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SPARC news (final)

This page (which used to be the SPARC news page in the SPARC Product Directory) chronicles the final phase in Sun's decline as an independent company upto its acquisition by Oracle

See also:- SPARC History - from 1987
new article - Sun-Oracle and SSDs

Editor:- February 3, 2010 - in a new article SSDs and Sun-Oracle... past failures / future challenges - SPARC Product Directory looked backand listed Sun's biggest market successes and failures in the past 20 years.

It also looks ahead to the next 5 years of Oracle, Solaris and SSDs. ...read the article


Oracle's SPARC Ready for Business

Editor:- February 2, 2010 - Oracle has a -new SPARC processor home page - and a neat touch here is the Oracle logo on the image of a chip.

Also - as you may have seen already - the old familiar www.sun.com website now redirects to www.oracle.com. So you may have to change your old Sun bookmarks.

Some old pages from the Sun site go immediately to similar content on Oracles' new site - while some others take a minute or so to get redirected to appropriate content - or just to the home page. And some old pages still exist on Sun's old site - with new Oracle branding.

This kind of takeover can be a nightmare for website managers - but the companies have had plenty of time to prepare the ground - and have done a good job on the integration - compared with most other takeovers I've seen in this industry (more than 500).

Before the takeover Sun's web site was one of the top 700 sites worldwide, while Oracle's was in the top 1,700 (source Alexa). So from the web marketing point of view this will give Oracle a boost in their search-engine rankings.


Sun's Famous Personalities Beam Down to Earth

Editor:- January 27, 2010 - as previously speculated last summer - many top people at Sun Microsystems will not be retained to continue Oracle's new SPARC / Solaris server business.

Here are some articles about the departing.


Solaris Developers Get Open Source Drivers for PCIe SSDs

Editor:- January 26, 2010 - Texas Memory Systems today announced it is delivering open source drivers on Linux and Solaris for its RamSan-20 PCIe SSD accelerator.

This thin driver offers a simple control paradigm and is easy to port and manipulate as open source. It offers little burden to the host system and creates a nice division of labor between the host and the device allowing the host system to operate to its maximum potential.

Editor's comments:- IBM and HP long ago had their own engineers tweak and customize Fusion-io's PCIe SSDs - for remarketing to their own respective server customers.

But Sun has been steering rudderless for several quarters due to uncertainty over its owenership. And future direction under Oracle will remain unclear for a long time to come.

Despite all that customers still have to make decisions about what to do to keep their installed base in good shape. Perhaps the availability of open source code for these SSD accelerator products will encourage some systems integrators or users to take architectural tweaking matters into their own hands.


EU Approves Sun Takeover

Editor:- January 21, 2010 - the EU today cleared Oracle's proposed acquisition of Sun Microsystems.

One thing which has not not been in doubt, however, is that Sun has been drifting without a clear direction for the past few quarters while this process has been taking place.

For most companies of this size and in this market - random drift would be a bad thing.

But Sun has suffered from 10 years from strong management which has taken it purposefully in many wrong directions. So in the long term - I think maybe a bit of randomness is comparatively good. It gives managers an opportunity to pause and think about where the true value for customers is really centered.


MySQL's Creator Launches Anti-Oracle Petition

Editor:- January 4, 2010 - a PR campaign and petition to stop Oracle's acquisition of MySQL has been launched by MySQL's creator.

It will exert pressure on EU regulators who are soon due to decide whether or not to allow the Sun / Oracle merger to proceed.


Themis Launches 8 Core UltraSPARC T2 VPX Server

Editor:- December 2, 2009 - Themis Computer today launched the 1st 6U VPX SBC based on Sun's multi-core UltraSPARC T2.

Themis' T2VPX features a new system architecture that combines up to 8 SPARC processor cores and 64 threads, with a VPX IO fabric. The T2VPX is ideal for compute-intensive military and aerospace applications requiring rugged computing solutions, beyond the reach of today's VME-64-based systems. It runs both Linux and the Solaris 10 Operating System. The T2VPX will be offered with 6 and 8 core processor options.

