The collective IQ of San Francisco has risen this week, with the arrival of nearly 4,000 Sun “customer engineers” from across the globe. Customer engineers encompass a very broad community at Sun, one that includes systems and support engineers, product developers, and a diversity of other technical functions all focused on supporting customers.
In the spirit of perfect timing, my speech to the group coincides with our winning just about the biggest prize in all of supercomputing last week, a contract to build a 400 Teraflop system, the world’s largest, for the Texas Advanced Computing Center (known as TACC). TACC is
ironically conveniently located in Austin.
Their press release is here. And here are few things to think about.
First, the “cheap revolution” is winning out in high performance computing – Sun won because we could supply general purpose infrastructure and open source software, which in combination allows TACC to decommission their legacy proprietary Intel systems, and avoid having to use a customized solution. As I discussed here, general purpose systems and operating platforms have emerged as fast enough to displace proprietary and specialized systems. On a performance per watt basis (which is one of the metrics used to measure system efficiency), the numbers are staggeringly in favor of Sun’s new wave of open innovation (which is why PG&E offers rebates for Sun’s systems in California).
The win is a comprehensive one for Sun – starting with our free and open source Sun Studio compilers, N1 Systems and Grid management platforms (also free/open source), and deployed on an absolute blizzard of SunFire/Galaxy servers, 1.7 Petabytes of our newest Thumper (x4500) systems, all archived and secured by our StorageTek tape platforms. (As one executive said to me recently, “whoever said ‘tape is dead’ has never spoken to a customer that produces a terabyte of data every couple of minutes.”) Like I said, it’s a true systems win.
So yes, we won on performance, but we also won on the economics of open platforms vs. proprietary alternatives, and the environmental and operational efficiency of what we offered. (As Dave Douglas says, the “eco” in “eco-responsible” stands for economics, too). But ultimately, it was our ability to integrate the components to solve the problem, rather than dropping off a big box of cheap parts. And who demonstrated that total advantage?
Engineers, of course. Customer engineers.
Which makes the win so well timed – with nearly 4,000 of them in town, I can say to just about the entire customer engineering population, you are the ‘system’ in Sun Microsystems. From winning Java technology on BluRay to the world’s biggest supercomputing facility, you can’t capture those opportunities with a web site and an button. It takes expertise, on site, and a big commitment from customer engineering. So to the TACC team, and all those helping to win equally world changing deals across the planet (as we speak), thank you.
You make a huge difference to our customers, and to Sun.
Viva la Revolución!