Niagara FREE TRIAL – Update

Given the volume of email I’m getting… if you’re looking for the Niagara FREE Trial offer, click here.

The terms and conditions are now updated to reflect the fact that Sun pays the postage if you return the system we sent you. There’s always been a free packing slip in the box when you received it – our legal agreement was just out of sync (and no, I don’t think the agreement is poetically simple, either – that’s next week’s challenge). If after 60 days you don’t like the system we sent, just call the 1-800 number, and someone will come out to pick it up.

We’re obviously good at the free software thing. Looks like free systems/hardware might be a bit tougher – but we’re going to get it right, and we promise to fulfill every request. Give us credit for running the experiment transparently – warts and all.

And to answer a few of the comment questions – the offer applies to anyone interested – not just corporate customers. We don’t care if you’re an educator or a park ranger or a blogger or a physicist or a CIO – so long as you’re in the market for the fastest/most efficient server on earth.

And just to reiterate – once you receive the system, run your own benchmarks – post them publicly (positive or negative – points earned for thorough and complete), and our marketing team will decide who gets to keep their Niagara systems for free. Free.

ps. to the folks at slashdot, send me your contact data, we’re happy to send a Niagara system for you to take a look at. Something tells me you fit the target demographic perfectly… (no floating point, heavy threading, etc.)

pps. just in case you lost track of the promo, it’s here.


Filed under General

25 responses to “Niagara FREE TRIAL – Update

  1. Tom

    Jonathan–perhaps you need to make your servers available over the network just like your software. It seems a little silly to involve UPS trucks when one can log in and test a server from anywhere. Additionally, wouldn’t having a dedicated hosted Sun server on a network be a nice geek status symbol? Your business development guys need to call Rackspace, Serverbeach and the rest of that group and work something out.
    Congrats on the great buzz.

  2. I agree with Tom. SUN should just setup a couple hundred Niagra boxes with Solaris 10 or Linux and allow people to login and check them out. That’s far more efficient for both SUN and the potential customers.

  3. Jonathan Schwartz

    Absolutely – we thought about this long ago (it’s the genesis for our work to deliver the Sun Grid). But when your servers are classified as munitions by the US Government (as ours are), you have to worry about exposing them as services to the wide open internet.
    But stay tuned…

  4. It’s a shame that this promotion is not availible all over the world 🙂 I would love to get my hands on this server to see how it handles PHP + Mysql

  5. Roland Mainz

    Jonathan: Will the “free trial” be offered in Germany, too ? I’d like to make a technical review from the viewpoint of scientific computing people (for which is Niagara1 useable in some fields/applications (well, except the applications make heavy usage of floating-point (I hope you really really fix that for Niagara2 since the lack of FP performance is almost a disaster))) …

  6. bp

    Hi Jonathan,

    As for slashdot, wouldn’t the wikipedia project be a good target for an “expose
    Sun products to Linux community” plan

    Show how Niagaras can handle the huge load on a

    top 25
    frequented website.
    You were talking about highly parallel server load ? here is one, it’s the more loaded F/OSS
    web project in the world.
    If you’re targeting the Linux crowd out there, well, this is a very
    respected LAMP project among the Linux community . Giving them servers will show us, Linux
    folks, Niagara performances on real life work with our usual geeks tools (PHP, Apache and Mysql),
    not only the corporate/executive’s favorites (like Oracle/SAP/DB2/Notes
    etc.). We need this kind of info.
    Wikipedians are pretty well known for neutrality and objectivity.
    Furthermore, the admins keep transparency at high level (raw data, like
    servers load, uptime, traffic, setups etc. publicly disclosed) so we’d have a good, trusted, reference
    for comparing Niagara with other servers. We’d see servers reliability
    in the long term, not only performances, we’d get a feedback about
    manageability for Linux sysadmins …
    Wikipedia always need more raw power, they even did a call for fund raising
    last month. Helping the wikipedia would improve your karma ;).
    After free software, then free hardware, what about being known for your
    involvement in free knowledge ?
    If properly done (eg. significant enough help), such a fund will for sure
    be echoed back on Linux popular “press” (slashdot, osnews, newsforge, etc.), as
    were preceding significant wikipedia funds.
    Great exposure for sure. Or are you projecting to offer very very few
    Niagara for your campaign ? you didn’t talked about this point.

