Sun NC Launch Thoughts

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Given that most of the folks I’ve spoken to have seen the details on the Galaxy announcements from yesterday, along with more detailed dissections of the new gear’s impact than I could deliver given my general aversion to hardware, I won’t bother with a detailed analysis. Given that a couple of folks have written in to ask what I thought, however, I’ll just reiterate my quick reaction from yesterday in saying that I did find the hardware pretty impressive. For me, that’s an accomplishment; tin is low enough on my radar that I actually skipped our Galaxy pre-briefing. As I told James at one point, my only interest in hardware is what it can do with software.

I am finding one aspect of Sun’s hardware strategy interesting, however – the power consumption. Much has been written in the past of past low power server market failures, and I won’t be the one to tell you that businesses are going to start prioritizing electrical consumption over business value, but Sun’s trying to kill those two birds with one small, sleek stone. Whether or not the appeal is there on a wide scale remains to be seen, but I can tell you that with my car having been in the shop for better than two weeks now, I’ve begun at least looking around at potential replacements and 40 miles a gallon sounds a lot better now than it did say a year or two ago. Might lower power servers resonate as well? Stranger things have certainly happened. I’ve remarked before that if GE, whose ecohistory is – at best – checkered, can brand themselves as “green” then why not Sun? If I was in their shoes I’d be running around looking to partner or sell to environmentally friendly companies like Patagonia.

Beyond the hardware announcements, the interesting news on the day was who was in attendance. I got the chance to chat with MySQL’s MÃ¥rten Mickos at breakfast [1], but far and away the most surprising appearance was Red Hat’s Scott Crenshaw; when Scott was introduced at the analyst breakfast as being here as a representative of Red Hat, I know I wasn’t the only one looking around for the Four Horsemen from the Book of Revelations. But the appearance underscores the point that Sun is increasingly coming around to, the same point that IBM has in my view made a lot of money off of, which is that customers want choice. Choice in turn means that they want their vendors to cease the religious finger pointing, and play together like civilized adults. If customers ask for Red Hat, give them Red Hat. There’s no clearer indication of this trend then the announcement, made yesterday, that Sun – yes, Sun – will be supporting Windows on its hardware. One of the financial types asked yesterday why Red Hat was there, given that they compete, and the answer given both by Red Hat and Sun was that yes, we think our respective operating systems are superior but that ultimately there’s opportunity and room for both. Couldn’t agree more. Competition is generally, I think most of us would agree, good for customers. But competition amongst vendors to be the only option for a customer is not good, it’s bad. Coopetition is the name of the game, as has ever been the case in software. Looks like politics isn’t the only industry that makes for strange bedfellows.

One last note on the day: perhaps the most refreshing aspects to the launch, from my perspective, was the brevity. The actual session ended about an hour early, which threw the conference logistics people for a serious loop but made for a very compact, very digestible presentation. We’re constantly harping on vendors to quit with the 60 slide decks and 3 hour presentations, and Sun in this case did an excellent job of that. Not sure if that was by design or by accident, but I for one appreciated it.

All in all, a solid launch from Sun, worth the trip.

[1] One of the things we talked about was the recent SCO deal, for which they’ve been hammered in some quarters. Marten’s take was interesting – he was very candid about the fact that it was primarily a partnership about economics and the market opportunity with customers that are in need of a database, but he also said that MySQL hopes to act as something of an open source emissary. After all, he said, this is SCO the anti-GPL company doing a deal with one of the biggest GPL advocates in the world.


  1. Heat and power is becoming a real issue. I've been running P4 servers and you could use them as a space heater. One failed this summer from over heating with commercial air conditioning cranked to the max.

    I think you linked to a post that explained how UB's Intel/Dell based super computer couldn't be powered on because of its power requirements.

    This is probably a good move on Sun's part, I just wonder if the margins are going to be there to support projects like Solaris long term.

  2. i'm hearing things like that more and more these days. it's funny how computing requirements change. i can remember when i laughed at people buying tiny laptops b/c i was always after the fastest, biggest screen etc. then along comes wifi, and i won't buy anything other than an ultralight b/c portability has a brand new value.

    might we see the same for power thrifty servers? no idea, but it's worth watching.

    on the margins front, i wouldn't worry about Solaris. the opportunity to abandon Solaris has come and gone, and Sun's played the "we're going with Solaris" card, so Sun would go under before Solaris would, IMO.

  3. how Sun is getting back in the game, and packaging thoughts

    Read this blog by Mr Bryan Cantrell, one of the driving forces behind Solaris 10, for an insight. Here is what Claire Giordano has tosay about Bryan.The news stories about Sun’s server launch this week won’t capture the ambition, colour and…

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