Wednesday Feb 27, 2008

The UltraSPARC T2 Processor and Security

A couple of weeks ago, the Sun Partner University saw 250 technical people from Sun's german partner community gathering in Fulda, Germany. Besides showing videos, talking about Sun Visualization Software, the Sun Grid Engine and Sun Studio Compilers and evangelizing Web 2.0, I had the honor of recording an interview with Alec Muffett, one of our Principal Engineers, based in the UK.

Alec Presenting 

Alec came to Fulda to talk about the Sun UltraSPARC T2 (aka Niagara 2) Processor (here are some systems to try out) and Security. You can listen to the interview he gave at the current episode #11 of the HELDENFunk podcast (if you don't understand german, start listening after the 2nd minute or so). Now, he also published a video he recorded of himself while he gave his presentation. A very worthwhile and fun 16 minutes to watch!

Notice the fun and refreshing style of his presentation and slides A true master of the Zen Arts of Presentation!

Tuesday Oct 09, 2007

CEC 2007: JavaFX on stage, podcasting with Jonathan and Web 2.0 at the unconference

A screenshot of the CEC Message Prompter JavaFX Application 

Boy is this CEC 2007 conference a busy place! Here's a couple of things that got me excited since my last post:

  • Yesterday we had an Unconference session coupled with a couple of speed geeking sessions. Three of the speed geeking sessions were centered around Web 2.0: Neeraj presented on CE 2.0, our new collaborative infrastructure for the field that leverages a lot of Web 2.0 principles. Hal Stern shared some fascinating thoughts about why DRM is Morons and why sharing content is always a good thing, even if it's professional music or movies or other traditional content.
  • Today, after the morning sessions and the big launch, a couple of colleagues and I sat down to record the second episode of the CEC 2007 Podcast. This time, Jonathan Schwartz and John Fowler joined in, together with Matthias Pfützner, Robert Holt, Dave Levy and Michael Ramchand. Don't miss this episode where we share our impressions of CEC and discuss some thoughts about the value of Web 2.0 to us.
  • This CEC has also probably seen the debut of JavaFX and JavaFX Script on a big stage :). To the top, you see a screenshot done by Rajesh of an application that we use to prompt questions from the audience to the presenters on stage. Questions come in through SMS, Email and Instant Messaging while the presenter on stage gives his talk. They are aggregated and fed into a database by the CEC Backstage Messaging Team. Finally, they are displayed onto a screen through the CEC Message Prompter for the speaker and the audience to see.
    The message prompter is written in JavaFX Script. It uses traditional Java classes to access the database through JDBC and it can also digest messages in an XML format through the JAXB API and this is the first significant feature of JavaFX: You can mix traditional Java Classes with JavaFX Script seamlessly, leaving all the heavy-lifting to Java so you can concentrate on the GUI through JavaFX script. Another nice feature of JavaFX Script is the declarative syntax: You just write down how what you want and the JavaFX runtime takes care of instantiating the objects, initializing their parameters and fiddling them into the Swing event loop.
    The above photo only shows a screenshot, but the application is animated: Every time a new message is highlighted, old messages are reduced in size and color while the highlighted message grows and becomes a darker color. Also, to the right, there is a dynamic tag cloud that reflects all of the words visible on screen and where the size of the word indicates its multitude. Again, the tags are animated based on the changes in the message part. Programming animations in JavaFX is very easy thanks to two constructs: Variable binding and parameter streaming. Variable binding means binding an object attribute (i.e. the HTML code that describes the rendering of the message) to a variable (the position of the message in the message list). After the binding, the attribute behaves much like a marionette: As soon as something changes in the data model (i.e. a new message is added to the display list), the attribute is updated in real time and the font characteristics are updated to reflect the change (in this case, the next message grows while the older one shrinks). And here comes another mechanism to help, the "dur" statement. A line like "myVariable = [0..100] dur 500" means: Assign the values 0 to 100 to the variable myVariable during the next 500 milliseconds. Perfect for animation control! JavaFX takes care of all the setting up of timer threads etc. under the hood, while the programmer can essentially animate everything in their application. Very nice.
    Of course, the CEC Message Prompter is not bugless, and unfortunately, the highlighting went wrong a few times :). Fortunately, this didn't seem to confuse anyone, but today I implemented a watchdog mechanism to make sure stuff always has the right size no matter what. I hope that this works more smoothly tomorrow...
    I'd like to encourage everyone to try JavaFX script out. It still feels a lot like beta but it's already quite useable, heck, we're using it in production right now at CEC :). Let me know if you want the source code to the CEC Message Prompter application.
Well, that's it for now. Off I go to drop into a session real quick before attending a meeting and then there's a party scheduled, too...

Wednesday Aug 08, 2007

A True Web 2.0 Chip

Yesterday was the big day in which we launched the UltraSPARC T2 chip, code-named Niagara 2.

Few people realize how significant this announcement really is. The UltraSPARC T1 chip already changed the game of providing a powerful web infrastructure: By providing 32 threads in parallel, the UltraSPARC T1 chip and the associated T2000 server can provide more than double the performance of today's regular chips, at half the power cost. Even now, 18 months after its introduction, this chip still remains ahead of the pack both in absolute web performance and in price/performance and in performance/watt.

UltraSPARC T2 is not just a better version of the T1 chip, it provides three significant improvements:

  • More parallelism: Instead of 32 concurrent threads, UltraSPARC T2 delivers 64 threads running in parallel. Moore's law gives us twice as many transistors to play with every 18 weeks and the best way to leverage that is to turn them into parallelism. UltraSPARC T1 and T2 are all about maximizing the return on Moore's Law. Check out the specs.
  • More networking: The UltraSPARC T2 features two 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports directly on the chip. Two. Ten GigaBit. On the chip. The NIC is included, there is no bus system between the NIC and the CPU, the CPU is the NIC is the CPU. Total embedded networking. For applications that live in the network, what more can they ask for in a server?
  • Built-in, free and fast encryption. In a world where the web becomes social, private data becomes more and more common, but also more and more important to secure. Making security a default feature of your web service is now available for free and it does not impact performance.

Of course, there are many more other improvements, such as 8 FP units, more memory etc., but the three points above alone make the UltraSPARC T2 the perfect chip for web 2.0 applications.

This guy needs UltraSPARC T2!For instance, check out this analysis of the Facebook platform by Marc Andreesen. If you don't want to read it all, here's a summary: Web 2.0 means explosive growth in server capacity, for any reasonably successful application. In the case of iLike, they are growing their user base at the rate of 300k a day! This kind of growth can be fatal for your company if you don't have the infrastructure to sustain it. Well, UltraSPARC T2 is just the kind of technology that was designed to do just that: Handle many, many, many concurrent users at once as efficiently and securely as possible.

So, all you Web 2.0 startups out there, get in touch with your nearest Sun rep or Sun SE and ask them about UltraSPARC T2, or better yet, get a free 60-day trial of UltraSPARC T1, do your favourite benchmark, double that number and forget about that crypto-card to see what UltraSPARC T2 can do for you real soon now. Then, sit back, relax and keep those 300k a day users coming!

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