"VPX is a proposed ANSI standard that breaks the performance bonds of traditional buses and serial interconnects, enabling Themis to create supercomputer-level products like this one for the critical embedded systems market," declares Ray Alderman, executive director of VITA.


EU Says "Non!" to Oracle's Sun Romance

Editor:- November 10, 2009 - this is an update on the EU antitrust case (M.5529) concerning Oracle's proposed acquisition of Sun Microsystems.

According to a Sun SEC filing the EU has objected saying "the combination of Sun's open source MySQL database product with Oracle's enterprise database products and its potential negative effects on competition in the market for database products".

Oracle effectively said - it's sad and feels misunderstood.

The case is not yet over, however. One interesting factor has been the publicly aired difference of views expressed by EU and US regulators - as reported in this story by Reuters.

There is a lot of history on the EU site regarding Oracle, Open Source and Sun. The EU does understand Sun and Oracle a lot better than you might think and doesn't want to be stung by retrospective tabs for migrating or end of lifing thousands of Open Source database projects. But surely the parties involved could agree to ring fence MySQL or spin it off as part of the takeover settlement. I'm not sure how relevant this is to the value Oracle sees in Sun - unless they want to choke it off.

I was surprised how frustrating it was trying to find anything useful on the EU site - probaby because Google has also been a target of their earlier investigations (re Doubelclick) - and the EU web designers don't appear to use it.

...Later:- November 30, 2009 - a blog on ZDNet.com makes this case - the more Oracle says MySQL not worth much, the more its actions say otherwise.


Fusion-io Slashes Costs for MySpace

Editor:- October 13, 2009 - Fusion-io published a case study showing how their ioDrive SSDs helped MySpace reduce servers, claim back 50% rack space while increasing application performance and massively decreasing electrical power.

The ioDrives performed much better than the legacy SAS disk arrays, but more importantly for MySpace, they did it with much less hardware. A single ioDrive allowed MySpace to replace a 2U HP DL380 server with 1U HP DL160 server.

In the initial phase of this deployment MySpace replaced 150 of their standard load servers, recovering 150U of rack space. Additionally, the ioDrives' phenomenal performance reduced its need for heavy load servers, allowing it to permanently end-of-life 50 of 80 heavy load servers. This allowed it to recover another 65U of rack space. Reliability also increased and the Fusion-io solution is greener. Estimates suggest that the power savings alone could easily pay for the ioDrives over their lifetime.

MySpace says it plans to replace another 1,770 2U servers with Fusion-io enabled servers as they reach their end-of-life.

"In the last 20 years, disk storage hasn't kept pace with other innovations in IT, and right now we're on the cusp of a dramatic change with flash technologies, with Fusion-io clearly leading this transformation," said Richard Buckingham, VP of technical operations for MySpace. "We looked at a number of solid state disk solutions, using many different kinds of RAID configurations, but we felt that Fusion-io's solution was exactly what we needed to accomplish our goals." ...read the article (pdf)


Sun Launches New SSDs

Editor:- October 12, 2009 - Sun Microsystems launched 2 new SSD product lines.
  • The F5100 Flash Array ($45,995 upwards) is a new 1U rackmount SSD - which has 16 SAS ports and provides upto 1.92TB capacity. R/W IOPS are upto 1.6M and 1.2M respectively (for a system populated with 80 SSD modules).
  • The FlashFire F20 is a 96GB SLC flash PCIe SSD with 100k read and 84k write IOPS. R/W rates are upto 1092MB/s and 501MB/s respectively. The card also includes a SAS controller.


More Musings Over Sun's (Still Moving) Entrails

Editor:- September 16, 2009 - Sun Microsystems Autopsy: Death by Reverse Darwinism is an interesting commentary on the history of Sun's corporate culture and the current state of the company.

It's written by Daniel Nenni who once upon a time worked for the 1st multi-processor SPARC server company, Solbourne. ...read the article


Will Oracle Dissect Sun?

