GB or 1200GB 2.5in SAS-3 drives, or up to eight 400GB SSDs or eight 1.6TB NVMe drives. Oracle Solaris 11.3 or later recommended.

SPARC M7-8 Two to eight 32-core 4.1GHz M7 CPUs, up to 4TB of RAM, up to 24 low-profile PCIe 3.0 (x16) slots. Oracle Solaris 11.3 or later recommended.

SPARC M7-16  Four to 16 32-core 4.1GHz M7 CPUs, up to 8TB of RAM, up to 48 low-profile PCIe 3.0 (x16) slots. Oracle Solaris 11.3 or later recommended.

SuperCluster M7  in lots of flavours