Good Enough -vs- Gratuitous Upgrades

Sun offers a really cool thin-client called the SunRay. Check out this flash! We've got 30,000 or so running our desktops throughout Sun. Zero-admin, highly-reliable, energy-efficient clients have saved us millions and driven up productivity. Many of our customers are running these as well. There isn't much to the device... No OS, no disk, no fan, no viruses, no patching, no state... you can almost think of it as a remote/networked frame buffer on steroids. Coupled with USB peripheral support, mobile session capability, Java card security, DoD approved multi-compartment support, VIOP telephony, this is a device that deserves all the attention and acceptance it is getting.

Using Tarantella, Citrix, or other techniques, this device can even display full screen Windows (indistinguishable from a Windoze thin client) if desired, or it can run "Windows in a window" from a native GNOME Linux or Solaris desktop. With the Java Desktop System's integration of hundreds of bundled apps (StarOffice [MS Office], Mr. Project [MS Project], GIMP [Photoshop], Evolution [Outlook], etc, etc) some are looking at the oppty to stop payment to Redmond.

Whatever your choice of display and environment, just pull your Java Card (your session is preserved on the server) and reinsert it later at home, or the next day in another office, and your session will "instantly" pop up in front of you ready to continue your work.

However, a customer recently expressed a concern that the SunRay isn't powered by the latest processor technology, and isn't populated by a huge bank of RAM. Hmmm. I wonder if this person might also consider writing to and asking:

Norelco why their electric razors are powered by two AA batteries! When MegaRaz offers your choice of 220V 3-phase or dual-feed 30A single-phase units that can rip thru facial hair and auto-exfoliate the top layer of skin in record time.

Panasonic why their microwave ovens are still powered by radio-wave emitting magnetrons. Don't they know that MicroRad now offers lead-lined plutonium-powered resonant-coupled chamber ovens that can cut food prep time by a factor of 50 over obsolete microwave ovens?

Kenmore why their refrigerators have not kept up with the times. That DeepFrz and many others now offer a turbo-switch option that circulates liquid hydrogen to drop the freezer compartment temp to near absolute zero, extending food storage times to future generations. Many use this feature to preserve small pets during vacations, eliminating the need for pet sitting or boarding.

Those were designed to be funny, and to make the point that often engineering makes design choices that are "good enough". The SunRay has to have enough power to paint pixels. And it does. Future versions might require more capable processors to handle stronger encryption at faster network speeds, 3D Acceleration, etc. But gratuitously incorporating leading-edge technology into a design can increase cost, heat, power, noise, and instability with no added benefit. Be careful what you ask for... because you'll end up paying for it. Requirements should be linked to the business value they provide,  and not to an emotional "got to have it just because" craving that is fueled by consumer marketing campaigns.
Comments:

Great comments about low-energy too. Where can I find the best article on current comparisons of total "M-values" of the older 4500 models and new server with fewer CPUs at higher clock speeds.

Posted by Antonio De Vido on March 24, 2005 at 06:41 AM EST #

Hi Tony - M-values are used internally as a benchmark to assist in consoladation efforts and to compare the relative incremental compute capability of different Sun servers and/or different OS revs. As far as I know, we don't expose the results outside of Sun. We might under non-disclosure, so work with your local Sun team.

If you send me the specific model, type of CPUs and OS rev (existing and desired) I can probably send you the M-values for just those limited cases.

Posted by Dave Brillhart on March 24, 2005 at 06:51 AM EST #

Normal then for a 4 CPU v440 to utilize greater average CPU than 12 CPU 4500 (java)? What about also the parameters that I saw on spec.org for "jbb2000" when looking into this today set autop=345600 and set tune_t_fsflush=345600 solaris 9 update 2 I liked your "takeout" problem, will try on my 6 year old!

Posted by Antonio De Vido on March 24, 2005 at 07:13 AM EST #

Assume Solaris 9 on both.

Assign "X" as the M-value for a 4-way V440 running 1.6GHz CPUs with 1MB cache.

A 12-way E4500 will perform as follows, based on the CPU selection:
- 336MHz/4MB: less than X
- 400MHz/4MB: slightly better than X
- 400MHz/8MB: better still
- 464MHz/8MB: better still

Of course you realize that our M-value test suite does not necessarily predict actual performance results as you move your workload between various server types and OS levels. This is particularly true as you move between different numbers of concurrent thread execution engines (from 12 to 4 in your case). But M-value generally provides a good first order approximation as single workloads are moved between Sun platforms.

Posted by Dave Brillhart on March 24, 2005 at 07:30 AM EST #

Thanks! These servers are already older, so it was 12x 248 v. 4x 1281 both running solaris 9 112233-11 or 12. In your example, Can we say that 400x12 ~ 4x1200 with the 4x1200 running at a higher average CPU utilization?

Posted by Antonio De Vido on March 24, 2005 at 07:52 AM EST #

Tony - these kinds of discussions are better handled thru a different communications forum, in which context can be fleshed out and considered.

However, yes, I would agree that in general, a 4x1.2GHz V440 is not as powerful as a 12x400MHz E4500, and therefore, the V440 will likely operate at a high utilization or at a degraded performance. I assume your app is highly threaded (using part of all 12 processors) and is not otherwise constrained by a memory shortfall, networking, disk, etc. Again, this is highly speculative based on little insight.

Please contact your local Sun team for more in-depth consultation. Good luck!!

Posted by Dave Brillhart on March 24, 2005 at 08:45 AM EST #

Dave, I was wondering if it is possible to advertise a job I am currently recruting for. It is for a Integration Engineer. If give me your permission then I will put the full job description up. Thank you for your time and your resume is fantastic. IBM is still a good place to be these days. Regards Ron Haas

Posted by Ron Haas on September 15, 2005 at 09:03 AM EDT #

Hi, I have trying to deploy SUNRAY2 in my working environment but I have problem on the SUNRAY2 is that the USB port is not being able to detect. The environmet is as follows : SUNRAY -> Windows Terminal Services. Any one can help ?

Posted by Koala Bear on October 04, 2006 at 07:09 PM EDT #

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