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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

 

The Sun Has Got His Hat On And He's Coming Out To Play...

Have just got back from the Network Computing Presentation in London. First wow, its great to see Sun back in the game, big time. I had the pleasure of watching Jonathan Schwartz extols a social vision for Sun (someone's been reading "The Dream Society" from the Copenhagen Institute of Future Studies) where Sun will not only excel technically but will save the planet in the process - yes it was hyped but there was a lot of smart stuff in there that made both business sense and means we might have a planet left in ten years.

A few sections to highlight the content for you:

The Big One
Sun will Open Source the RPL from Niagara - welcome to the world of Open Source hardware. This is a smart move and allowed Jonathan to paint the dream that Africa will hire a fab and produce SPARC chips for local consumption and local growth. The business vision is the smaller chunk of the larger pie story and in terms of competitive advantage - RedHat have no hardware to Open Source and who cares if Microsoft Open Source their mice!

Core Wars
The center piece was the T2000 server featuring Niagara. Wow - the price points are down because Sun can now sell chips that have two failed cores as a 6 core Niagara allowing them to keep almost everything the produce for retail - no more expensive SPARC chips, they just beat the volume price point advantage with the usable volume price point advantage.

So that's the start, Niagara has been carefully architected as the first generation of chips that start to share components, in the olden days we called this SOC (system on a chip), the 8 cores share an FPU, great for most workloads, crap for Monte Carlo simulations (but most people run mainstream workloads - I only know what one is because I work at an Investment Bank).

The movement of the memory controllers on board, the memory access latency and the number of threads have all been architected for the most prevalent workloads, loosely called "the Internet" by Sun but the deep dive with Marc Tremblay that I attended seemed to stack up and "throughput computing" became the natural bed-fellow of "the network is the computer".

Other interesting features are the Java offloading and the crypto offloading - both cool. The driver was heat and power though - 7.5Kw give you 960 threads in a rack, so you should be able to chop down the number of racks somewhat, as the throughput paradigm should keep them busy.

We Are A Phone Company
Someone loves the mobile phone industry and Sun are moving to the same charging models. Having "given everything away" they now must transition to a service model. The T1000/T2000 will be the first servers that cost less if you buy a service contract, you know like that mobile phone you own. Its actually 'free' if you buy it with a contract but its $400 if you don't. Well servers are capex and one-off costs, if Sun can gain annual service contracts on the back of free hardware then that's their model, if you want a server without a service contract then you can pay for it. Interesting approach, will be very interesting to see how it effects those companies such as RedHat and Microsoft that have no hardware to give you...

Conclusions
Aagh it was like the Sun we used to know and love - welcome back - we missed you. I sat with a member of my account staff and he said to me "we did this too late...", I corrected him and proposed he should have said "we should have done this earlier...", if I have any kind of negatives from what I saw, that would be the sum of it, not the worse criticism ever.

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