Thursday Sep 28, 2006

C U @ CEC

In about 24 hours I get on a airplane on my way to our 2006 Customer Engineering Conference (CEC). For four days, over 3000 Sun field engineers (Customer Engineers) will be gathering in San Francisco for our annual Customer Engineering Conference.

The CEC, like our customers and the internet, is increasingly becoming a two way experience: an on-line, continuos community. I say "two way" in that the communication and conversation goes in both directions, not just talking heads. Kind of like what Hal Stern has called the read/write web and O'Reilly calls Web 2.0. Participants of the conference will be able to email, SMS, instant message and blog their comments, questions and feedback live to our CEC main stage. What better way to play an active role in such a vibrant technical community. It is all about SHARING the knowledge we all have.

It is going to be fantastic. Lots of technical training breakouts, birds of feather sessions, social networking opportunities and of course a load of fun.

So if the rest of the world experiences a bit a of brain drain feeling next week, it is because the smartest people in the world will be in San Francisco.

See you there! The geeks are back!

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Friday Sep 15, 2006

Geek Gathering...

I just got back from spending a few days with some great people. We just finished our "Geek" Executive Advisory Conference (EAC). I call it the geek version because every so often we host the best and brightest CTOs and other technical senior executives from some of the most exciting companies from around the world.

We spent our time talking about technologies that are changing the industry, how Sun's products and technology is performing from their perspective and how our technology direction fits within their world. It was such a great group of technologists. The conversations were great and the energy level was higher then I have seen in a long time. It was exciting to see some of the top companies in the world say things like "Sun is one of the last real innovative technology companies left on the planet" and "Your technology rocks!, I hope the industry follows you". And not all of these companies are, or should I say were, Sun friendly. Some are current customers, some are past customers and some are not Sun friendly at all. However I hope all came away from our meetings with a much better understanding about Sun and our very bright future.

Monday Aug 28, 2006

Prague and Pluto...

This week a number of scientists, astronomers really, gathered in Prague to discuss all things space. One of the significant outcomes was the fact that our solar system has lost a planet. Yes thats right, that faithful planet Pluto hanging out there in space some three billion miles from the sun has lost its planet status. Pluto is now known, in a mocking sort of way, as the dwarf-planet Pluto. The reason? Well basically astronomy has developed to the point where many other bodies similar to pluto have been discovered. I guess there is some sort of quota applied to chunks of gas, rock and ice that orbit the sun, so a new definition was created in order to keep the number of planets to a single digit.

I found all of this interesting for two reasons. One, the conference took place in Prague which is kind of cool to see the city I live in take center stage for such a event. And the second reason is that I just finished a book a few weeks ago that also discussed the topic of pluto being a planet which had actually mentioned that astronomers were debating if Pluto was actually a planet at all. Pluto been thought to be the largest object within the Kuiper belt but how can we be sure that it is the largest? In fact recently UB313 was found in the same Kuiper belt and it is larger then Pluto.

All of this points to the fact that we know very little about our world and the universe that surrounds us. To illustrate this, my son has a hanging model of the solar system in his bedroom (yes I am trying to influence his inner geek). The model is as you would expect, nine planets (obviously manufactured prior to this week). The model is like most in the it represents all the planes in relative proxmimity to each other. When in fact the planets are not even close to being equidistant from each other. I quote a line from the Bryson book, "On a diagram of the solar system to scale, with the Earth reduced to about the diameter of a pea, Jupiter would be over 300 meters away and Pluto would be two and a half kilometers distant (and about the size of a bacterium, so you wouldn't be able to see it anyway)."

So what? It would be stupid to show the solar system to scale and worse if you, like Steven Wright, had a full scale map of it. I believe that most folks think that they understand our solar system quite well. In fact we don't. This week I believe proves that point. If you think Pluto was the farthest thing in our solar system from the sun you would be wrong. Pluto, along with all kinds of other floating stuff sits in the Kuiper belt which indeed is far from the sun. However Pluto is only 1/50,000 of the way to the edge of our solar system. Well inside the Oort cloud that extends to the edge of our solar system. So if we are just now figuring out there there are other things out and around Pluto then who knows what else is out there. Maybe there is a HUGE planet out there well beyond Pluto. There could be, but we have yet to see it as the light from the sun just does not carry that far.