Editor:- September 1, 2009 - a recent blog in Fortune.CNN.com speculates that Oracle may sell Sun's hardware business to HP.


Unplugging Sun's Customer Base

Editor:- July 31, 2009 - an article in Infoworld says Sun Microsystems' customers are being targeted by IBM and HP who are preying on customers' doubts about Sun's long term hardware strategies under Oracle's ownership.

Author Jon Brodkin writes - "Sun customers were already showing a willingness to switch" - even before these targeted Sun-away campaigns. ...read the article


Novell Automates Hardware Migration for Solaris 10

Waltham, MA - July 14 - Novell today announced the addition of physical-to-virtual migration support for Sun's Solaris 10 OS in the latest version of PlateSpin Migrate.

"We expect PlateSpin Migrate 8.1 to make it even easier for customers to take advantage of the power and versatility of Solaris Containers," said Jim McHugh, VP of Data Center Software Marketing at Sun. "Using PlateSpin Migrate 8.1 to perform physical-to-virtual migration will also help minimize the risk of introducing errors into new configurations and speed the completion of virtualization projects."

PlateSpin Migrate 8.1 is available later this month priced at $1,495 for a one-time Unix license.


Last SPARC Standing in TOP500
Editor:- June 24, 2009 - the 33rd edition of the TOP500 list of the world's most powerful supercomputers was updated recently.

Only 1 single machine in the list today uses SPARC processors.

That's a steep decline from 10 years ago - when the TOP500 included 95 SPARC systems.


Sun Executive Severance Calculations and Merger Background

Editor:- June 4, 2009 - Scott McNealy would be eligible to get about $9.5 million if he were to be terminated in August.

The hypothetical calculations for Jonathan Schwartz, John Fowler and other Sun executives are detailed in an SEC document which also includes a blow by blow narrative of the lead up to Sun's recent acquisition by Oracle.

It's not the most exciting read, but provides as much info as anyone is going to get until the memoirs start to appear.


Recession is Hurting Server Market - SSDs will Hurt More

Editor:- April 28, 2009 - IDC reported today factory revenue in the worldwide server market declined 25% year over year to $9.9 billion in the 1st quarter of 2009.

This is the 3rd consecutive quarter of year-over-year revenue decline and the lowest quarterly server revenue since IDC began tracking the server market on a quarterly basis 12 years ago.

Unix servers experienced 17.5% revenue decline year over year when compared with 1Q08.

Linux server revenue comprised 13.8% of server revenue in 1Q09, declining 24.8% year-over-year to $1.4 billion, its lowest revenue level in 5 years.

Editor's comments:- even when the recession ends those past revenue shipments aren't going to bounce back.

When the recovery starts the SSD acceleration market will be in full force. That means users will be able to run their apps using 70% fewer servers. That's something which was originally predicted in my long range SSD market penetration model in 2003.

In the original article I explained that server oems were scared of the effect that SSDs would have on their sales - and this fear was one of the reasons they held back on user education about this technology. I also forecasted - that once any single top tier server company announced SSD support - the others would be forced to pile in too. But it was a game of dare to see how long they could wait until users forced the issue.


Sun's Future Lies in Oracle

Editor:- April 20, 2009 - Oracle today announced an agreement to acquire Sun Microsystems for approximately $7.4 billion.

Editor's comments:- this ends nearly a decade of speculation about the future of Sun Microsystems, a company which created a unique server business peaking at over $20 billion annual revenue at the turn of the Millenium.

You can read how Sun created that market, then lost it piece by piece and then finally lost itself in the storage market in the article which tracks the 22 History of SPARC systems market.

It's fitting that Oracle writes the end of this story.

In the earliest days of the Sun market, portable relational databases were a great selling tool for Sun VARs a to open the doors for the unknown Sun.

Typically they'd get the customer to run a dbase benchmark on their VAX and then run the same thing on a Sun. In the late 1980s Sun hardware came in at less than 1/2 the price and more than 2x the performance. And that was before the SPARC market heated up with a series of ever faster, and then unbeatable, products in the early to mid 1990s.

