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Sun shows brilliance with Hypertransport plans

Taking full advantage of the board
Thu Aug 05 2004, 10:58
SUN IS a pure design house. No fab. No foundry. The new Sun Java Workstation W2100z displays the detail of how a pure design firm can stay a huge player in a market dominated by firms with manufacturing capabilities. The motherboard is made for Sun by Wistron, a Taiwanese manufacturer. Take a close look at this picture below of the guts of the W2100z.

Inside the red oval is a connector between the two boards used in this workstation. It is a modular design taking full advantage of the wonders of Hypertransport. On top is a two processor module, mostly power, memory and CPUs, but also including the ATX connector group, which uses a few pins of the black connector, routed from the AMD 8111 I/O chip. Power is also sent across the connector, routed to the bottom motherboard. Of course a Hypertransport link is also used, connecting the two processors to their chipset.


Think about that a moment.

The top CPU board could be a single or dual Opteron configuration. Or an Athlon 64 754, or Socket 939. The Transmeta Efficeon is even a candidate.

The bottom board currently has an AMD 8000 chipset with an AGP cave (the Sun rep's words) but it will eventually be upgraded to a PCI Express capable chipset. without replacing the entire board.

Motherboard manufacturers should pay attention. The top board uses four layers, three layers for the bottom board. Four different CPU boards and eight different IO boards representing ATX and µATX offerings from the four major chipset manufacturers would provide 32 different product combinations from 11 designs, 11 because the difference between a single and dual Opteron is whether the second socket 940 is soldered in place. Cuts the design costs by two thirds. Cuts new chipset support design costs in half. Cuts future socket design costs in half.

Allows customers to stop waiting for the next "good" chipset to arrive before thunking down cash on a new board. Modularity provides maximum customizability. OEMs could validate four or five modules and provide a complete product line.

Hypertransport PCB edge connectors are royalty free courtesy of the Hypertransport Consortium. Sun provides the brilliance. I'll provide a name, "Northboard" and "Southboard." µ


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