    Wikipedians don’t like spreading biased info for corporate pr (look at their talks about the firsts
    yahoo and google help proposals). After all, their
    goal is objective knowledge.
    So this would end up with reliable benchmarks results from
    a real life setup. Something people will rely on more than the many blogs from random
    geeks assuming that they must do positive benchmarks on artificial
    or unreproducible or not detailed enough situations
    nice try
    ) to get a free server from the favor of Sun marketing (that won’t fool us).

    In a related note, if I was a Sun marketer
    (what an “if” !), I would ensure that each large community driven
    F/OSS operating system project (OpenSolaris, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Linux kernel,
    Fedora Core, Ubuntu, Debian, OpenSuse) get several servers (they need more than one: for kernel/driver devs,
    for building stable packages updates, for building and testing betas). And that they get all the needed documentation, making it public, open, very accessible, NDA-free, extensive (from CPU wiring to RAID controller specs), developer-friendly, up-to-date, searchable, released before the hardware hit the market … (double check this, there is a common perception
    about large compagny to be un-transparent,
    relatively to our free community standards,
    and therefore to have something to hide ;

    about what, getting Sun to blog was brilliant).

    The worst pr you can get in our world would be to see users massively feeding
    mailing-lists with “hu ho, my Niag crashed
    yet again” just because of a

    poor operating system support

    , or no one replying to the so common “hey, does
    someone know if our distro run on this hardware ?”: beware, those mailing-lists are
    permanently archived by google, you can’t go back.
    Or simply, people avoiding your products because the
    distribution they better know won’t support it (this may happen to SPARC soon: there’s an
    announcement about problems with some archs (including SPARC) to be supported on next Debian release,
    and an update list of archs (re)qualified for this release, this
    affects DCC, Debian, and Ubuntu user base, at least). Those community driven projects usually can’t afford several $9000 machines, you know, but they’re still stronger opinion maker than you.

    Or being stroke by something like Theo de Raadt loudly calling his user base
    for a public campaign to get all the docs out from Sun without NDA( as he did for UltraSPARC III, for Adaptec
    AAC, etc.. sadly this
    is not a totaly random example).

    Get used to this Jonathan, if you want to come to our world: there is not, as
    you said on a different matter “only one choice” (Red Hat), because the key here is not
    anymore a question of passing large deals between CEOs nor getting corporate
    support contracts from SAP and Oracle.
    It’s about dealing with a special community:
    very pragmatic, very chatty, not hermetic or partitioned
    as you may think (we are very permeable to each other, sharing many transversals point of interest), where info spreads very fast on mailing lists/wikis/blogs/news sites comments/forums (blogs are only a small part of this),
    where project’s lead developers are the effective opinion leaders (not CEO/COOs),
    where quality of hardware support depends on the developers to actually have
    this hardware offhand (rather than corporate support contracts) etc… New rules, here.

    In brief: what about having your server gifts
    ending in good benchmarks/exposure from the
    dev community AND being useful for this
    community ? I know, I’m dreaming, that’s too much free servers, but it’s so good to dream on your blog ! 😉

    Wow, this was a longer comment than I expected before writing it! Thanks for
    allowing comments !

  7. bp

    Give us credit for running the experiment transparently – warts and

    Off course we do.
    The new T&B Agreement looks much better.
    The french version has even funny jokes 😉
    (looks like even my ugly english is not worst than your lawyer’s french,
    or is it an automated translation ?).
    Section 9.10 :
    “hereto, including communications, have been and shall be drawn up in English
    only. Les parties aux présentes confirment leur volonté que cette convention de
    même que tous les documents, y compris tous avis, s’y rattachant, soient rédiges
    en anglais seulement.”
    Never thought that even a geek like me could do two bugs reports on a legal
    document in a few days ! You should fire up a CVS repos. for this doc 😉

  8. Christopher Mahan

    Tom, it’s relatively difficult to install the OS remotely. If using stock Solaris 10, your suggestion is excellent

  9. rwg

    Along the same lines as Tom’s comments, I’m disappointed that there aren’t more companies offering affordable managed/dedicated servers running Solaris 10 or Linode-like virtual private servers based on Solaris 10 and its zones/resource controls. Having a major player like ServerBeach or ev1servers offer Solaris 10 alongside their existing Linux offerings would be nice.

