unbashing Sun

I don't think any of us here at blogs.sun.com want to sound like a television commercial, but we write about stuff we think is cool and sometimes that includes things related to work at Sun. Whether we're up against legitimate competitors or monopolists, we strive to point out advantages of the cool technologies we have. We work here because we think the people and technologies are cool. And while I might be reluctant to criticize Scott McNealy on his golf swing, I might point out that he should be out there promoting Sun Rays on Earth day just as HP is encouraging recycling their hardware. Heck, I'll even encourage recycling HP hardware. Replace every fat X86 client out there with a Sun Ray and how many coal power plants can we shut down?

Anyway what inspired me to write this blog at forever-o'clock was a "Solaris review" in a supposed technology magazine, and some really weird comments in a Slashdot article regarding this. Before you brand me as a computer religious zealot, I'll say that I've worked with VMS, Windows 3.1-XP, Solaris, Irix, Cray Unicos and I use OSX, Linux, Solaris and (gasp) Windows XP1 on an almost daily basis. But it really bothers me to see an incomplete review followed up with such baseless nonsense as this slashdot comment:
I ask Sun, where are you innovating now? Are you providing leadership in LDAP / Directory Services? Nope. Are you providing leadership in distributed computing? Nope, that would be Linux and Open Source. Are you providing leadership in software development? Well, you developed Java, but it took the Free / Open Source guys to make Ant, Junit, Jmeter and other tools to make it really usable.
Where do I start? How about using your LDAP infrastructure to manage and lockdown desktop configuration (Java Desktop System Configuration Manager a.k.a. APOC). Distributed computing? JXTA. Now wait a minute, no useful tools from Sun for Java? What about NetBeans or a dtrace provider which will allow you to see exactly what your Java application is doing. Then there's the old "Sun is Proprietary" or "Sun is closed" meme. Both JXTA and NetBeans are opensource as are the hooks in GNOME, openoffice, and mozilla which allow APOC/LDAP to do it's magic.

As someone with a long interest in science and technology I appreciate Slashdot for trolling up interesting news. Some of the comments are really humorous. But on everything from basic science to technology, Slashdot can get it spectacularly wrong and urban folklore is modded up just because it is popular urban folklore.

1The XP box is a very recent acquisition. I've been meaning to write an "outsiders review of Windows XP Professional." But right now I'm going to bed.
Comments:

nice entry. ant was actually contributed by sun as open source via tomcat in '99 as a build utility. i new then that ant would be bigger then tomcat which was a tall order.

Posted by gonzo on April 22, 2005 at 07:27 PM GMT+00:00 #

Sometimes you read a peice in the popular press that just screams "I AM TOTALLY IGNORANT!"

That infamous review, IMHO, was one of those and not even worth the time to respond to.

Posted by gameguy on April 22, 2005 at 08:32 PM GMT+00:00 #

Don't forget: Distributed Computing - Jini, which is being released under Apache 2.0, and will soon be Real Big.

Posted by Greg Trasuk on April 22, 2005 at 09:04 PM GMT+00:00 #

The problem with a lot of what you say is that: Wow, look these people are stupid/on crack for bashing Sun.

What you should say is: How can we help these people change their minds without sounding like we don't care?

When somebody says: "You suck, your products suck, and Java is proprietary!" You need to sit down and remeber Eliza, the e-shrink, and ask: "Really? what makes you feel this way?" or "I thought you might say that. Could you elaborate?"

Microsoft and IBM know this already: When you ignore criticism, it just gets louder. When you listen to criticism, and act on it, you actually gain customers/friends/goodwill.

Finally, instead of the roller blogs sounding like a marketing love-fest, somebody at Sun ought to blog on all the criticism ya'll get.

I hope you guys listen.

Posted by Christopher Mahan on April 22, 2005 at 11:44 PM GMT+00:00 #

Also don't forget: Grid Computing. Sun Grid just starts up, but the Sun <a href="http://www.sun.com/software/gridware/index.xml">Grid Engine software has been around for some time now and, it is also <a href="http://gridengine.sunsource.net/">Open Source.

Posted by Stephan Grell on April 23, 2005 at 06:04 AM GMT+00:00 #

Thanks for the additional innovations, I'm sure I missed plenty. Some of the stock analysts seem to think Sun innovates _too_ much. But I believe in innovation with far more zeal than I believe in this one company.

Christopher, there isn't a company out there that couldn't do with a little more listening. What changes could Sun make that would enable you to recommend Sun solutions to problems you encounter in your business? If the changes are feasible and they don't negatively impact other customers, we certainly have every incentive to make things work better for those who keep us employeed. But don't expect, for instance, that Solaris is going to become Linux or (god forbid) Microsoft Windows. Sorry, but the tradeoffs necessary for that would impact our existing customers, significantly, and we don't want to lose them. If I ever find myself inside a core of a CT scanner with rapidly spinning powerful X-Ray tubes, I will breath easier knowing that the data gathering and control elements of the scanners I once worked on is Solaris.
I think it is appropriate to listen, but also to engage negative publicity that is just plain wrong.

