Sunday Mar 12, 2006

Revisiting thin clients

Paul Murphy has an blog entry on replacing laptops with Sun Rays, and gives some reasoning of how to go about gaining acceptance. One of the reader comments hits two fallicies in one fell swoop.

  • I don't want a Telco to tell me what I can and cannot do on MY system. The context Paul gave was one of business ownership of assets, not individual ownership. The individual doesn't own the laptop, the company does. As such, the company has the right to manage its assets as it sees fit. Unfortunately, with today's regular use of the asset, on goes customer data (huge risk). On goes company data (risk). The issue, of course, is that everyone still thinks the laptop is theirs and acts like it is theirs. On goes mp3 player of choice (risk), on goes game of choice (risk), off goes the firewall which interferes with game of choice (risk). And so on. Since the mid 1980's employees have taken ownership of company assets while the risk is still owned by the employer. The cost of non-compliance and of losing customer data is rapidly approaching (if not already surpassing) the cost of losing employees to strict "mobile computing" policies. Just an opinion, no empirical evidence.
  • Probably takes about 5 minutes to load your desktop, even more when the internet is 'bussy'. This comment is given out of ignorance of where thin clients and networks are today. At Sun, we have empirical evidence to the contrary. Many use thin clients from home successfully. At Sun, we've found that using thin clients to access a (logically) centralized architecture is faster than transferring documents back & forth between the data center, office and laptop./LI>

The only thing holding me back is access from Starbucks, and this is the problem. It seems as if something is always holding somebody back. If thin clients are going to happen, IMHO it'll be niche by niche until the market starts dealing with thin clients as the rule instead of the exception.

Monday Mar 06, 2006

Sun & HP on Between The Lines

This week's Between The Lines, mentions Sun & HP. They don't cut anyone a break. With HP, it's Itanium troubles. With Sun, it's profitability. Apple gets knocks with the HiFi. This week's BTL is equal opportunity criticism. My knowledge retention was crap since I was vacuuming the house while listening on the iPod, but I can't recall anything positive said about any company.

Monday Feb 07, 2005

Greg's a bloggin'

OK, you've probably heard it from other places besides The Clingan Zone. Greg Papadopolous, CTO extroaordinaire, is blogging. Jim has an entry on cut-n-paste journalism around Greg's first blog entry. Jonathan correctly points out that the blogosphere gained in IQ today. Thanks, Jonathan, for not pointing out the dip when I started blogging.

If you ever get a chance to listen to Greg on any of our broadcasts, it's a good watch/listen.

Thursday Feb 03, 2005

Booth Duty

As I blogged earlier, I did booth duty on Wednesday. Booth duty is when you are involved in a marketing event with a booth (trade show floor). I am not sure how many of you out there realize how much work goes into these events.

First, there is the logistics of gathering propaganda, renting space, moving the booth backdrops, etc. Then, there's deciding what is important to show during that event. What will customers want to hear? What is important to them for that show? Once the topics are figured out, then comes the search for the appropriate people to be in the booth to cover those topics (I was there to cover Solaris 10). And demos, of course. Those demos take a \*lot\* of work. They are the real deal and field folks (like me) have to build them in between customer visits. I feel sorry for one of my co-workers who, from what I understand, did a lot of legwork for the show. I have been in those shoes before. We are good at teamwork but it just depends on the situation as to how the work actually gets divvied up.

We had plenty of Sun Rays there. The neatest demo is what our customers refer to as MLTC (Multi-Level [security] Thin Client). Sun has a great solution in this area that just knocks our customers socks off. Some customers have gone from 5, even 10+, PC's on their desk down to one Sun Ray. Yeah, it's a hell of a desk :) My non-blogging heathen co-worker John (who I am trying to talk into blogging) set the whole thing up. He knows this solution inside and out.

Also in the booth was our partner, AMD. We had lots of good discussions in-between customer chats. After the show, we all hit the bar. If you want to build relationships and get to know people, a glass (or two, or three, or ..) of beer is a great way. I know what you Europeans are thinking. We don't have real beer here in the US. I won't argue that point :)

I only had one beer followed by a Starbucks in the hotel pub. I had a 2 hour drive back home and was killing a little time to let traffic die down. I really, really didn't want to drive in heavy traffic for 90 minutes.

Next time you hit a trade show booth, don't just go straight to the freebies (I know it's hard ). Talk to the folks who put forth a lot of time and effort to hopefully address some problems you may be having. Afterwards, join us for a beer ... or coffee.

