Wednesday Jan 26, 2011

Exactly a year after Sun

Oracle to Buy Sun

It has been a year since the acquisition announcement by Oracle was made public. Preceded interestingly by this last goodbye email from Scott, this stock delisting and CBOE contract adjustment, which everyone at Sun followed with anticipation.

Fast forward to now and it has been an interesting year for Sun employees and for me, personally. Many of my colleagues and engineers I have worked with, have left Sun/Oracle for greener pastures (and I wish them all the luck at their new ventures, whereever they are). There is even this blog that tries to keep track of who-has-gone-where. And this one that keeps track of what is happening with the Open Source projects that Sun was so passionate about. This was surely a unique collection of individual talent and times that we will all look back at, as our golden years in our profession. But that does not mean that good times dont roll on. In fact, far from it. Sun's engineering talent continues to help Oracle outpace the industry in innovation(see this link) and has helped place Oracle in a unique competitive spot. Oracle's unmatched executive leadership has placed Sun systems at the forefront once again.

On my own professional front, I have met such a wide group of interesting Oracle folks. Initially, this was as I tried to champion the cause of Cloud Computing and Developer tools (a holdover from Sun's last days). Now, it is in my current role as manager of Performance Analyzer, Code Analysis projects (Discover, Uncover, eg). And finally, the financial stability that Oracle has provided has brought interesting growth opportunities.

All in all, I hope this collection of uniquely talented people will keep Sun's unique spark alive and will keep revalidating the value proposition that Scott best summed up. In his own words:

“Kicked Butt, Had Fun, Didn’t Cheat, Loved Our Customers, Changed Computing Forever”

[Now, theres a guy who sleeps easily with a clear conscience!] I hope the gang continues to do that. Good luck to you all of the Sun Alum, inside Oracle and outside of it. Keep the faith and keep the Sun torch lit!

Wednesday Jan 27, 2010

So long, Sun! Farewell!

Sun is now finally part of Oracle.

Its hard to put final thoughts about Sun into words. So I'll leave with this Sun RIF image (get commerative T-shirts and/or mugs here) that Sun uber-software-architect James Gosling drew as part of his farewell message.

Having worked at Sun for 21+ years, its hard to leave without a few words that I'd like to mumble out, anyway. I like Scott McNealy's parting words ("Kicked Butt, Had Fun, Loved our Customers, Never Cheated, Changed Computing forever"), but I'd like to put in my own. So here goes:

  • Sun was one of the best employee friendly company I know. Sun gave me an environment that nurtured my own technological and personal pursuits.
  • Sun always took the high road, sometimes even to the detriment of its own business model.
  • Sun could look forward and had a clear vision of where the technological world was headed and was ready to lead the road there (sometimes, again, to the detriment of providing help in immediate, present day matters). Its amazing to see, in retrospect, how often Sun got it right.
  • Sun innovated like crazy, and is perhaps the most shining example of Silicon Valley technology opening up new and expanding present markets.
  • Sun was decent. With its own employees. With managers and engineers alike. With customers. And even with its competitors. Sun (and sometimes I) had to fight FUD from other 3-letter companies (eg) but we never did it by putting them down. It wasnt just the decent thing to do, it was the Sun thing to do.
  • Sun was friendly and even-handed. Up and down the organizational chart. I even remember when Scott McNealy (then-CEO) talked of how he proposed to his future-wife. I remember Scott giving out beer at early beer busts. I remember Scott in Sun's cafeteria and cosying up to the engineering types, who were a bit shy about wanting to talk to him (what do you say to the one guy who's the overwhelming reason you came to Sun in the first place?). Sun was open-door. And it taught me as a manager to be equally friendly and open and that there was immense value in the (considered) opinion of every employee, from the newly-graduated to the most distinguished, industry-recognized leader and that the best ideas dont come from personal job-titles but from applying intelligence and knowledge to the problem at hand.
  • Sun was forgiving. If you made an honest mistake, you never got dinged for it but had a chance to learn from it. Learning from stumbles gave us all a chance to make Sun even better as a company.

And Sun was a fun place! From the innumerable April Fools pranks to water fights to Christmas parties to Beer Busts to "All Hands" meetings to too many other events to remember and enumerate, working at Sun was such joy. When you combine technological excellence with enabling employees to do their best, to caring for their families in the best way to being the most open and open-minded workplace anywhere, ever, you create an environment that is unmatched.