  10. Alex Lam

    I will certainly apply for a Niagara for a test on my project when Lent Term ends…

  11. How about extending the offer to Ireland? You do know you have a development group based here? And Sun historically has been very strong here.
    We’d love the chance to try out one of your free servers for some of our work. Any chance you could get Horizon (your main distie in Ireland) to take part in the offer?

  12. jww

    After application is completed, how long should we expect for a follow-up from your sales team? It’s been a week since my application, and there has been narry a response from anyone related to Sun?
    I can imagine this takes a while; just wondering if this is normal?

  13. While at the notion of having these servers available across the network, wouldn’t this be a great way to expose folks to the Sun display grid? Instead of folks logging in via character terminals, why not give people a Sun Ray device and have them connect to the servers that way? Not everyone would need a dedicated server, either, but just log into a Solaris container via the Sun Ray. That’d be fantastic. Any chance this may happen?

    And, if so, wouldn’t all those users on the display grid form the genesis of a useful community that could then help usher this remote desktop concept to a broader (even consumer-focused) user-base?

  14. Jonathan, you convinced me. I just signed up to test out one of your Sun servers.
    I have been subscribed to your blog for a good while now. I had read your earlier posts, but you finally got me out the form. Why? Because I am convinced that is must be so different, so good, that you can stand up for it with an offer such as this.
    Of course, I also know I make just about the perfect candidate for you to hand such hardware to. I am a 4th year Computer Science co-op student at the University of Waterloo. I am a coder, artist, musician, student, and entrepreneur. Thus, I stress my systems more than most. As a student, I find it difficult to buy as much computer power as I can easily use effectively. But, I’ve done well thus far with powerful Windows systems.
    I had not really considered a Sun system to solve my evolving computing requirements. I thought it would be a good while before I’d be able to get the hardware I need now in my hands, while I have the time, space, and freedom to play. Now I am actually quite excited to see what the system can do — or better yet, what I can do with it.
    Also, given that I have a moderately popular blog (, you can certainly expect ongoing coverage of me playing with my new Sun equipment, comparing it to my current configuration.
    I would love to keep such a system for free. It would certainly give me good reason to buy Sun products in the future. Especially if I am impressed. I expect to be impressed 🙂

  15. I was wondering, if T1 is classified as munitions, how can SUN open source it?

  16. Geoff Mitchell

    A very good offer? Peeling back the onion, you say this is the fastest server in the world, but obviously when we take a look at price-performance, it is less advantageous than an Intel Xeon platform.
    Sorry, Sun, you’ll have to do better than offering try and buys on a proprietary hardware/software platform when I’ve already standardized my data center. Adding cost and complexity to my shop is not an option.

  17. Dear Jonathan,
    The agreement PDF isn’t coming up now when I click the link. I assume this is because the policies changed. Let me get this straight. I run a shell server for a few people, and have some experience with Solaris, but mostly with FreeBSD and NetBSD. I used to own an Ultra 2 enterprise with dual UltraSPARCS, and ran Solaris 10 for a while on it. I have no intention to buy the T1 in the foreseeable future. I am willing to run several benchmarks, such as iobench, john, dbench, gcc, etc on FreeBSD, possibly Linux, on two machines, say a 2.4GHz Intel Pentium IV Celeron (Commonly used server product), and a 1.8GHz Mobile Pentium IV (Thinkpad). There is a strong chance I can have, as in own the machine just for helping the marketting team save some r&d time and get new ideas, and I can try the machine without intention to buy it and not have to even pay shipping and handling costs? This is what it sounds like, but I can’t seem to find your e-mail. (Probably because you are an executive) Mine can be found with ease at the URL I entered on this comment. (

  18. Nicholas Melnick

    Oddly enough, when trying to fill that form out, I got an error from one of your mail servers: 550 5.7.1 <>… Access denied

  19. Geoff:
    We’ve never said it was the fastest server in the world. It’s fast for certain applications. For full single-threaded performance, yes, it’s not the fastest in the world.
    If you’ve standardized on an overheating powerbill-consuming platform, more power to you (figuratively and literally).
    Niagara systems definitely don’t fit that standard.

