Wednesday Sep 24, 2008

Sun TechDays 09 kicks off; see you in Brazil

What is it?
Sun TechDays is a world tour, where we take our technologies to around 14 cities around the globe and hold 2 or 3 day events (plus, typically a University Day) talking about current and future technologies from Sun.
Typically, the tracks include Java SE, EE, ME technologies, NetBeans IDE, Open Source,  and OpenSolaris. As in past years, I am going to visit some of these events as a speaker (typically 3-4 events). Its a great learning experience, a wonderful way to interact with a typically younger crowd and understand the developer thinking from outside the Sun box . And in a modest way, I am happy to help educate the community on Sun's developer technologies, priorities and focus.
What are we talking about with C/C++/Fortran Tools?
Three things:
A broader Sun Studio Overview presentation(preso here) that gives the broad picture with Performance, Parallelism, Productivity Tools (IDE, Debugger, Analyzer) and Multiplatforms (Linux, Solaris) focus
Performance Tuning Tools (preso here) with emphasis on compiler optimization cookbook, observability and tuning tools such as: Performance Analyzer, DTrace GUI (Plugin), D.light and some emphasis on Thread Analyzer for data-race and deadlock detection capability
Parallel Programming (preso here) with emphasis on MPI, Automatic Parallelization/Vectorization, OpenMP, Multi-threading (with support in debugger and Analyzer)
What do you get by attending?
Tech Days are your opportunity to hear from and meet with some of the brightest engineers from around the world. It's an chance to network with your peers, understand more about what's going on from Sun and the industry and all in a local environment.

The first one kicks off in Brazil next week: Sept 29 - Oct 1.

Tuesday Sep 02, 2008

20 years at Sun

Last month, I officially completed my 20 years at Sun!
On such a momentous occasion (in retrospect, tho nothing about it felt momentous on a day-to-day basis), its hard to put all my thoughts and experiences in a few words (or in any words at all). The best I can say is "its been a great ride and I've enjoyed the ups and downs" .
This particular down period seems a lot more drawn out and troubling, but the enormous talent and ability of the people all around me gives me so much hope.
I hope the next 20 are somewhere near as interesting as the past 20 were!

Thursday Aug 21, 2008

More observations on IDF (parallel programming)

Day 2 (and for me, final day, I cant go back for Day 3) had a different flavor to it. I was glad to see how much work Intel is encouraging in the direction of parallel programming. Among the more interesting sessions was an Academic Roundtable on Multicore programming. With participants from Intel College, Tom Murphy of Contra Costa College (a local community college) and Dan Garcia from UC-Berkeley, the discussion centered around how little the academic community was doing to promote/teach parallel programming to incoming entrants. It is clear that future development will need designers and architects, not to mention implementation engineers, to clearly understand principles of parallel programming. A tidbit of interest was that the general survey of university curriculum indicates that most parallel programming teaching is limited to a 6-hour section as part of an OS course!
There was plenty of talk (at the roundtable) about OpenMP and MPI and automatic parallelism, but a couple of other observations particularly stuck out in my mind. One was the appreciation for lack of testing tools (ie. How I do know that the parallel program I have written is correct?) . The non-deterministic nature of this problem is perhaps the most troubling. Another was the observation by UCB faculty that they are thinking about this problem as a many-core problem, not just a multi-core problem (meaning, its not limited to 2, 4, 8 or 16 cores, but to 1000s of cores) and that scale brings its own unique challenges in thinking. A final point of interest was how little attention academia has generally provided over the virtues of programming for performance of which multi-core programming is but one aspect (I disagree with this sentiment but I could see several heads nodding in agreement and it is a significant viewpoint).
Tough topics to deal with... lets see how the academic community tackles these over the next few years. Otherwise, the burden of this training will fall squarely on the shoulders of employers. See here for more details .
On other topics, I noticed that interests were largely around the upcoming Nehalem chip architecture, power issues, visual computing challenges and opportunities and platform virtualization.
This was also a great opportunity to network with friends from both Intel and Sun!

