James Governor's Monkchips

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

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Read this blog by Mr Bryan Cantrell, one of the driving forces behind Solaris 10, for an insight. Here is what Claire Giordano has to say about Bryan.

The news stories about Sun’s server launch this week won’t capture the ambition, colour and intelligence associated with getting big things done. The blog on the other hand does. Its an instructive snapshot in time. Oh yeah nice to see Bryan writing in English rather than code. Here is my partner in crime Stephen on this week’s news.

I recently argued that superstar syndrome can be dangerous to a business, but it was never my intention to say superstars aren’t stars for a reason. When companies build the right teams and give them the freedom to get product out of the door then the right teams are likely to build the right products.

I was lucky enough to meet Andy Bechtolsheim myself on Tuesday. He was in London with John Fowler, Sun EVP of Network Systems (that’s pretty much AMD-based servers, basically, dunno why its called network systems, must be some network is the computer thing).

Anyhow, if someone had of asked me on Monday who in the industry it would be fun to have dinner this week there were some obvious contenders. Larry Ellison and Tom Siebel would have made for interesting company, what with the announcement of the acquisition and all . Meg Whitman and the boys at Skype would have also been obvious dining companions. But if you’re interested in Sun, and RedMonk is, what could be better than an offer to meet the people behind the new Galaxy servers, fast, energy efficient, dense server systems with high availability features, poised at the cusp of a potential Intel AMD server market share inflexion point.

When it comes to servers that will run x86 binaries (or x64 if you like) Sun is the only major systems vendor optimising around AMD. HP will sell you AMD, but it designs for Intel. Dell is Intel all over. At IBM AMD is not a design center of gravity.

Sun is going after Dell.

Gordon Haff from Illuminata says:

Sun’s painted itself a new bullseye on Dell and is unloading into the target. 

Unlike HP (and IBM to a lesser degree), all-Intel-all-the-time Dell has no Opteron response to Sun’s new servers. And, whatever the coming months and years may bring, Opteron has advantages such as dual-core over Intel Xeons today. Nor can Dell claim better service, better management, a wider range of processor choices, a compelling blade story—or indeed just about better anything. Sun has done a good job of neutralizing Dell pricing advantages and that’s just about the only advantage that Dell has to offer.

So dinner…

Andy was flint smart and sparky. We didn’t gel immediately. But then my thinking is a bit free form for a guy with that much rigour and focus. I am somewhat less inclined to believe that engineering is enough to win in competitive IT sales situations beyond certain markets such as HPC, where performance is everything. Perception is nine tenths of the law in the IT business.

One argument I made is that Sun should emulate Apple’s packaging experience. Its not just the server you want to look cool, its the packaging for it. I remember my first Nike moulded shoe insert… so much nicer than a bunch of rumpled paper stuck in your new pair of sneakers. Ever watched a baby open a present? They tend to be WAY more interested in the box than the content…

This wired article got me thinking I may be on to something. Turns out some people keep all their old Apple packaging. They evangelise it…

“My G3 iMac was my first packaging experience,” he said.

OK, you could call him a geek, too. Since that first primal moment, Reich has had many more “packaging experiences.”

He’s one of the legions of Macintosh and iPod users for whom the elegance of the user interface begins with the bold graphics and sleek texture of the box the new machine comes in. It’s in the smell and the way the box logically reveals each new component just as the user needs it. And, like the famously long-lived Apple Computer products they carry, these aesthetic outer wrappings have a habit of sticking around.

“I save ’em, much to the dismay of my significant other,” Reich said. “My storage closet is jam-packed with basically everything I’ve got.”

The brand starts with the packaging. Microsoft Office for Mac packaging is nicer than for Windows. Go figure.

Anyway – back to dinner. It was interesting to hear Andy’s thoughts on systems architecture, and the business. I really warmed to him when I discovered that Back To The Future is his favourite movie. Great movie. I suggested an ad campaign for Galaxy servers based on the George McFLy line: I am your density….

He is a very smart guy and is going to build some really cool kit.

Anyhow thanks Sun and Bite for inviting me to dinner.  Great to see you again John.

What’s one way change the world of business? With great design. That’s what Sun wants Andy to home in on.

Oh yeah – and if you want to know about Sun’s view of AMD going forward just ask someone on the Solaris 10 engineering team what his favourite microprocessor architecture is. Here’s a clue: it doesn’t rhyme with Park… [gordon confirms the point]

Even Microsoft uses these boxes to demo at conferences now… at least it did at the Tech Ed 2005 in Amsterdam.

So a Sun server that runs certified Windows, RedHat or Solaris, that’s more compact than the competition, screams through performance tests, and retails at a lower price point. Something to work with. Something a salesforce can sell.

That’s how to get back in the game.


  1. oh crap sorry about the angle brackets. posted in a hurry and now for some reason MT is blocking my access/and doesn’t believe that i know my own birthplace. embarrassing.

  2. The network computing is the class of machines designed to perform tasks Network related.
    If you’re setting up a proxy server or an Web server, you’re dealing with Network while, if you’re setting up a Database, then you’de be better served with a Data Facing system.
    Also, don’t dismiss the architecture that “rhymes with Park” just yet. there are still pretty compeling reasons to have a Sparc based machine and, Sparc has the most agressive roadmap ever seen in Computer history.

  3. I must be having one of those ‘read things at face value’ days. Is an “aggressive roadmap” one where Bibendum bites you?

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