Our Most Valuable Intellectual Property

Imagine you’re the owner of a Formula 1 team. And one of your top shop designers calls you over the weekend. “I’ve got a new design for you. It’s a street legal automobile that delivers 800 horsepower, gets 150 miles to the gallon, costs what a Toyota Prius does, can take a corner at 10g, and there’s an open market for parts.”

If you’re the team’s CEO, you’re pleased as punch – pick a remotely decent driver, and you’re going to blow away your competition. If you’re the team’s CFO, you’re pretty giddy, too – your project risk plummets (each car is normally custom built, at around $300M a pop). Your fuel-based operating expenses are radically lowered. If you’re a team shareholder, you’re pretty pleased, too – better performance at a lower price? Who could ask for more. Driving might be fun, too.

Now replace the Formula 1 analogy with a computer. A computer that runs five times faster than Dell and HP’s fastest Xeon systems. A computer that’s one quarter the size. That runs Solaris, and will run Linux and *BSD (and even Windows isn’t out of the question). Based on a 9.6 Ghz 8-core Niagara chip available in volume, and compatible with the $120 billion dollar SPARC installed base. A computer that runs the internet like it was purpose built for search, for voice over IP, for video streams and web services and database transactions.

And now you have a pretty good idea of what’s in store for tomorrow. (Pay careful attention to the “open market for parts” comment – we’re planning on delivering an extraordinary surprise to the industry. No sense in letting the software folks have all the fun…)

I was with one of the system’s key architects last week, who made one of the most profound statements I’ve heard at Sun: “The most valuable IP Sun has in the design of Niagara is the courage to build it.”

Absolutely right.

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