So in case you are out with your telescope at night and see a new object out there in space, here is the new definition of what it takes for an object in our solar system to be called a planet:

  • Must orbit the sun
  • Must be big enough of a mass such that the objects own gravity is strong enough to compact it into a ball
  • Must have cleared the neighborhood around its orbit - not surrounded by other objects of similar size and attributes (This is where poor Pluto lost its planet status)

Happy planet hunting...

Monday Aug 07, 2006

New job, new title...

I have a new job. In fact I was lucky and got two new jobs. I have been the chief technologist for our Services organization for the past couple of years. With the changes of the organization, the joining of our global sales and services team, I have moved to become the chief technologist for Sun's global sales and services division. Equal good news is that Jon Greaves has replaced me as the chief technologist for services. But wait, theres more. I also have the job as the VP of our Europe, Middle East and Africa Systems Engineering Organization.

My job title is now in the running as the longest on record. In short hand it looks like this: CTO GSS & VP EMEA SE. All acronyms. In long form it could be represented as: Distinguished Engineer, Chief Technology Officer - Global Sales and Services & Vice President, Europe, Middle East and Africa Systems Engineering. What a gallimaufry of words.

In this job I get to work with some pretty interesting folks. First I form one leg of what we have been calling the Geek Troika. The Troika is made of up Hal Stern, Jim Baty and myself. For some reason I picture the three of us geeks pulling a cart with Jonathan at the reins. Why the Troika? Well all three of us are in the Global Sales and Services organization. Hal as the VP of Global Systems Engineering, Jim as the GSS Chief Architect and myself as described above. All three of us also report into Greg Papadopoulos' CTO staff. Since the three of us (the troika) spend so much time working together we kind of end up being able to end each others thoughts. I know kind of scary.

The great thing about this job is that I get to spend a lot more time with the killer technical folks we have in EMEA. I have always been impressed with the talent we have in the field organizations at Sun, now I get to be closer to and work with some of the best.

Saturday Jul 29, 2006

Global Technology Leadership...

I was in Bangalore, India this week for our Global Technology Leadership Conference where some of the top geeks from within Sun got together to talk technology and other topics of interest. A number of Sun Distinguished Engineers, Technical Directors and other top technologists traveled to India to meet with a number of folks from our India Engineering Center (IEC). It was a great event, lots of discussion about large scale computing, deep storage, identity and security, web 2.0 applications and much more. I also got a chance to talk to a number of our customers as well as a few folks from the local press about Sun and our technology direction.

Some picture from the event below.

The crowd goes wild
The team
Who is that? No he is not my father...
Dr. Baty & I



I also made it over to Chennai to meet with a few of our customers and partners. It is amazing to see how fast this part of the world is growing. It was great to get to India again to see what is hot in that part of the world.

The single biggest technological impact I came away with is how quickly mobile computing (mobile devices) is ramping in India. In many ways, India has moved on from the typical desktop paradigm to a truly mobile computing infrastructure. Almost all of the customers I talked to were targeting the mobile phone as the primary computing platform, not the desktop. I guess this is why the number of mobile devices have now passed the number of traditional computers connected to the internet. This market is growing faster then what Moore's law can serve, which is good news for Sun! As the networked world expands so does our market and our opportunities to show the world that no one is better at large scale network computing then Sun.

Tuesday Jun 13, 2006

kW on 10K?

I thought I would share an idea that I have been thinking about lately. First a little bit of background.

It started with a conversation I had with John Gage and a few industry analysts at our analysts conference a few months back. John was chatting with an analyst and suggested that there should be a way to monitor a companies power consumption to understand how effectively they utilize the power they consume. He suggested that some sort of power monitor could be affixed to data centers and the like to monitor power consumption. I then commented that it could be much easier then that. Why not have public companies disclose their total energy usage on their annual 10-K form.

