Wednesday Apr 01, 2009

Solaris 8 Vintage starts today!

With effect from today, April 1st 2009, Solaris 8 has entered phase two of its end of service life transition. This means that while you can continue to get telephone support and access to existing Solaris 8 patches, you will not get access to any new Solaris 8 patches produced from this date onwards unless you have signed up for a Vintage Patch plan.

For more details on this, please visit our Solaris 8 EOSL page.

You may also want to consider an upgrade to Solaris 10, which is something you can get our help with if you need it. There's a raft of new technology in Solaris 10 that may appeal. We've also done a lot of work maturing the patch and live upgrade infrastructure to make maintaining Solaris 10 even easier.

Monday Jun 30, 2008

No "patches" for OpenSolaris

Are you prepared for the change in the way fixes are delivered in OpenSolaris?

With the Image Packaging System (IPS) in OpenSolaris, there is no longer the concept of a "patch" as it is known in Solaris 10 and earlier. Updates to OpenSolaris will be delivered via refreshes from the distribution repository - there will be no patch delivery vehicle for fixes in OpenSolaris.

Interim relief for critical situations, for example security issues, will still be delivered via the IDR program but once the formal fix is released, it will be obtained by refreshing your packages via IPS.

Do you create your own patches for 3rd party software?

If you "roll your own" patches using the Sun patch architecture to update 3rd party software via the patchadd utility, then I recommend you look at transitioning to the IPS mechanism. Let me know if this applies to you, as I'm curious to know how many folks out there actually do this currently.

Saturday May 17, 2008

Solaris chosen over Linux for better performance

It's nice to hear a success story, no matter how big or small, so I was pleased to see that Real Time Matrix Corp. had a pleasant surprise when the compared the performance Solaris 10 to Fedora.

Despite being a committed Linux environment, they decided to try out Solaris 10 while they had a T1000 on trial...and ended up feeling quite pleased with the result, claiming that Solaris 10 had "50 times the throughput" of the Fedora configuration.

For the full story, take a look at the online article.

Tuesday May 13, 2008

Solaris 8 End of Service Life & Vintage Support

On April 1st, 2009, Solaris 8 completes its service life. This means that support for Solaris 8 effectively ceases with no further new patches being made available.

However, I'm pleased to report that we will be offering a Vintage Support Plan for Solaris 8, so that you can continue to get support (including the escalation path up to us in engineering) and patches for your Solaris 8 environment. The good news is that the pricing model for Solaris 8 Vintage Support should be substantially better value compared with the old Solaris 6 program!

If you want to take advantage of Solaris 10 and the latest hardware while preserving your Solaris 8 runtime environment, why not download our Solaris 8 containers?

I'll update my blog soon with more news soon. In the meantime, if you're interested in Solaris 8 Vintage Support, feel free to email me directly and I'll follow up with you.

Thursday May 08, 2008

OpenSolaris provokes!

OpenSolaris certainly seems to have stirred up a great deal of both interest and controversy in equal measure! There's been a lot of reasoned debate and a very encouraging level of interest and optimism too! Naturally there has been a whole load of the usual foaming at the mouth rhetoric but hey, so what? Religious "OS vs. OS" flamewars are nothing new...and by the looks of it, these wars are as intellectually impoverished as ever.

Personally I think it's all rather reassuring. If OpenSolaris was of little consequence or, as was asserted by a laughable bit of FUD, doomed to die, then we wouldn't be seeing such emotionally charged battle lines being drawn. Clearly we're doing something right to provoke such a defensive response!

That said, I don't assert that there aren't valid questions and concerns being expressed or that rational discussions aren't taking place. To be honest, I guess this is less about advocating OpenSolaris and more about my personal dismay at the flamewar phenomenon in general. It's just that the OpenSolaris versus Linux issue seems to be the "flamewar du jour" and it reminded me of my distaste for all the online pontification that goes on.