There will never be another Sun. Never. So, thanks for the 21 or so years. On a personal note, I know I will cherish my time here like none other.

PS. Folks who have subscribed to my blog, thanx for listening for all these years. Another chapter will emerge, but this one is now over. See you on the other side.

Thursday Feb 05, 2009

See you at Sun Tech Days Hyderabad 2009 in mid-Feb

I will be at Sun TechDays in Hyderabad, India around Feb 18-20th. This is now the third year in a row for me. Its a wonderful place to present and have some hearty discussions. The crowd is typically very hungry for knowledge, the organizers are super-efficient and the planning is just immaculate. I go to several TechDays, typically, but this one has impressed me with the size, quality of organization and the impact we can make in recruiting interest in Sun.
Hope to see a lot more of this again this year. Frankly, it charges me up as well after spending 3 days there! Its refreshing to see what direction the future of Software industry (at least in India) is headed.
This is also a good time for me to catch up with whats changing in my country of birth, especially with the global recession underway.

Friday Nov 21, 2008

Sun announced a slew of new solutions at Supercomputing 2008

Sun is finally back into the HPC market with a slew of new announcements that make it truly competitive in more than a decade. These systems/solutions (including storage, server clusters, blade servers, new software and interconnects) were showcased in Sun Technology Demos at Supercomputing 2008. Some of the new products include:
  • Sun Constellation System - with double the storage capacity, double the cores and double the compute nodes of the original Sun Constellation System, the "Genesis" storage array, new "Magnum" switch solutions, the "Glacier" cooling door and storage flash arrays
  • Sun Storage Cluster: Based on a previous Sun Unified Storage Systems announcement, this solution includes Solaris ZFS to transparently cache data on SSDs, and  reduce latencies and remove I/O bottlenecks. IMO, these recent solutions bring Sun back into the storage market, which Sun has gradually ceded over the past two decades (Sun used to be king of attached storage when I joined Sun, about 20 years ago).
  • Sun Compute Cluster  is a pre-integrated  highly scalable system consisting of Sun Fire Servers and Sun Blade server modules with infiniband or ethernet connectors that can  handle large data sets and workloads.
  • Lustre 1.8 with features such as  version-based recovery, interoperability with 1.6 clients, adaptive time-out.
  • Sun HPC ClusterTools 8.1 now offers enhanced performance and scalability, including processor affinity support, a high-performance MPI and parallel job launcher.
  • Sun HPC Software, Linux Edition 1.1 and Solaris Developer Edition Beta 1 is a new software bundle with a new OpenFabrics Enterprise Distribution
  • Sun Studio Express 11/08. I already outlined the main features in a previous blog. New tests continue to demonstrate a robust performance improvement from generation to generation of processor architectures by delivering a new World Record SPECompM2001score, as mentioned in a previous blog.
  • Sun Shared Visualization Software 1.1.1 which enables users to remotely access and share 3D-accelerated applications that run on a central resource.

Tuesday Jan 29, 2008

Sun and Intel relationship anniversary!

Hard to believe, its now one year from when we started the Sun Intel relationship (actually Jan 22nd was the anniversary)
And what a year it has been!
Dave Stewart has outlined a number of accomplishments for the past year in his blog here.
We've finally made Xeons a mainstream Solaris offering at Sun.
Congratulations to both the Intel team and Sun Solaris team for coming this far and for the momentum that has been built up.
On my part, I'd be remiss not to add Sun Studio changes in the past year to support Core2:
  • Instruction scheduling and tuning for Core2 that has resulted in some phenomenal SpecFP improvements outlined here
  • Sun Performance Library that is now optimally tuned for Woodcrest
  • Regular engineering meetings so we can ensure we can be feature- and tuning- ready with new platforms as they emerge
  • Functionality: SSSE3 in assembler and intrinsics in an just-around-the-corner SXDE and Sun Studio Express releases
  • Working together to make possible Intel's Open Source Threading Building Blocks on Solaris. Get the sources here.
In the year ahead, expect much more tuning, functionality (SSE4.1, SSE4.2) and related performance work and even more collaboration.
Go team! We're just getting started!