Monday Jan 31, 2005

Watch the Quarterly Network Computing Event

NC05Q1, that's Network Computing 2005, Q1 at 2:00 PM, Pacific Standard Time. I enjoy watching these events although it is hard to take the time out of working away on my customer engagement. If I am unable to watch it live, I'll go back and watch the online recording.

I haven't seen the agenda of what will be covered, but I suspect it has something to do with Grid Computing (click on the link and you'll know why :) ). With the industry talking quite a bit about Solaris 10 (which is available for download), I suspect we'll have some content on that topic.

Do you find these events rewarding? What would you keep? What would you change?

Thursday Nov 18, 2004

Getting to know (you)

Immersion Week was fun. We are all getting "immersed" to uplevel our knowledge to some base level. We all have depth in one area or another, but this was a level-setting event for areas we haven't had time to spend on.

I was a recipient of Dan Price's excellent transfer of information. He has a personality that is easy to like and he gets information across in a way that leaves you enjoying going back to school. I think the coolest thing he said was that after class he was on the phone to engineering delivering information about how the installation experience could be improved through our feedback. Dan said he was going to use the container demo at LISA which makes me really, really nervous :)

As I have blogged before, these events are as useful for building and maintaining relationships as they are for technical value. "So your John Clingan!" My response: "So your Jeff Victor!". "So your Wayne Vincent" "So your Dan Price". I could keep going but I'd be going all day and I apologize for leaving many of you out. Many of these events tend to be regional. This one was national.

I must say thank you to those who like and use the Container Demo. One person said "Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you" for creating the demo. That alone made it worth the work I put in to it.

Sunday Nov 14, 2004

Getting Edumacated

Yesterday I spent roughly half a day getting edumacated on non-technical methodologies. Today is dtrace, zones and SMF. I think I have zones covered. SMF I am pretty up-to-speed on, but there is tons I can still learn there. I have been holding out on picking up Dtrace for this particular class.

There are quite a few Sun people here, some of which I haven't seen in a long time and some new faces. I had a chance to sit down last night with some of our professional services folks discussing a topic of interest: distributed computing.

Class is about to start. Gotta go!

Monday Nov 08, 2004

Marketing the System

I found the (brief) dialogue in Sunday's blog very intriguing, even if it was mostly between Sun employees (thanks Geoff and Kaiwai) :) Is Sun not doing enough to market our "systems-ness"? What can Sun do to better market one of our greatest assets - the System?

The timing for this dialogue is great because today's featured article at Sun.COM is on Sun's system-ness. If you were Andy Ingram in that article, what would you have emphasized more (or less) to capitalize on Sun's "system" assets?

Before this discussion, I had thought that Sun had done a pretty good job in this area. Every Network Computing event we have tends to focus on "the system" and its value. The "Java Enterprise System", the Java Desktop System, etc.

FYI, the next Network Computing event is November 15th and 12:30pm PST. You can watch it online.

To give you a quick data point on the value of a system, I was with some folks in the recent past who were using a specific version of Linux with a specific version of a driver for a 3rd party PCI card for that distro/version of Linux, running on a 3rd party server connecting 3rd party storage using yet another 3rd party file system (none of which is on our price list and every product was from a different vendor).

The effort they have to go through to get something to work is not trivial. They can't upgrade the old Linux kernel because 3rd party driver X isn't supported there yet. They also can't swap out for newer/faster/cheaper servers because the old version of Linux doesn't directly support it, and the effort to come up with a new kernel configuration is too time consuming (expensive). The roadmaps among all of these 3rd parties is completely inconsistent and moving forward is very difficult and labor intensive. These folks are somewhat locked in for the moment. This is currently the industry norm and it begs the question, is this really cheaper? Is this really more flexible?

Don't think I am picking on Linux because 1) This is a true story. 2) The same thing can happen with any operating system (sans kernel compilation) involved with many, many 3rd parties.

Deploying a Sun "system" (server/storage/filesystem/PCI cards/etc) gets the pieces better in sync as Sun is working diligently to get to a quarterly release cycle of our entire product line.

Saturday Nov 06, 2004

Sun is more than Solaris

This is not the first article that I have read stating that Sun is pinning our hopes on Solaris 10. Then, of course, I read the article and it states that [paraphrasing] "Sun thinks that Solaris 10 is groundbreaking". Yes, we think Solaris 10 is awesome, but we are not pinning our hopes on Solaris.