Curiously, I learnt recently that a possible explanation for this psychology is that people are far more unlikely to change their stance in group settings (whether that's a group of people in a meeting or in a public forum) due to a visceral need to "save face" - the fallacy being that you lose face by being persuaded to adjust your views. Frankly, I tend to have much more respect for people who don't fall for this delusion and retain their rationality. Anyway I digress...

This is still the start of the journey for OpenSolaris. We (Sun and the community) have a lot more work to do. It's certainly too soon to be wishfully doomsaying with any credibility. Interestingly, I'm already hearing of inquiries coming in about the OpenSolaris production support offering. It will be interesting to see how many folks sign up for this.

The production support includes 24x7 coverage with a 1 hour response commitment to top priority calls. Note also that if necessary, support calls under this plan can be escalated up to our team in engineering...just as they can under the regular support plans.

Okay, so you don't get the onsite hardware rapid response support like you would with a regular enterprise service plan - this is a software only. But for the price, this is a really cool offering!

Tuesday May 06, 2008

Insist on rational troubleshooting!

Sometimes, things break...it happens. This can be annoying but if you can log a support call and get the problem diagnosed and resolved in a timely manner, that can be such a positive experience that it actually more than offsets the inconvenience of the original problem. A customer can feel confident that they're in good hands and that their support contract was a worthwhile investment.

If the reported problem is in any way complex, then the only way to get this done effectively is with a rational troubleshooting process. Taking intuitive guesses at what the problem may be and/or making repeated requests for data in the hope of "getting lucky" are guaranteed, sure-fire ways to drive a customer up the wall with frustration.

What follows is a spiral of chaos - the customer starts beating up on the service and account teams. They, in turn, can panic and exacerbate the problem with even more earnest but futile wild stabs in the dark. The customer soon gets the sense that nobody has any idea what's going on. Conference calls ensue, fists bang on tables and the crazy scrabble for progress on the issue continues. Sigh!

It can all be easily avoided through rational troubleshooting!

The Sun Global Resolution (SGR) process is a rational troubleshooting program derived from Kepner-Tregoe. We use these techniques for gathering, organizing and analyzing problem-specific data. We then base our diagnostic and remedial action plans on this analysis.

The advantages of the process are compelling. Not only do we not make the problem worse by guessing, we quickly distill the data gathering into specific and relevant areas. By organizing related data together and analyzing the results, we can typically identify what is odd, unusual or distinctive about the problem scenario far quicker than relying on intuition alone.

Additionally, the customer can see from our action plans what we're doing, why we're doing it and where we're going. This inspires a whole lot more confidence and keeps everyone in sync.

So why am I blogging about all this? Well, this is a topic dear to my heart! When a problem cannot be diagnosed or resolved by the customer support organization, then it can be escalated to our engineering team. (Note that our cousins in Services do an excellent job - only a tiny percentage of issues ever get escalated to us). Cases where the troubleshooting is uncontrolled are very rare. However, in almost every one of those rare cases that I have been involved with, our rational troubleshooting process has not been applied!.

If you ever feel like a problem is not making good diagnostic progress, go ahead and demand that the SGR process is applied to your issue...and you can quote me on that!

Saturday May 03, 2008

Understanding the Sun Strategy

A sound business strategy is essential for revenue growth and the long term success of the company. I personally believe that helping people to understand Sun's business strategy is equally as vital. We fear what we don't understand and so its essential that we effectively communicate Sun strategy to retain the confidence of our customers, shareholders and even our employees.

A couple of weeks ago, I was on a training course and we had Jonathan Schwartz visit us for an hour (very nice of him to spare the time). At that session, he said:

"One of the most frequently asked questions is 'how do we make money from open source sofware?'"

He then went to a flipchart and drew a diagram like the one on the right...

Software represents the Sun software product suite.

Systems represents the Sun system hardware range (servers, storage & network)

Services represents the support and professional services offerings

Microelectronics represents our silicon business (microprocessors, etc.)