...Later:- April 22, 2009 - Although I've read a lot of "analyst" blogs - I haven't seen any analysis about this significant deal that's worthy of a link. So here's what I think.

The 2 most important emerging trends in the computer market which I've been discussing for many years elsewhere are:- The new content enabled industries of the future mean that vast data sets, which were once the preserve of telcos or governments - will become much more commonplace than in the past.

Although Google manages huge amounts of data using Linux, and internally developed applications, most enterprises can't do that. Because unlike Google they don't have a monopolist's business advantages, and unlike Google, they can't easily recruit PhDs to write most of their software.

Instead enterprises will turn to platforms which already have a reputation for managing large data sets reliably - as the starting point for their new projects.

SSD accelerated, Solaris hosted Oracle makes good sense for that kind of business plan.

If readers have views on this Oracle / Sun thing that they'd like to share. Drop me a line, saying who you are and what you think.


Who's Going to Buy Sun Microsystems?

Editor:- March 19, 2009 - there's a lot of speculation on the web that IBM may buy Sun.

It's not the first time Sun has been the subject (or object of such rumors).

Sun's merger talks with Apple ended in February 1996.

And in July 2002 - I used the headline Who's Going to Buy Sun Microsystems? - to discuss possible buyers - at a low point in Sun's fortunes.

In the 2002 article - I suggested - IBM and Fujitsu as possible acquirers.

Some amusing ramblings about this on the Fake Scott McNealy blog.

An article in SFGATe.com raises the interesting point that Sun and IBM control about 90% of the high end tape backup market. However that's a market that's been declining for years anyway.

Users who haven't already migrated to disk backup haven't been getting a good experience from tape vendors even before this move. So it's not a material factor. The dominance of the 2 companies in the Unix market might be. But unless Linux suddenly gets grabbed by a single vendor - anti-competitive issues in the OS space shouldn't be a worry.


Wind River's Linux Now Flowing through UltraSPARC T2

SANTA CLARA, CA - March 17, 2009 - Sun Microsystems, Inc. today announced that Wind River has completed the port of its Linux 3.0 and Workbench development suite to Sun's UltraSPARC T2 processor.

"The combination of Sun's enterprise class UltraSPARC CMT platforms and Wind River's Carrier Grade Linux gives telecom and networking system developers a new and significantly superior vehicle for delivering their most mission critical applications to enterprise and service provider customers," said Mike Knudsen, VP, Sun OEM.

Editor's comments:- I first came across Wind River Systems in the late 1980s, when I was designing real-time systems which shared memory space with embedded SPARC servers running SunOS. (The SPARCstations were the cheapest part of those systems. The slowest too.)

I was an evangelist for using Unix systems in real-time, and did the events circuit and wrote articles for our customers talking about the benefits of using C and Unix for their real-time applications - and leaving the real-time I/O handling to a virtual device interface which we supported with over 100 VME based processors and peripherals - which were mostly COTS - although we sometimes designed fast I/O if commercial products weren't available.

At that time Wind River were talking about a product called VXworks. I didn't use it - because it wasn't stable enough for my needs at the time. .

In the late 1990s nearly 20 companies were listed in our SPARC OS directory. There was even talk of IBM's AIX being ported to SPARC.

Most of that real (and vaporware) support ended by 2000 due to a combination of market factors. The availability of Linux on SPARC is something which I said in 2003 - would be the Trigger Event that will Turn Around Sun's Revenue Decline. That was in the midst of another recession - following the dotcom bust - which had a bigger negative impact on Sun (than the recession we're in now).


Sun Launches Flash SSD Analyzer Tool to Boost Server Sales and Performance

Editor:- March 11, 2009 -Sun Microsystems launched its new Sun Flash Analyzer - a free Java tool to help users determine how much their (Solaris, Windows and Linux) servers could benefit from SSD acceleration.

