Wednesday Mar 14, 2007

A New Download System for Sun

We are currently devoting a lot of time and resources towards building an all new download application to replace the one powering today's Sun Download Center (SDLC). Why? Because the current SDLC code base started in 1997, and as you can imagine, that is terribly ancient in Internet Years. After careful analysis, it was determined we should not put more time and effort into trying to make an older system meet today's needs. A new system is needed to provide the flexibility, capabilities, and advanced functionality supporting a "Web 2.0" download experience.

As our current system is pushing tremendous volume, obviously it is a very complex system and cannot be replaced overnight. We've been going through the full process of designing a new system, from business to functional requirements, user experience enhancements, and so forth. (We recently saw the first conference room demo of the new system -- very exciting, it works!)  While initial emphasis has to be on a functional replacement for the current system, we want to put in many usability enhancements as quickly as possible.

I wanted to share one of the new designs, to give a flavor of what we're working on. One of the key challenges with current systems is handling "bundles", which are essentially multiple software products put together in logical bundles to facilitate marketing, selling, and buying. The prime example right now is "Sun's Software Portfolio." As you can see, this provides the user the option to select multiple products for download in one transaction. But when you actually get to the download page itself, we needed a solution to present so many products and links! 

Options discussed included a sequential set of pages -- download product 1, then hit continue to the next one -- but this required a lot of page loads and forced users to download in a set order. Another option was to make one BIG download page with all the products and links from top to bottom, but that's really awkward and difficult at best. After some collective brainstorming, we came up with a new design that we're very pleased with, and Greg Reimer provided some great JavaScript code to make it all work. Here's a mock-up to show the concept:

CDS Download Page

When the page first loads, all of the sections are collapsed -- with one glance, you can see all the products selected for download. Clicking the "+" icon expands to the full download page for that product, as illustrated for "Product 3." When you're done, you can close up that download page section, then expand the next one and so on. This solution eliminates the issues seen with the other options and is one of the many user experience improvements we'll be rolling out in the (hopefully) not too distant future.

Friday Jan 05, 2007

Two Billion Files and Counting...

It was just last April that I reported breaking the "1 billion files delivered" milestone on Sun Download Center (SDLC). Amazingly, I just saw the November '06 stats, and we have doubled that volume in a mere 8 months --> 2,198,074,973 completed file downloads from November 1-30! (As I noted previously, these are not individual "products" but rather individual files, as many products are composed of multiple files.) The bandwidth figures are pretty impressive as well. I probably shouldn't get too detailed here, but suffice it to say it's many terabytes per day.

The biggest volume driver continues to be Java technology, and I doubt that will be tapering off any time. Java is alive and well, and more and more OEMs are including it on their systems as they ship. Because these systems use Java auto-update (as do all recent versions of Java), whenever we put out a new release and enable it for auto-update, hundreds of millions of computers pull files from our back-end systems. (The same infrastructure that supports SDLC also supports and java auto-update via web service integrations.)

Now I can't help wondering what the December numbers are going to look like, since in that month alone we released another auto-update release of Java SE 5, the major first release of Java SE 6, and the latest update to the Solaris 10 Operating System, version "11/06". Three billion files in December perhaps??

The growth rate is fairly astonishing and certainly an excellent indicator of the escalating adoption rate of Sun and Java Software. And if you're wondering, I'd say we are prepared (and expecting) to see volume continue to double every year or so. For starters, our "next big thing" is a completely new download system that we're working on now. The SDLC application has served us extremely well but the foundation code is now about 8 years old, and a lot has changed since then. It's getting way beyond the "duct tape" stage for keeping it together, so we're building a whole new system. This is very exciting, and I'll be writing more about it over the coming months.

Friday Dec 08, 2006

Sun Download Manager 2.0 Goes Live!

SDM 2.0 puts our customers in charge of their download experience with the click of a button.

I am really pleased to announce the release yesterday (December 7, 2006) of Sun Download Manager 2.0 (SDM) in conjunction with major enhancements to the Sun Download Center (SDLC). Together they mark a milestone in the Sun download experience. For the first time, customers can easily download, install, and run SDM without ever leaving the download page for the products they desire. This is accomplished by integrating SDM directly into the SDLC, using Sun's Java Web Start (JaWS) technology. Users simply check the boxes next to the files they want, click the bright orange button to download with SDM (you can't miss it!), and JaWS takes over. It automatically downloads SDM, installs it, and starts it up with the selected files already loaded into SDM and ready to download.

Here's a picture of the enhanced SDLC download page:

SDLC download page

SDM offers many features and benefits. A few highlights include:
  • Pause and resume downloads, plus recover from dropped connections without having to start over.
  • Built-in, patent-pending verification technology ensures the integrity of downloaded files.
  • Saves time and bandwidth for Sun and our customers; conserving bandwidth saves money for all.
  • Greatly increases the download success rate. Greater customer success means higher customer satisfaction, more adoption of Sun's software, and all the corresponding benefits that entails.

Additionally, SDM 2 features a complete redesign, sporting a clean new look and feel that's more in sync with the rest of There's even a small, unobtrusive banner ad window, the first application (i.e. not a web page) to leverage Sun's ad server to deliver dynamic, timely promotions and offers to customers' desktops. Of course SDM remains a completely free product with no spyware or malware whatsoever.

Here's the new UI:

Sun Download Manager user interface

It would be great if you would give it a try and let us know what you think by leaving me your comments. Frankly, we're pushing into new territory with this creative use of JaWS, and just our testing alone on a zillion different browser/platform/Java version combinations was an amazing challenge. That's no replacement for the "real world," however, which is why it's so important we get your feedback. While SDM 2 remains available as a "stand alone" application (with installer), the biggest change is the way we've integrated it dynamically into SDLC. The way to test that is to simply pick your product on the SDLC, select the files you want to download, and push the big orange button!

Please note SDM is a 100% Java application and runs on virtually any modern operating system with a Java Runtime Environment v1.4.2 or higher (though the latest version really does work best). If you are running a lower version of JRE, your SDLC web page will look like the "old" version, and you will not be offered the integrated SDM.

This release was a true cross-functional effort -- many thanks to the teams that made it happen: CWP Product Marketing, Download Engineering, Web Operations, and SDLC IT. 


I helped design, build, and manage download systems at Sun for many years. Recently I've focused on web eMarketing systems. Occasionally, I write about other interests, such as holography and jazz guitar. Follow me on Twitter:


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