  20. I think what Jonathan is saying is not that you get the server for free if you run benchmarks, but that then Sun’s marketing department will decide if you may keep the server for free. If they decide that you may not, you can either buy the server, or Sun will pay someone to pick up the server. I am reading his message correctly?

    BTW, similar offers exist in the auto industry too. GM, for instance, in some cases lets you take home a car for 24 hours to try it out. Obviously, they run a credit check before handing you the keys.

  21. Very true. You can buy a whitebox server powered by an Intel Xeon, and have it work for general purpose serving and deliver speed that rivals Solaris on Sun systems. The clockrate alone is what makes up the performance loss from using a non-enterprise OS on a cheaply constructed machine. Sun is claiming best performance per watt in the server market. If you want to compare Apples to Oranges with PC oriented processors, the PowerPC is a superior processor for per watt usage and performance output ironically, but note Sun is talking about “Servers”.
    Reading the fine print is always a good idea. For enterprise Java development and serving huge database workloads, which the wimpy little 604’s or LGA775’s can’t handle, Sun’s SPARC servers will get the job done, faster, and cheaper then with anything you could pick a part together and run. RISC is a superior architecture, not just because Sun’s implementation has tons of registers, tons of cache, and recently more power usage optimization. Their Opterons are pretty great too, even at 1GHz+ clockrate under the Intel counterparts. AMD has always delivered equivalent if not better performance despite their constant position behind Intel in Hertz. Clockrate is not everything, if MIPS, SPARC, or Power(PC) are any indication.
    Solaris may be not your cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad operating system. I’ve noticed that a lot of GNU folks stab at Solaris because it doesn’t feel and is not GNU. Coming from Linux then later to BSD, I have less of a problem with using the operating system myself. I used to own Sun equipment, and I recently bought a brand new Apple system, and now know why Apple and Sun scrutinize their hardware. Network, Disk IO, and load handling are best on systems designed by the people who make the OS.
    In an ironic twist, Solaris is now OSI approved under the CDDL for your eyes to see. The public now has the right to make it work on whiteboxes. The Devil has awaken the T1 architecture. It was the first processor I’ve ever heard of been released under any non-proprietary license, as usually processors are closed specification or licensed specification. The open-source projects commonly used by small and medium businesses can now make modern UltraSPARC’s run FreeBSD or whatever. Sun in the past had released specifications to some groups, but starting with UltraSPARC III, there was no support for anything but Solaris. Sun has little experience with the small and medium business markets, give them a chance, and learn yourself something about R&D and quality control. Quality, efficient, stable, functional/flexiable, and economical, what’s wrong with that?
    If I were in a position to recommend a server, or heck host one myself for what it is that I do, I would go Sun. I’ve had regrets with Sun in the past, haven’t we all… but the company has really shaped up great thanks to Jonathan Schwartz and Scott Mcnealy.

  22. james, I had that error as well, but it seems to work again now 🙂

  23. Hi
    I have filled out the form about a week ago – and didnt received a email about they got my trial request 😦
    do you know how long it will take?
    here is what i will try:
    running extremely much KDE sessions in paralell on Running Nomachine – that means i will help port kde and nomachine to that machine
    and i will tryout rendering on Blender on that machine
    i hope they will contact me soon – cant wait for that machine 😀

  24. We would love to get one of these for the CentOS SPARC lead developer. We plan on trying to release our SPARC arch either on 4.3 or 4.4 and we would be glad to compile on a good Niagara machine. How about it 🙂

  25. Delano

    I filled out the form the first time around, but the follow through was too much of a hassle.
    Someone called about a week later to verify my information and then a sales rep called the next day. The problem was the paperwork: it doesn’t suit a single contract developer such as myself. It was too scary, so the client I was working for opted for a cheap PC running Linux instead (their software is certified on SPARC and PC linux only) :[

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s