Notice the overlapping regions - these are the richer business areas where we provide solutions that integrate two or more of these four fundamental product spaces. The sweet spot being right in the middle! So how does this relate to open source software and translate into growth?

Well, software is the most common "adoption vector". Entrepreneurs typically want to prototype their new business ideas as cheaply as possible, so they turn to the rich and fertile pastures of open source software as a source of free software building blocks for their nascent business. If the prototype proves itself and a new startup is born, they're unlikely to throw away those building blocks - no, it is far more likely that the new startup will continue to evolve and grow from those early open source adoptions.

By providing an attractive, feature-rich and technologically advanced open source software product range, we significantly increase our chances of being the "adoption vector" for these new businesses...and when they bloom, we can help them grow with our systems, services or maybe even microelectronics thanks to the relationship we established with them in their early days. This partnering relationship is exactly what we want to foster - for the mutual benefit of our customers and Sun.

The crucial point is that this is not a short term strategy. While we are doing everything we can to accelerate the process, it will take some time to get the momentum we want. It's inevitable that the high end proprietary software market will eventually dry up because sooner or later, open source alternatives will dominate.

Friday May 02, 2008

Sun is Leaner, Greener & Cleaner

Although it doesn't grab many headlines, Sun's "Eco Innovation" initiative is working hard to provide environmentally friendly solutions by reducing power usage and taking advantage of recyclable packaging materials.

There are a number of different facets to our ecological strategy. You can minimize space, power and cooling requirements with our modular blade servers or take advantage of the power efficient CoolThreads product range.

Alternatively, reduce the power footprint of your desktops with a Sun Ray solution (about 4 watts for a Sun Ray 2 versus 80+ watts for a typical desktop PC). Verizon Wireless managed to reduce their total energy usage at their facilities by 30% by using Sun Ray thin clients - and they're not alone. That's an attractive cost saving, as well as a sound ecological move!

I remember visiting a customer site where they had an immense machine room full of iron, most of it many years old - sucking down the amps like I suck down a mojito! Not only that, but their increasing processing needs meant that they were considering knocking down the wall and expanding their datacentre into the adjoining room! Naturally, they were keen to hear more about how they can take advantage of the high end enterprise servers or our virtualization offerings to consolidate their legacy machines and increase data processing throughput.

With the steady rise of power costs and an increasing awareness for environmental impact, I can't think of a better time to see how Sun can help your business both save money and boast a higher standard of environmental care!

Friday Aug 27, 2004

You'll be glad you chose Sun when the chips are down! :)

While there are many technological reasons why you might choose a Sun solution when you make a purchase decision, there is another vital aspect you should also consider. That would be our excellent Support Services and Revenue Product Engineering organisations.

Let's face it, things don't always go to plan. Sometimes things go wrong, maybe even horribly wrong; software defects, hardware failures, configuration issues, performance problems and so on.

If and when you have your "Apollo 13" moment, it's our team you want on the ground working the issues and bringing you home safe.

Our Revenue Product Engineering (RPE) team provides a true 24x7 software defect resolution service to ensure that your enterprise keeps on flying. The RPE team consists of 130+ engineers of the highest calibre whose raison d'etre is to identify and resolve the root cause of the gnarliest software defects you could encounter. No matter how complicated or difficult to diagnose the issue may be, we are here to ensure that you get exactly the right solution; on time - every time.

We work in partnership with our hardware and software services divisions, applying rational troubleshooting techniques derived from Kepner and Tregoe, to maximise your uptime. The phrase "I don't know" is not in our lexicon - we will work tirelessly to ensure that any product defect you might encounter is resolved.

How can I be so confident? Because I've done it. I've been an engineer in the services and RPE teams. I've flown to datacentres around the world to get problems solved! I've admired the diligence and professionalism of my colleagues as we collaborate together to ensure customer issues get a rapid and meaningful response.