Monday Nov 27, 2006

HPCS/DARPA and Sun: An invitation to a podcast

You have probably seen the news by now that IBM and Cray won the third phase of the HPCS/DARPA contract. Of the three finalists, Sun was the unlucky player not to be invited to play here, despite presenting a strong portfolio. I was asked what my views were, of this news.
Let me start off by saying that I am not privy to any details of the Sun bid, except maybe a few reports from talking to colleagues who have participated in the bid. So I'll give you the somewhat more useful set of pointers that might give you a better clue, first, then I'll opine (in a strictly IMO fashion).

First of all, you might want to check out these blogs within Sun:

An in-depth podcast, in MP3 is available here. Jim Mitchell and David Douglas talk about life after HPCS. Jim Mitchell is a Sun Fellow and leader of this project; David Douglas is Sun's Associate Director of the HPCS program. [The MP3 program is a 13+-minute podcast]
A summary of their podcast:
  • DARPA has given Sun a wonderful leverage to commercialization of technologies from single- to petascale machines
  • Sun's involvement in HPC market is much stronger now than it was before this program and that Sun has used the program to advance both Hardware and Software aspects
  • SunLabs has used this to achieve not some pure research advancements but to apply these technologies to give Sun products a leg-up
  • DARPA gave an opportunity to look at computing at large/massive scale, particularly in software and productivity  and in particular, this will help drive growth opportunity in the industry, not just for compute-intensive sites
  • Look at what Fortress brings to the table. See here for more info.  Fortress is a new programming language designed for high-performance computing (HPC) with high programmability.
  • DARPA support or not, Sun is continuing the charge towards peta-scale computing.
Lastly, let me add that IMO, yes, it is unfortunate that Sun didnt get the grant. It would have helped this effort tremendously, especially in bringing a sharper focus to this endeavor. But the HPC effort within Sun is at a point of no return; there is great momentum around Sun's HPC programs (Sun has made inroads into Top and Sun has recently announced a slew of new hardware, software and services to enable customers to quickly build up an HPC environment
Sun does have a contrarian view in terms of where this scale of computing is headed. You might want to read Greg Papadopoulos's provocative blog on why "The World Only Needs Five Computers" Greg P is Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of Research and Development at Sun and is responsible for managing Sun's technology decisions and architecture. His team leads Sun Labs, the DARPA High Performance Computing Systems program, global engineering architecture and advanced development programs.

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Monday Sep 11, 2006

Digg This! Dtrace and Niagara are winning innovations!

I have often said that Sun is right to push Innovation into the marketplace. Its the key to Sun's success (and now turnaround ).
This morning WallStreet Journal picked Dtrace and Niagara has hot inventions for The Wall Street Journal's 2006 Technology Innovation Awards.
This is what they had to say:
Sun’s DTrace software is named the Gold winner in The Wall Street Journal's 2006 Technology Innovation Awards. According to the piece, “Bryan Cantrill and a team of engineers at Sun have devised a way to diagnose misbehaving software quickly and while it's still doing its work. While traditional trouble-shooting programs can take several days of testing to locate a problem, the new technology, called DTrace, is able to track down problems quickly and relatively easily, even if the cause is buried deep in a complex computer system … Mr. Cantrill came up with the general idea for DTrace in 1996, while he was a computer-science student at Brown University, but didn't get to start work on it until late 2001. It took nearly three years for him and his team -- Michael Shapiro, a Sun distinguished engineer, and Adam Leventhal, a staff engineer -- to make it work; a final version shipped early last year as part of Sun's Solaris 10 OS.”
In the Energy and Power section, they picked UltraSPARC T1 (Niagara) as an eco-friendly processor that generates less heat
Digg picked up on the story here.
My opinion: Its even better when a non-techie magazine picks us for innovation. Thats true recognition!
Way to go, Dtrace and Niagara!

Monday Aug 28, 2006

Sun experiences Server Growth while competitors struggle

Well, clearly time will tell if Sun has actually turned the corner, but the indications are encouraging at this time. Sun has put out a marketing paper on server growth for second quarter in a row. Its a good read; heres the pointer to it.
Perhaps, Sun's investments and product launches are beginning to find traction after all this time. Lets hope so!
In closing, over at Motley Fools Discussion Group on Sun, a frequent poster, ChrisRijk, made the following table on recent server shares from various vendors.
Worldwide Server Systems Factory Revenue

For actual revenue (year on year): IBM was down 2.2%, HP was down 1.7%, Dell was down 1.3%, and Sun was up 15.5%.

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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