Posted by bnitz on April 23, 2005 at 08:09 AM GMT+00:00 #

I hate to bash Sun, but... Okay, I won't. Seriously, why won't Sun build an alternative to the Windows/Mac for reasonably "professional" users like myself? I'm a dedicated notebook user and my budget is strictly $1,500 max for a machine, but why has Sun been so incredibly \*disinterested\* in making and marketing a notebook computer to people like me? What does Sun have \*against\* building mindshare? If Sun doesn't want to continue to lose relevance, you're going to have to offer packages solutions comparable to what I can get from Apple or "WinTel". Hint: The "right" way to answer my query is to actually build and market such machines so that someday I'll receive an offer in my email in-box that is too compelling to refuse. Note: I'm an independent software developer/entrepreneur, so I don't have an IT "infrastructure" to "manage". Just offer me a nice simple "box" that I can carry around with me. Final suggestion: Offer me a capability analogous to my Distributed Virtual Personal Computer (DVPC) concept with the box and there won't be any way that I can turn down an offer. See: http://basetechnology.com/dvpc.htm -- Jack Krupansky

Posted by Jack Krupansky on April 23, 2005 at 02:30 PM GMT+00:00 #

Jack, DVPC is an interesting idea. If we can leap completely out of the fat client paradigm and remember the main reason why people carry around complex, fragile devices is to access services. I don't know if Sun will get into the laptop market, but Tadpole ( http://www.tadpolecomputer.com/html) makes laptops that work very well with Solaris. And their "Comet" ( http://www.tadpolecomputer.com/dynamic/news/press/2005/82.html) goes a step beyond DVPC in abstracting the service from the portable hardware.

Posted by bnitz on April 24, 2005 at 02:26 AM GMT+00:00 #

Sir, Has anyone at SUN estimated the energy required by a Server GRID capable of concurrent Sun Ray 'session' use by the global masses? Santa Clara - 'you have a BIG problem'

Posted by William Walling on April 25, 2005 at 12:48 PM GMT+00:00 #

William, A fair question, I also wish Sun (and competitors) would publish TCO and productivity/watt for all IT solutions. Here is my quick back-of-the envelope estimate. Ignoring the display, a typical desktop X86 PC consumes 160 watts. (see minimum here )

Now, a 2 CPU V20z server with 20 Sun Ray seat licenses would consume 320 Watts. That would be 16 watts for each user plus another 13 watts (typical) for each appliance. (http://uk.sun.com/events/2004/nov/sunlive/pdf/Sun_AMD.pdf) So you would have 29 Watts per desktop, less than 1/5 the per user energy consumption of the fat clients. I'm starting to understand how Sun can save over a million dollars in electricity by using Sun Rays internally.

Now consider that most enterprise desktops already rely on a server in the back office. Consider the energy cost of cooling (about 0.6 Watts/Watt) and the fact that as the number of desktops increases, you benefit from the economies of scale and increased throughput of multicore designs such as UltraSparc IV and (future) Niagra... For many organizations, Sun Ray wins hands down.

Finally consider the resources required to produce and dispose of PC hardware compared to Sun Ray appliances and you can see why I believe we are underselling this solution.

Posted by bnitz on April 26, 2005 at 09:28 AM GMT+00:00 #

Sir, SUN is definately underselling this solution as it (SUN Server and SunRay) has never explained each 'open session' ramification to business or me. Device technology is assuredly coming, however, concurrent 'open sessions' for each client on a global basis leaves much to be proved regarding the observed performance on an individual Sun Ray appliance, associated energy savings and ROI. Your thoughts about this malady would be very welcomed. (A SMB concern of mine recently replaced their server-client system with a attempted 'duplicate' of genuine SUN offerings with Redmond ware on Texas product. This is needed, continuing income now given to billionaires, it looks odd too!)

Posted by William Walling on April 26, 2005 at 04:54 PM GMT+00:00 #

I don't have the answer but just moments ago I used dtrace to find that a popular browser plugin is a huge resource consumer when idle. Right now it seems that Sun Ray is being sold on it's clear enormous and easy to explain administration advantage rather than the efficiency advantage because, YMMV. That is many of us are using horrendously inefficient applications which were developed when CPU/bandwith costs were falling rapidly. Tools like dtrace allow us to focus on efficiency which will continue to be an important method of increasing performance long after Moore's observation meets physical limits.

Posted by bnitz on April 27, 2005 at 04:30 AM GMT+00:00 #

Christopher, Again on the laptop. I forgot about Nextcom LLC Sometimes I wish we could use Apple's philosophy, provide the OS and hardware as an integrated system and don't waste time trying to support every weird combination of desktop and laptop hardware. But I would imagine we'd get even more backlash for being "closed" than Apple does.

Posted by bnitz on April 27, 2005 at 04:39 AM GMT+00:00 #

Thank you for a timely response, there exists a replacement 'desired' product concept for Sun Ray. Unfortunately, I have been unable to convince senior management at Santa Clara that a solution to their Sun Ray 'marketing' problem exists. Quote - "Appearance is Perception" Hopefully, reason will pervail at Santa Clara as NASDAQ continues to devalue SUNW. The 'appearance' of SUNW matters because NASDAQ determines the 'perception' of value for SUN wares and their employees within a global IT landscape. SUN 'associates' are far better than credited!

Posted by William Walling on April 27, 2005 at 06:59 AM GMT+00:00 #

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