Now I'm part of the RPE management team, which includes acting as a duty manager for out of hours calls. I've seen first hand how our entire support infrastructure rallies together to get to root cause - fast! I've been on conference calls with customers where we work the issue, communicate action plans and engage with partners.

So, if you should have that "Apollo 13" moment, you'll be glad you chose Sun.

Thursday Jul 01, 2004

A new financial year begins...

Okay so it's FY05 and this is going to be an important year for Sun. While we face technological challenges and financial cost saving measures, I think the biggest challenge that Sun faces is mainly one of market confidence. Actually, we've got some fine technology and Solaris 10 has got some fantastic new features in it. Financially, our accounts are actually fairly healthy and despite the clamouring for cuts in headcount and investment, we're not in any danger of going bust any time soon.

No, the big issue is that we've got to regain the confidence of the market. Many of our major customers are holding back, waiting for us to "make money" and of course, that's the vicious circle; everyone's waiting for someone else to place those big orders.

Of course, being a publically listed company has its drawbacks because you're then vulnerable to all the speculations of the analysts. Richard Branson (founder of the Virgin group) said the one thing he'd definitely do differently if he had his time over again would be to not float on the stock market. Actually, Timex (the timepiece company) is still a privately owned corporation - no public stock. No matter how well researched or how specious the comments of an analyst, it has a direct impact on our stock price and market presence. We're in the world of the self-fulfilling prophecy where ignorant pessimism can really hurt a company!

Mind you, we don't exactly do ourselves any favours, especially from a marketing perspective. In the ten years I've been at Sun, I've seen some truly surreal approaches to marketing. "Network the Dog" for example, which was just plain dumb. Or the more recent "take it to the nth" which nobody understood. Of course, then there's the complete lack of marketing at all in some places. Aside from a billboard outside London's Heathrow airport, you'll be hard pressed to find any Sun marketing in the UK except maybe in the odd computing rag.

I still think it wouldn't hurt to increase our visibility in EMEA; more tv advertising and so forth. IBM and Microsoft both do it and no, they're not just advertising for the home user! All those decision makers - the CIO's, IT directors, finance directors - what do they do when they come home? Yup, kiss their partner and kids as applicable, grab dinner and switch on the tv! Why should only IBM and Microsoft get their eyeballs, hmm?

Time To Market Pressure

Actually, while I'm having a light rant, I'm going to have a pop at this concept of "time to market pressure". You know, this is when a company rushes to get a new product out the door to capitalize on a market opportunity. Well, I think we should show a little more backbone when it comes to standing up to this "pressure". Why not take a little more time to really polish up the quality of a product? Well, here are some of the arguments I've heard in favour of rushing to market...

The market will move on without us

Oh yeah? What do you think the market was doing for the 18 months or so that we took to develop the product so far? Existing Sun customers are unlikely to throw out their whole infrastructure because we want to take a couple more quarters to get the product into a truly magnificent state. Besides, we should be making the market so hungry for our new features that they'll be waiting, slavering with anticipation, to get their hands on it (besides, we have early access and beta programs, right?) If you ship a poor quality product, you're certainly going to encourage the market to move on without us.

We want to lead, not follow. Make the headlines!

A laudable intent but how much did it cost us, both financially and in terms of negative press, when we then had to fix and/or replace huge quantities of hardware or software because we kicked it out the door too soon?

It's crazy. We've have got some fantastic technology - hardware and software - that can really kick some competitive backside! Don't compromise on quality, for crying out loud! Especially as we absolutely, positively must win back the confidence of our market. If it takes a couple of months more to get it right, then so be it!

So what's it to be? "Late and Great!" or "Quick and Sick!"

You decide.

About

Jimmo has been at Sun since 1994 and is currently a director within the software organization. This blog is infrequently updated with his thoughts, ramblings and observations. Enjoy!

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