The company also launched a try before you buy marketing promotion for its servers which have Sun branded 2.5" SLC flash SSDs pre-integrated. The 32GB SATA SSDs have sequential R/W upto 250MB/s and 170MB/s respectively. Random R/W IOPS are upto 35,000 and 3,300 respectively (4k blocks). Endurance is 3 years - assuming max write speed and 100% write duty cycle.


HP to Offer Solaris 10 on x86 Servers

PALO ALTO, CA - February 25, 2009 - Sun Microsystems today announced an expanded multi-year partnership agreement that enables HP to distribute and provide software technical support for Sun's Solaris 10 OS on HP's ProLiant servers.

HP ProLiant led the x86 server market with 38% factory revenue share in the 4th quarter of 2008 according to IDC. ...HP profile

Editor's comments:-
it took over 22 years to get here. You can see the key milestones in Surviving the Solaris x86 Wars
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SSD ad - click for more info
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SPARC News Volumes at Historic Low
Editor:- June 5, 2009 - the volume of news about the SPARC server market is about 50x less than it was at the peak of the market a decade ago, as you can see by viewing the archived news links on the SPARC History page.

That's because the SPARC market is much smaller in annual revenue and hundreds of oems have switched their priorities to the Intel Architecture server market.

The hottest part of the server market in recent years has been the storage market. Storage has been a bigger part of the overall IT budget than servers for many years. You can see storage news here.

And within the storage market, undisputedly the hottest part of the market now is that for SSDs. Click here for SSD news.

If and when, there's a resurgence in SPARC technology news, such stories will be run here below.
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at the start of 2009 - this is how we looked ahead at the market...
SPARC Market Outlook in 2009?

What are the main trends likely to influence the SPARC market in 2009?
Having failed long ago on the desktop and still being insignificant in the overall notebook market (despite the availability of technically impressive products) SPARC - unlike Intel architecture - is best viewed solely as a server processor architecture.

The market prospects for all servers in 2009 / 2010 (not just SPARC) will be driven by the following considerations.

Factors which will tend decrease server unit shipments.
  • the Credit Crunch:- for most enterprises uncertainty about their future survival, that of their customers and lack of funding - will mean that spending on new servers will be done only as a last resort when all other options have been exhausted.
  • Virtualization:- time sharing applications capacity into a common pool of less servers is already a well established trend in the market. This will continue to a more rigorous degree.
  • Fatter Multi-Core Processors:- this trend has already impacted server sales in previous years. As the number of cores heads into double digits it satisfies many customer needs by reducing the physical and energy footprint of server installations - as well as reducing cost.
  • SSD Server Acceleration:- SSD acceleration enables users to get more applications IOPS and lower response times using less servers than systems which use only hard disk storage. In the past this relied on expert installation to get the best results. As this function gets managed better by automated software - SSD solutions will get more widely adopted in the user base.
Factors which will tend increase server unit shipments.

The killer app for creating increased demands for servers is Internet TV.

Many mainstream broadcasters already make some of their content available for viewing online. As business models evolve - this single application has the potential to push ISP and telco server infrastructure to a new level - just as the original dial-up internet did over a decade ago.

And one of the effects of the Credit Crunch will be to accelerate user uptake fo these services - because in bad times - consumers spend a disproprtionate amount of their disposable income on things that make them feel better.

Was there ever a "Golden Age" for SPARC systems?

Yes. And that idea is explored from various angles in legacy articles on this site.
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SSD ad - click for more info
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There are hundreds of articles about SSDs on StorageSearch.com
Here, below, are some 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.
  • 2010 - 1st Fizz in the SSD Bubble? - even the dogs in the street know this is going to be a multibillion dollar market. Greed will play as big a part as technology in shaping the SSD year ahead.
  • the pros and cons of using SSD ASAPs - auto tuning SSD appliances are a new category of SSD which entered the market in the 2nd half of 2009 to accelerate servers without needing human tune-ups. How can you tell if they are right for you? And how well do they work?
  • the Problem with Write IOPS - in flash SSDs - long established as a useful performance modeling metric - this article explains why some specs are exaggerated when applied to flash SSDs - or predict the wrong results for many common applications.
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