Michael Frank Deering: Hardware: Zulu/Sage/XVR-4000


Company: Sun Microsystems, Inc.

Year of Commercial Product Release: 2003

Product Code Name/Production Name

The code name most everyone even outside Sun knew this project by was “Zulu”, but unlike my earlier SIGGRAPH hardware product papers, Sun declined to use the code name in publication (the final real product name hadn’t been decided yet at press time), and made up the name “SAGE” as a place holder. This is the only place the name SAGE was ever used to describe this product. While the commercial name “XVR-4000″ was eventually chosen, on this page I will use the name “Zulu”, because that is the name I lived with every day for over seven years.

Engineering Teams

The Zulu product made use of the 3DRAM-64 product (3DRAM) as well as many internal circuits from the FFB3/XVR-1000 product (FFB3). External vendors supplied custom CMOS circuits as well as back-end support, chip fabrication, and testing. On the software side, other teams supplied OS drivers, OpenGLTM drivers and support, and extensive test cases. My role on Zulu was as chief architect, but many other people contributed at a high level, most prominently including Mike Lavelle, Dave Neagle, and Scott Nelson.


Zulu was my last Sun 3D graphics accelerator product (aka SAGE aka XVR-4000). The SIGGRAPH 2002 paper gives an overview of the architecture of the graphics pipeline used, and goes into detail on its most novel aspect: real-time 5 by 5 pixel convolution of supersampled rendered images with higher-order anti-aliasing and re-construction filters. This product still has by far the highest final antialiased pixel quality of any real-time machine ever built.


The main publication was the 2002 SIGGRAPH paper (the small and large pdf files are more and less compressed versions of the otherwise identical paper):

Michael F. Deering, David N. Naegle “The SAGE Graphics Architecture”, in Proc. SIGGRAPH 2002.

abstract (html)
pdf (1 MB)
pdf (17 MB)