Monday Aug 27, 2007

SUNW ticker turns into JAVA

Sun Microsystems started trading under a new Ticker symbol JAVA. This has, of course, been a hot topic for the past few days since Sun announced it and Jonathan Schwartz, our CEO, blogged about it.
The engineers who have opined on it have generally been down on the move, reflecting much of blogdom (and the unusually high number of comments Jonathan's blog entry has attracted)... and thats putting it mildly . But time will tell if this move brought the awareness and openings that it was intended for. Ultimately, if it ranks alongside the The Network is the Computer slogan that helped identify SUNW's place, it would be a good measure of success.
Meanwhile, not all the sentiment out there is negative. Heres an independent view of this, from BusinessWeek this morning . Interesting and pretty neutral take.

PS. For those of you concerned that googling for SUNW just got harder, yes, it did. Just remember, the new string to search for is NASDAQ:JAVA . Neutrally speaking, the W in SUNW had gotten redundant lately and was turned into WorldWide from Workstation, anyway.

Tuesday Dec 12, 2006

Recommended reading: Mistakes made on the road to Innovation

I would recommend this article in a recent BusinessWeek (Nov 27, 2006 Edition)
Mistakes Made On The Road To Innovation
Its a wonderful read. It covers Kodak's attempt to transform itself from an old-line film and print in its DNA kind of company to a digital media powerhouse. It thought it could do so by relying on the one tradition it was extremely proud of, in its 120 year history: that technology innovation can reinvent the company and the marketplace.  As it is now discovering, the tougher challenge lies in switching business models, which are far more complex and messy.
Its not clear that Kodak will be able to make the transformation; the jury is still out and it still teeters on the precipice.
The article ends with some sagely advice: All innovation is hard.  Reinventing your entire business is the hardest innovation of all.

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Monday Aug 07, 2006

The day after the day after the RIF

As you have probably seen by now, parts of Sun (many of the geos, though not all, at this point) underwent the rightsizing exercise last Thursday that Sun had announced at year-end earnings announcement . The analyst industry had picked up on this quite prominently at the time, like this citation.  The promise from executives was a reduction in headcount to create a lowered breakeven point so that Sun can be put right back onto a path of sustained, attractive, ongoing profitability, with increased mindshare, adoption and market share penetration that will position Sun for future growth.
As you can imagine, this is a VERY difficult exercise. For Sun, as a business, its a tradeoff between
  • Sustained and attractive profitability, which means the layoffs shouldnt exceed the investment threshold we need for comfortable future growth opportunities
  • Is Software a profit center, which it can be, or provide fuel for future growth and Sun Microsystems revenue
  • As an employee-centric company, laying off too many is both irresponsible and discouraging to the morale of those left behind
  • Getting enough costs out of the system so Sun doesnt have to go through a cycle of layoffs, take charges, recover, re-evaluate newer, lower breakeven point
As hard as this itself is, theres something even harder: RIF (Reduction in Force), layoffs, rightsizing, whatever you want to call it, is first and foremost about people. And in many, many cases, it is about having to let go employees who arent ready to make the transition. For managers, and having gone through this process before I can say with full conviction, this is the hardest thing they will ever have done. Sitting across the desk from an employee or colleague whom you dearly respect and whose professionalism, talent, ability and workstyle you have admired over the years and telling them that Sun can no longer afford to have them onboard, is an unforgettable experience. For other employees, who have to replan midcourse, pick up the workload and responsibilities and continue to deliver to the expectations of the customers is a challenging adjustment and stressful exercise. But most of all, its unbelievably hard on the employees who get the surprise  announcement. It upsets their life, it upsets their family and  it upsets their career plans. It is the hardest transition they will ever make.

As much as I hope this layoff is the last one for Sun for business reasons and that we can be back on path of sustained profitability and predictable, delivered growth, I hope equally that those who were let go in this period discover their own ways of landing back on their feet and moving their professional careers to the next level. And with it, their family and life plans. Good luck to you  in your future pursuits, Sun alumni! You belong to a group that the rest of us immensely admire and I hope that we will continue to be friends and that our paths will meet again.

I have worked with Sun and Oracle for 25 years now; in compilers and tools organization for most of these years followed by a couple of years in Cloud Computing. I am now in ISV Engineering, where our primary task is to improve synergy between Oracle Sun Systems and our rich ISV ecosystem


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