Don't companies have at least an equal eco responsibility as they do to their fiduciary responsibility? Think about it. If companies are required to disclose their financial health is it not a good thing to also disclose their environmental health?

With this data in public view, companies could show how their plans to increase their energy efficiency are performing. The public could track the progress. Our government would also have a strong indicator and baseline of overall consumption in which to begin to enact mandates that would make a difference. It would simply provide real information about how efficient companies are with their energy consumption. I am of course thinking mainly about power consumption but why not report other impacts, such as overall efficiency in recycling the products a company produces?

Why publish this information on a 10K? A number of reasons. Who knows more about what power a company consumes then the company themselves via the power bills they pay? A 10K would also provide this information to the public so concerned consumers could make informed decisions about what products they would prefer to purchase. Knowing the totality of the issues would enable our government to draw up realistic guidelines to reduce overall consumption. And of course, why not? Is financial impact the only thing that is important to shareholders?

I am proud of Sun's commitment to our environment and how we are producing products that can make a difference. Can we do more? Sure, just watch us.

I hope you are reading this DD (our new VP of eco responsibility). Maybe it will give you some food for thought and some challenge points for you to consider when you are out around the world talking to folks.

Sunday Feb 26, 2006

10,000 feet and feeling fine

Another first for my blogging. Just a few weeks ago I blogged about an observation I made about network access and communities. Well here I sit again at the Eldora ski lodge (hut). What's different? The folks at Eldora have given in and now have WiFI! Yes, I can sit in the middle of the mountains at 10,000 feet, watch my son ski from the windows and get some work done all at the same time. Thanks Eldora!

Going to be a bit of a crazy day. Ski school in the morning, back home, pack and then off on a flight to Frankfurt. I will be in EMEA this week. A few days in Prague and then on to Munich for some meetings and a little time with Juergen Schleich (you need to start blogging Juergen). Then on to the UK to meet with a couple of our top Services engineers. I am going to be meeting with Mark Hayden and Steve White. These gents are going to do their best to teach me our troubleshooting process and methodology. Then I get to spend some time with Chris Gerhard and Tim Uglow. Nothing specific, just hoping to glean some of the knowledge these guys carry with them.

I hope to finish a number of books on this trip that seem to be taking me far too long to complete. Maybe I will blog on what I have been reading...

Thursday Feb 09, 2006

Sir, you are going to have to turn that off...

Although I won't be the first person to post a blog from 35000 feet, I thought it will still be a cool thing to do. Yes I am on a flight from Frankfurt to Denver on Lufthansa using Boeing's Connexion WiFi service. It is not the first time I have used this service, but the first time I have posted a blog while in the air.

What else can you do with this service? Instant messaging, email, surf the web and make a call. That's right, I was able to make a VoIP call over the network. None of this is all that interesting, but to do it from 35000 feet is pretty cool. The only hard part was trying to convince the flight attendant that talking on my phone was not really using the phone. See, my phone has WiFi built in, and with a Skype client I am able to place calls using the phone via WiFi. I started to explain this to the attendant but then just hung up and gave up. Another example of technology changing the paradigm (sorry to use a 90's buzz word) in which we live our lives.

So chalk this up as another proof point that when the network wins, society wins. Ohh yeah, and Sun wins. After all, "The Network is the Computer"

Monday Feb 06, 2006

Tape, Magnetics and Robotics

It was a geek-fest. We had a TAC meeting this week in Colorado on the ex-StorageTek campus. TAC is our Technology Architecture Council, which meets to align Sun's R&D efforts and to ensure first principals and guidelines in the design of our products are adhered to. So there we are, Sun's top geeks getting indoctrinated into all things tape, magnetic and robotic. A highlight included a tour of the tape library where we got to see how our tape libraries are made, from the small ones to the big, and I mean big, ones with up to eight robotic arms, which now qualifies as the largest physical thing Sun manufactures.

It was cool to see our products that use so much mechanical knowledge. Although software is my primary background, I have to say that I enjoy all things mechanical, from fine automatic watches to the craftsmanship of a rare automobile. Seeing such a fine piece of mechanical prowess was pretty cool. So cool that I had thoughts of getting one of the libraries for home use. I am sure I could find a away to adapt the robot from serving up tape cartridges to serving up beer and sandwiches.

