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SPARC Product Directory

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SPARC History - October 2006

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Revisiting One of SPARC's Old Flames - SoftTech Solutions / On-Line! Detective

Editor:- October 31, 2006 - I was first introduced to SoftTech Solutions by my colleague Nev Griffin in about 1996.

Nev was a great networker who had worked at SPARC International in the early years of its formation, and who helped with me promote my independent SPARC Product Directory in the early 1990s. He later rejoined SI in December 1998 as its CEO following the retirement of Ted Atlee.

In 1996 Nev was enthusiastic about a new product - which at the time was called the Sun On-Line! Detective. He introduced me to the company's founder Paul Violassi so we could talk about any marketing synergies.

At that time the detective concept provided very detailed documentation on Sun's workstations and servers in electronic format (CD-ROM). That's a concept which is intuitive to us now - after more than a decade of the web. But at the time it was novel - and included far more useful information for a systems integrator or product maintainer than was available from Sun itself.

In those days I was contacting thousands of vendors in the Sun market - to create bullet type product summaries - to help Sun itself, SPARC oems, ISVs and users find each other via my database and publication. Later - the web simplified the job of directory publishers - because we could just link to the original information sources - instead of summarizing them on paper.

After a few emails and calls with Paul Violassi we decided that apart from being in the same market - there wasn't much scope for co-operation at the time and the next time I heard from SoftTech was about 4 years later in March 2000 - when they ran a banner ad on this site.

The original banner ad appears below. Clicking on it will take you to a web page from that era archived on the waybackmachine.

March 2000 banner ad for Sun On-Line! Detective run on SPARC Product Directory
In March 2000 - a press release from SoftTech Solutions revealed that it had over 10,000 pages of online documentation. That was a good time to be in the Sun market. Or so it seemed. Sun reported a record $5 billion revenue for the quarter which ended June 30, 2000. We didn't know it at the time - but the seeds of the dotcom bust and IT recession were already being sown.

Fast forward to October 2006...

The SPARC market has changed a lot. And so I was surprised to learn from Paul Violassi this week that not only is the On-Line! Detective still a current product - but that a new format of it is available via the web.

The product has expanded into a trouble shooting and diagnostics aid which covers a lot more than the earlier versions. It's support all the legacy versions of Solaris and a new version in the pipeline supports Solaris 10.

I asked what kinds of people were using it - and was told it's all kinds of organizations - from independent Sun VARs, systems administrators in user sites and field service engineers.

How much does it cost?

I was told the online product costs about $8,000 for a 5 user license for 1 year - which is a lot less than the alternative costs of training people up to this competency level.

There are many examples in the history of the SPARC market where product or technology ideas pioneered by independent companies were later copied, adopted or acquired by Sun. And prompted by the success of the On-Line! Detective - Sun did eventually create their own solution to meet this need. But for the many who still use SoftTech's On-Line! Detective today - it's a better product at a better price.

Next month in this new series I'll be revisiting another one of SPARC's Old Flames.

See also:- Solaris Training, Storage Testers & Analyzers

Sun Veteran Joins ProStor Systems

BOULDER, Colo. - October 23, 2006 - ProStor Systems today announced the appointment of industry veteran Randy Kerns as its new chief technology officer.

Prior to joining ProStor, Kerns served as an independent industry analyst, covering storage and storage management software including SAN and NAS analysis. He also was a partner at the Evaluator Group, responsible for product analysis and company evaluation. Kerns assisted major end-user clients in developing their storage strategies and vendors with their product strategies.

With more than 30 years of experience in the computer technology industry and a background in product design and development, Kerns has also served as vice president of strategy and planning for storage at Sun Microsystems. He developed disk and tape systems for mainframe attachment at IBM and StorageTek; disk systems for attachment to open systems and proprietary computer platforms at Fujitsu and Tandem Computers; and tape and disk systems for both open systems and mainframes at two start-up companies. ...ProStor Systems profile, Storage People

Sun and Microsoft Promise OS Coexistence

SANTA CLARA, Calif - October 17, 2006 - Sun Microsystems Inc. today revealed details of its virtualization strategy.