Sun is much bigger than Solaris. In a conversation with one of my fellow Starbucks addicts who met with Sun last week, his statement was simply "I didn't know Sun could do so much for us." Of little consequence to him is the operating system. In fact, we hardly even discuss it. The discussion is much broader and business focused than "we have zones". We have a global service organization which is important my buddy/addict, as (potentially) is Managed Services. Some of the discussions center around the Java Enterprise System and Identity Management. "Wow? $100 employee?"

Of course, he will need hardware as well, but the discussion rarely talks about hardware products. After a few months of time getting to know his business problem, we finally looked at an actual hardware product yesterday. Most of the software discussion is around the Sun Game Server. We also spend considerable time talking about the high-level system architecture.

Yes, Sun is much larger than Solaris 10. But we are extremely proud of Solaris 10. Don't mistake pride and engineering excellence with pinning our hopes.

And one other article mis-statement. Millions of developers support the Java Platform, not tens of thousands. Unfortunately the article over-exaggerates our Solaris 10 focus and under-exaggerates the popularity of Java.

Saturday Oct 30, 2004

Balancing geekness and being social

I'm back from my (non-jxta) rendezvous with my (non-jxta) peers and partners held in Scottsdale, AZ. In many ways, it was boatloads of fun. The only bummer was rain on our only full day there. This was a Partner Forum held by Sun partners in the government industry. The goal of this Partner Forum is for government sales teams to get to know partners, their value propositions, and match our opportunities to their expertise. Win-win for everyone. Sun wants to be the most partnered company on the planet, and this was a good forum to support that goal. I met some partners. Had free drinks, too! Relative to my college days, I am an alcohol lightweight. It doesn't take much these days to get a buzz going.

Someone at the hotel charged $30 to my room. When I challenged the hotel on it, they conceded (graciously) when they couldn't find the receipt. I wasn't the only one who had this happen.

I got funny looks Wednesday night when I was walking around the hotel with my laptop looking for a wireless connection (which the hotel supposedly had). I hadn't had enough drinks (4 Screwdrivers) during a partner-sponsored gathering to be "staggering" around the hotel. Everyone else was socializing and I actually had a laptop. After hearing remarks about being an anti-social geek, I explained that I found a rather important bug in my Zones demo that I wanted to get out before a (non-jxta) peer of mine gave the demo to partners to demo to their customers. Nothing like having your name tied to a demo that only worked after you ran it, exited it, and ran it again (hey, at least there was a work-around). If you don't get the message on the work-around, it'll simply not work :(

I finally gave up on finding the wireless connection. I wonder if the front desk was playing a joke on a somewhat tipsy customer ("I told him we had wireless ... hee hee"). I finally went to the room, and clicked "charge $10 to room" for the wired internet connection. The good and bad news is that they had so many problems with their internet connection that they didn't charge us for our room connection! I uploaded the bug fix to CVS and posted the new bits. After that, it was time to switch from geek mode to social animal. Of course, animal for me in this context is something close to a panda bear ... :)

Friday Oct 22, 2004

Sun's Messaging Infrastructure

Ping (or wget) Paul's blog:Living on the Edge. Paul, that is a great name given your role. Kudos. Paul happened to read one of my posts on email@sun and offered to give me as much info as I needed.

My response? Hey, don't filter it through me. I'll get it wrong (and I did to a degree, its 4 instances of our messaging server, not 4 servers). Hey, I am the first in line to admit when I get something wrong. Those instances are front-ended, for example, by web servers for web access. I took about 1 millisecond for Paul to jump with both feet into the blogosphere. No dipping the toe in the water for Paul. Get Sun's edge details from the horses mouth (uh, that is a cliche, no offense :) ).

I do have one recommendation, Paul. Given your categories, there is much more to you than living on the edge. Introduce yourself a bit more (like your outrageous accent - Monty Python). Take football, for example. I assume it is not the \*real\* oblong football but the round one? OK, some US humor (or is that humour?) :)

Thursday Oct 14, 2004

Training @ Sun

My last post on training got me thinking a bit about working and training at Sun. As a systems company Sun has a wide array of technologies to bring to bear to solve problems. As an innovative company, those technologies are in constant flux. Newer/faster/better hardware. More innovative packaging of that hardware. New business models (per-employee pricing). The Java Enterprise System is a set of products sharing the same uses cases (where it make sense by crossing product boundaries). The level of integration (without lock-in) is going up,up,up. And through the Java Enterprise System we are both supporting and driving new standards.