We spent the bulk of the day reviewing the technologies and research taking place in the storage field. It was exciting to see how we are leading in a number of the areas reviewed and how the next generation of technologies will come to market. In the afternoon we all boarded a bus and headed to the facility where we fabricate our tape heads. I have to admit that my last run-in with tape head technology was in repairing an old TEAC 3300 two track reel to reel tape drive I used to own. So I was not sure what to expect. Needless to say I was impressed with what I saw. Making drive heads is similar to how computer chips are made, except instead of depositing some form of metal on silicon, you deposit some sort of magnetic material on porcelain. Since the process is similar to fabricating chips, the environment is nearly the same. Clean rooms. Thus in order to enter the maintenance corridor we had to don the canonical clean room garb. Here is a picture of a number of us looking like a primary school food service staff.


Left to right: Jim Mitchell, Me, Subodh Bapat, Rod Dekoning, Greg Papadopoulos, Mike Splain, Jim Hughes

All in all it was a great day. Many thanks to all that made the review and tours possible. I for one will never look at tape the same way again. I have a new found respect for our storage business and feel very optimistic about our future!

Thursday Jan 26, 2006

Why spend $10B when you could spend $20B?

The Register published an article last week about the Itanium and a confusing statement from Intel. There was really no news in the article, just further information about Itanium's plodding market performance. To put it into perspective, let me quote some numbers from the article: According to IDC, the quarter-by-quarter unit volume for Itanium servers since the fourth quarter of 2003 goes as follows:
  • Q403 7616
  • Q104 8678
  • Q204 8085
  • Q304 8235
  • Q404 8996
  • Q105 8127
  • Q205 8500
  • Q305 8596
Smoking performance huh?

Then there is the news of today. Intel, HP and other computer companies are to spend $10 Billion to increase the adoption of Itanium. More power to you guys (no pun intended - but maybe I should have). Let me quote my favorite part:

    "Itanium has been taking share from both IBM power and Sun SPARC. We're on the right trajectory, but we want to go faster"
Trajectory? Look again at the data above. If an airplane was on the same trajectory from take off, it would need a runway a 100 miles long before it got 6 inches off the ground. Going faster does not get you any further off the ground.

So keep throwing that good money after bad folks; when you're ready to look at a chip with real performance and volume, give us a call.

Saturday Jan 07, 2006

And the survey says...

The Register published its IT Suppliers survey this week. I will cut to the chase and boast that Sun took the top spot. You can find the article and full report titled The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on their web site. The article cited that 2/3 of those that provided feedback on Sun say they are impressed. I love it! Here are some of the other comments made:
  • "Just reinvented my world with Niagara - I'm having to wipe the drool from my keyboard"
  • "Stunning performance of new products"
  • "The current Sun Opteron servers and the roadmap to introduce further enterprise class servers based on the same architecture is predicted to save us a great deal of money"
And what can be better than that? How about feedback on our Services?
  • "On-site engineers are very good"
  • "Support: quick and they know what they are doing"
Thanks to all that provided feedback. It feels good!

Thursday Jan 05, 2006

Tap, tap, tap - is this thing on?

Yes, it is that time. Time for me start writing down all the things that run through my head and consume my time. So hello world!

What can you expect? I am the CTO for the Services division at Sun, so you can expect much content around Services related technologies, our strategies and interesting stuff that we are doing. I also spend a good deal of time talking with customers, press and analysts so you can also expect to see some of those discussions play out here as well.

So you may wonder why I called my blog “The Dining Philosopher”. Well, going back to my geek roots, I spent a lot of time in the past focusing on large scale and massively parallel systems, threading, concurrency and performance related topics. If you can see where I am going, there is common example used in computer science to illustrate synchronization and blocking called the dining philosophers problem. I thought the name appropriate to my background. The name also has a double entendre. First I like to eat and for those of you who know me personally, I believe I physically represent mans ability to consume quite well. And B, I hope this is a place where some philosophical discussions take place. Now you know.

That's it for now. Until next time...

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