Next year Sun says it will deliver an update to Solaris 10 which will enable servers to run concurrent Solaris 10, Linux and Microsoft Windows OSes as "guests" on a Solaris 10 OS-based Virtual Machine.

On the same theme Microsoft today promised to make its own virtualization format software freely available to all.

If successful - OS virtualization can enable users to reduce the number of servers they own - by dynamically allocating applications to the level of processor power which suits the business needs at that point in time.

Qimonda 's Memory Honored by Sun

Santa Clara, CA - October 17, 2006 - Qimonda AG was named Best-in-Class Supplier in Sun Microsystems' 2006 Supplier Awards program.

"Each year Sun Microsystems recognizes the 'best of the best' suppliers for their contributions to outstanding product quality and customer value," said Eugene McCabe, executive vice president of Worldwide Operations at Sun. "Qimonda helped Sun exceed our customers' expectations, and we congratulate them on their achievement." ...Qimonda profile, ...Sun profile, RAM

Sun Honors BakBone Software

Las Vegas, Sun Forum - October 11, 2006 - Sun Microsystems, Inc. today announced it has named BakBone Software, Inc. its Storage Partner of the Year.

"With over a decade of support for the Solaris OS, a shared footprint in 550 of the Fortune 1000... we are honored and pleased to receive this award," said Jim Johnson, BakBone's president and CEO. ...BakBone profile, ...Sun profile, Backup Software, Storage Events

Dot Hill Celebrates Shipment of 100,000 Sun StorageTek 3000s

CARLSBAD, Calif. - October 3, 2006 - Dot Hill Systems Corp. today announced a major milestone in its relationship with Sun Microsystems with the shipment of the 100,000th unit of the Sun StorageTek 3000 family of workgroup storage systems.

The milestone is based on gross units shipped. All total, the 100,000 units equate to approximately 103 petabytes of storage capacity. The Sun StorageTek 3000 is based on Dot Hill's SANnet II. ...Dot Hill profile, SPARC Product Directory, RAID systems

New Players Invited to the SPARC Game

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - October 2, 2006 - Sun Microsystems Inc. today announced the creation of an independent OpenSPARC Community Advisory Board.

The board is chartered with setting the direction for OpenSPARC, a community that fosters the creation of tools and derivative chip designs based on Sun's UltraSPARC T1 processor. The community now includes a new GNU/Linux distribution, Gentoo Linux, which is supporting UltraSPARC T1 in the latest release, and the first published derivative of the chip design from Simply RISC.

"To grow we can't just rely on upgrading our installed base, we have to go after new customers, and that's what open source helps us do," said John Fowler, executive vice president of Sun's systems group.

Editor's comments:- it sounds like such a good idea you may ask why hasn't Sun done it before?

The answer is Sun did. But most of the oems which picked up the SPARC technology ball in the first decade of SPARC got eased out of the game.

The first commercially available SPARC servers were shipped in 1987.

In 1989 Sun, with other partners set up SPARC International as the industry body to disseminate technical information about SPARC, and facilitate the licensing of technology and trademarks.

In 1991 - I set up my company ACSL as an independent (COTS) publisher to research and write about the SPARC market - and in 1992 published the first edition of what is now called the SPARC Product Directory. The work of my company made it easier for hundreds of SPARC oems to know about each others' products, and I was privileged to talk to them all - sometimes before they even made their first approaches to Sun. It was a great party and in many articles during the late 1990s I chronicled how it all got broken up (due to more strains than just the dotcom collapse.)

Looking ahead the market opportunities for SPARC and Solaris servers are still very significant. But Sun has not had the vision or resources to make things happen as fast as they should in recent years while they have literally been fighting for survival. New partners will help accelerate the process of technology development, integration and adoption.

