Win a BMW
By hendel on Sep 13, 2006
To ruin a friendship, nothing like taking a long trip together or jointly owning a car. Way before Sun adopted the "Share" mantra I did the car sharing thing against all advice. Jim argued over lunch that front wheel drive was a ploy by car manufacturers to reduce assembly costs, and that good cars (Bimmers and Mercs) were rear wheel drive for a reason. Jim, my mentor, is articulate and hands-on in mechanical and electrical engineering. So off we went to see the first cheap BMW we saw on the paper, and off we bought it; 50/50. A 1977 gray market with a New York State salt rust terminal disease. We would work on it together, and alternate possession every Friday noon at our Checkpoint Charlie, the wafer fab parking lot.
We were too immersed in drivetrain catechism to notice the terminal rust. We gave it our best shot and fixed what we could. It gradually sunk in that the drivetrain would outlast the body. Engines wear with mileage while rusty shells wear with time, so we put mileage on the car as often as we could to balance its demise. Like eating fondue and finishing the bread and the cheese at the same time. Not easy. The car became a long distance cruiser for IEEE meetings on the east coast, and was also loaned to a moonlighting friend going through medical school. Became the rusty airport Limo at JFK. We squeezed nine years and untold miles with the cheese fondue strategy. Not exactly trouble free miles, but you learn more from old cars that break down than from new/reliable cars. We learned that electron losses are largely irreversible in metals, at least for car fenders. We also learned about sharing. Not as in giving a part of what you have, rather as in building trust by doing something together.
By the time I came to California the car was no longer safe to drive. I left it with Jim on Long Island, and never had the courage to ask if it was parted. But I saved the key for gimmicks, that is, ceremoniously placing the BMW key on the table as my wager on a bet. A riskless bet, mind you, given that the key was the only part of the car that didn't rust to pieces. The Win-a-BMW fad peaked a couple of years ago, when working on how to integrate networking into our Niagara processor.
The bet was to name an absolute invariant of how a new Sun system would be used, reminiscent of the generality issue of Walking with a limp. It is hard to know what apps the system would run, it is hard to exactly anticipate what OS type and release will host the apps, how storage will be attached to the system, or even to determine which instruction set (SPARC or Opteron) will dominate a particular deployment. Name the system invariant and win the BMW key.
The right answer is that the system will do IP over Ethernet for a living. Or in more formal terms, our systems are deployed presenting an application or a service through a network using the IP network layer over an Ethernet data link layer. Niagara 2 has integrated networking interfaces because when you do something for a living you'd better do it well. And these interfaces run at 10 Gigabits because, borrowing from Howard (mentor #2), a Niagara 2 does not deserve to be on Gigabit Ethernet.
I would be ready to interject the BMW key gimmick into this debate (offer void where prohibited), but for integrated networking I already disclosed my answer. Now, what is the question?