Sun Brings The Cheap Revolution to Supercomputing

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!


Filed under General

8 responses to “Sun Brings The Cheap Revolution to Supercomputing

  1. rl

    “starting with our free and open source Sun Studio compilers”
    Free? yes. Open Source? Not currently.

  2. This is exciting news.

    The stuff that is happening at Sun is really heartening.

    It would be nice if Sun could have more presence in India too.

  3. Paul Satherley

    Hi Jonathan,
    In my opinion Sun needs more small – medium products to make a quid..
    schools and small business a crying out for an alternative to the M$-way.. with all the CPU power in to-days products I believe that Linux terminal server is waiting for Sun to grasp.. run it as linux or under Solaris and make cheap PXE boot thin clients really cheap! sell a complete package… If more CPU power is needed by clients hook Sun grid into the equation..?

  4. Austin

    Congratulations Sun for this Fantastic Achievements.
    Indeed an exciting times in Sun and those who would like to see Front Technologies
    develop and grow
    I agree with Mayuresh , There is hardly any visibility of Sun in India.
    May be its a good time to Ramp up Sun’s presence here.

  5. Kevin Hutchinson

    What’s the status of your Project Honeycomb? This kind of fast resilient programmable cheap storage would be perfect for your supercomputing customers. It would be great to see you bring this to market.

  6. Prince

    Jonathan, as a (multi-thousand) share holder i am quite happy to see
    SUN getting strong in many fields. SUN is identity leader. Two consecutive
    quarters of server share growth have caused indigestion to some of the
    competitors. Somewhere i read “No these guys can’t sustain the growth” etc.
    SUN should prove them wrong. Sun should take more share in the x86 (x64)
    space, because you have got superb AMD based systems at comparable prices.

  7. Mario

    Hi Jonathan, great achievement for SUN, but remember that at the end investors also want their company to make a profit! It’s all-fine to change the world with new tech innovation, but as the old saying, “ Where’s the money?”
    It would be a great help to SUNS investors if next time you can also write about how’s the company doing financially and when we can read (especially for us long timer investors) some good news on profit for the present and near future. We deserve at least to be compensate a bit. TIA

  8. Wayne

    Yo dude. Nice to see Sun winning that TACC deal! But …… with all those Engineers in town do you think you could prod someone into getting an Express build DVD of Solaris out that will boot and install on my Mac Book Pro ? Its like been since April they’d announced “Solaris runs on a Mac” yet I”ve not seen any viable install solution for the common man. Come on and throw us a bone – you know that Macs are cool!!

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