I still owe you all a blog on the Sun Culture (it's still percolating). One part of that culture is innovation via self-motivation. We desire to innovate (and YOU innovate on top of our innovations). We are also self-motivated to learn (as those two go hand-in-hand). We have sssooo many training courses at Sun that we really salivate over the potential learning opportunities. But we can't train 8 hours a day (bummer). The hardest part is having to focus. Ouch. There are too many cool things going on at Sun. I personally think that at Sun we are given more than the industry-standard amount of time to train (an unsubstantiated opinion).

I sense that many of the readers of my blog are a lot like me. We are not 9-5 employees. Technology is more than a job and we feel that there is so much out there that we don't know. We invest in our future by taking that extra time to dig our heels in on areas of interest. Please take advantage of the various training offers we have Sun. I do. And if there is \*anything\* I can do to assist, send me an offline email. Send \*any\* of us at Sun.COM an offline email. Odds are we can learn a heck of a lot from each other.

Thursday Oct 07, 2004

Pre-empting laptop pergatory

My cup runneth over with joy. I got my laptop back yesterday. Seeing the Java Desktop System boot up was pure joy. My temporary setup to my temporary setup to my laptop woes is over. My wife can have her laptop back to make her (our) fortune on etrade. It's not the joy of having a laptop. Its actually the joy of having all of my apps installed, my environment configured the way I like it and my DATA!! I could care less about local computing and the sense of ownership (it's not my laptop, it belongs to Sun Microsystems).

To me, this really emphasises the problem with today's focus on laptops. Many corporations are replacing desktops with laptops. I hope this is a short term strategy and not a trend. I have the belief (no empirical data) that this a primary means of introducing viruses into the enterprise. Not only that, but how much productivity did I just lose because my laptop died? Probably a day or two at least as I re-configured and re-installed an OS on my backup laptop (and I have installed NetBeans 4.0 Beta 2 three times in a week). I had to blow away my data off the hard drive before sending back the laptop for repair (using my hard drive in another laptop). Anyone ever think of the security implications of sending your employee's hard drive to a repair center?? Then, of course, I had to restore it. Another 1/2 day wasted (I have a big hard drive).

I am not kidding around in previous blog entries where I bring up the value of the Tadpole Comet (Sun Ray thin client in a laptop form factor). I really want to try this sucker out as a laptop replacement some day. If I could get access to my desktop from Starbucks and home, I'm sold. Plus, I don't have to fight over a seat at the Mud hole with access to a power outlet since the sucker gets 6-8 hours of battery life (about 1/2 of my daily compute needs :-) ). This is the right corporate mobile computing model.

Imagine this. Instead of giving every employee a laptop, have them check out a Comet on the way out the door. Since there is no local data, there is no sense of ownership. Plus, all of their data gets backed up. They get their desktop running on the Sun Ray server. Already configured. No security hole for local data. When they come back in to work, drop the Comet back in the pool. I bet companies can save millions by load-sharing hardware.

On that Starbucks topic, they just raised their price 10 cents. I thought that as volume went up, prices went down. My Starbucks volume sure went up. The price sure hasn't gone down. I also can't figure out why Starbucks is 30 cents cheaper in San Francisco than in Los Angeles given the cost of living difference. To make my point, I am meeting Craig McClanahan at a Starbucks before I take him to the Orange County Java Users Group tonight. We both need to check email and it's the perfect place in transit from customers to the OCJUG.

Friday Oct 01, 2004

Welcome Hal Stern ... ahem .. Snowman

Hal, welcome to! I am going to add you to my blogroll right after this entry. Your credentials and hard work precede you.

Hal is the kind of guy I look up to. He tooke the role of Sun Systems Engineer and leveraged the heck out of it (by solving really hard problems) to work his way up the corporate ladder to spread knowledge and dedication. I look forward to blog entry #2.

Wednesday Sep 22, 2004

Take off the Sun Hat?

I was speaking with a Sun customer today and he asked me to "Take off my Sun hat and answer a question". I told him I would like to, but can't. I then addressed the question in a satisfactory manner. What I didn't tell him is why I couldn't take off my Sun hat. It's not a "I wanna keep my job" thing. So what is it?

Taking off my Sun hat would be like wanting to get a vasectomy. OK, perhaps I took the simile thing a bit far in this case. But the point is that the Sun culture is pretty well engrained in who I am. I became familiar with Sun while working with a Sun reseller. I realized quickly that the Sun culture was right up my alley. Take off my Sun Hat? No, I'd get Sun burn.


John Clingan-Oracle


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