See also:- article:- That was Then and This is Now: SPARC International and, article:- Joining the Marketing Dots in OpenSPARC

SPARC Product Directory Publisher Marks 15th Anniversary

Editor:- October 2, 2006 - this month is the 15th anniversary of founding ACSL - publisher of the SPARC Product Directory and

The storage market, which will generate over $160 billion revenue in 2006, is the most important segment in the computer industry and this is an exciting time to be covering storage as fundamental changes are taking place in the way that enterprises architect their IT infrastructure.

Gone are the days when the processor or the operating system were the primary factors which dictated how everything fitted together. In the future - the levers and gateposts which enable or inhibit fast corporate change will be dictated by how well the storage systems support the data needs of the enterprise.

Just as the internet gave rise to new types of companies which didn't exist before, the new age of content will generate huge markets where the success or failure of the enterprise will be determined by the strength or weakness of its underlying storage systems.

Looking back at the start of my publishing career:- one of the frustrations of publishing a computer market directory in the early 1990s was the fact that new editions were obsolete on the day they were printed. My data collection methodology was to research and update data every day. Soon after it became acceptable to make money on the web - we made plans to switch to a web format - which we did in 1996. Although much has changed on the web in the past decade - one factor has remained unchanged:- people migrate quickly to the sources which give them the best information. Content providers (like us) and content finders (like Google) need each other (even though we compete in the same advertising market) and although search algorithms have improved, I think human editors can still do a better job of collecting together lists of all the important companies in a vertical market. has been leading the way to the new storage frontier for 8 years, and before that our SPARC Product Directory helped to shape and inform the needs of the people building the dotcom market. It's been great fun working on these in the past 15 years - and I look forward to reporting on the exciting developments still to come. ...ACSL profile
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other SPARC news on this page

Revisiting One of SPARC's Old Flames

Sun Veteran Joins ProStor Systems

Sun and Microsoft Promise OS Coexistence

Sun and Microsoft Promise OS Coexistence

Qimonda 's Memory Honored by Sun

Sun Honors BakBone Software

Dot Hill Celebrates Shipment of 100,000 Sun StorageTek 3000s

New Players Invited to the SPARC Game

SPARC Product Directory Publisher Marks 15th Anniversary

earlier news - archive
SPARC history
SPARC History
Spellabyte and Terrorbyte loved sitting around
the campfire, discussing the good old days of
SPARC computing.
There are hundreds of articles about SSDs on
Here, below, are some recently published examples.
  • RAM Cache Ratios in flash SSDs - it's important to know the underlying RAM cache architecture - even if you're happy with the R/W and IOPS performance.
Can You Trust Your Flash SSD's Specs?
Editor:- I've noticed is that the published specs of flash SSDs change a lot -from the time a product they are first announced, then when they're being sampled, and later again when they are in volume production.

Sometimes the headline numbers get better, sometimes they get worse. There are many good reasons for this.

The product which you carefully qualified may not be identical to the one that's going into your production line for a variety of reasons... the article
Are MLC SSDs Safe in Enterprise Apps?
This is a follow up article to the popular SSD Myths and Legends which, a year earlier demolished the myth that flash memory wear-out (a comfort blanket beloved by many RAM SSD makers) precluded the use of flash in heavy duty datacenters.

This new article looks at the risks posed by MLC Nand Flash SSDs which have recently hatched from their breeeding ground as chip modules in cellphones and morphed into hard disk form factors.
which technology to choose? - read the article It starts down a familiar lane but an unexpected technology twist takes you to a startling new world of possibilities. the article
SPARC History (from 1987 till last month) STORAGEsearch SPARC Product Directory ACSL - the publisher

SPARC(R) is a registered trademark of SPARC International, Inc. SPARC PRODUCT DIRECTORY(SM) is a service mark of SPARC International, Inc used under license by ACSL. Products using the SPARC trademarks are based on an architecture developed by Sun Microsystems, Inc.