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NetBeans 6.7 · Who knows how many more chances I’ll have to talk about Sun tech that I like? In the five years I’ve been here I’ve been pleased by OpenSo­laris and Fish­works and HotSpot and GlassFish and oth­er­s, but NetBeans is #1 in my heart. I just down­load­ed 6.7 RC3 a cou­ple of days ago to try to fix a prob­lem (it didn’t, but the prob­lem was amus­ing) and it’s re­al­ly good stuff. Gen­er­al­ly nice, and with one ab­so­lute­ly life-changing new fea­ture ...
Database Helper · I’ve been in a lot of Cloud-flavored dis­cus­sions re­cent­ly about what kind of Platform-as-a-Service of­fer­ings might hit sweet spot­s. On sev­er­al oc­ca­sion­s, Peo­ple Who Should Know have said things like “A huge pro­por­tion of app­s, even re­al­ly big app­s, can coast along just fine on a sin­gle MySQL in­stance with help from mem­cached.” Some num­bers crossed my radar to­day that would tend to sup­port that the­o­ry; and they’re sort of as­tound­ing ...
Tab Sweep — (Sun) Technology · Another sweep across the sev­er­al dozen brows­er tabs I’ve built up in re­cent week­s, think­ing “worth writ­ing about”. As I was build­ing this up, I no­ticed that al­most ev­ery­thing was Sun-related, so I fo­cused on that stuff. Yep, my in­ter­ests are con­flict­ed all right, but I think it’s in­ter­est­ing stuff ...
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New Computers · To­day, we at Sun had a serv­er an­nounce­men­t, and so did IBM. Get yer hot links & pix here ...
Formerly a BlackBox · I’m talk­ing about the Sun Mo­du­lar Dat­a­cen­ter S20, now ship­ping (and, judg­ing by what I hear on my field trip­s, sell­ing sur­pris­ing­ly well). You’re won­der­ing about “S20”? Wel­l, a glance at some con­tain­er facts might lead you to ex­pect an S40 or S45 in the fu­ture. I don’t know, the amount of com­pute pow­er you can get in an S20 is al­ready pret­ty mind-boggling. I note that the prod­uct page, ap­pro­pri­ate­ly post­mod­ern, links to Black­Box blogs, but un­sur­pris­ing­ly not to mine, prob­a­bly the most-read on the sub­ject due to the mini-scandal over my egre­gious­ly bad lan­guage (and I have to say the com­ments on that one are ex­cel­lent) ...
BlackBox in Vancouver · Hey, I’m help­ing out the lo­cal Sun mar­ket­ing peo­ple; thus this note for geeks here in Van­cou­ver. We’re do­ing a world tour with the Black­Box and it’s com­ing here Nov. 20th (scroll down). If you vis­it, yes, you will be mar­ket­ed at, but I’ve been in one of these pup­pies and it’s a se­ri­ous­ly funky piece of gear and hey, it’s free. I’ll try to drop by.
Testing the T5120 · This was go­ing to be a Wide Fin­der Pro­ject progress re­port, but I end­ed up writ­ing so much about the serv­er that I’d bet­ter ded­i­cate an­oth­er frag­ment to the com­par­isons of all those im­ple­men­ta­tion­s; es­pe­cial­ly since there are still lots more im­ple­men­ta­tions to test. So this a hands-on re­port on a cou­ple of more-or-less pro­duc­tion T5120’s, the T2-based serv­er that’s be­ing an­nounced to­day. Head­li­nes: The chip is im­pres­sive but weird; as­tound­ing message-passing bench­mark num­ber­s; fight­ing the US DoD ...
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Important: Constellation · [Missed this one last week in Europe] We made a big splash ear­li­er this sum­mer at the High-Performance Com­put­ing show in Dres­den; a con­cert­ed at­tempt to grab a big­ger piece of the HPC mar­ket. I thought the cov­er­age was pret­ty in­tel­li­gen­t: the big deal about Con­stel­la­tion isn’t the blades or the disks, it’s the big switch. Any­one can stuff a bunch of racks with blades with hot chips on ’em; the hard part is get­ting them to work to­geth­er, and what­ev­er the ap­proach, it’s easy to get bot­tle­necked on the mes­sag­ing. The big new 3,456-way In­fini­band switch is a brute-force as­sault on the prob­lem, com­bin­ing sil­i­con, bus-ware, con­nec­tor, and ca­bling wiz­ardry: Josh Si­mons has close-ups and un­veil­ing shots, but Jonathan has the best pic­tures. Why is this in­ter­est­ing? Josh has the num­bers: 19% of the world­wide serv­er mar­ket.
Blade Marketing · We an­nounced a bunch of blade stuff this morn­ing and I hon­est­ly couldn’t think of any­thing use­ful to write about it, since it’s a decade or two since I was a sysad­min and dis­cus­sion of I/O den­si­ty and the like tends to go over my head. Ap­par­ent­ly you can have Xeon and Opteron and SPARC and Win­dows and So­laris and Lin­ux all in the same chas­sis, which sounds kind of ter­ri­fy­ing to me. I did get to hear Andy Bech­tol­sheim give the spiel on the I/O de­sign on­ce, I un­der­stood maybe 20% but it sound­ed awe­some. Any­how, there is an in­ter­est­ing an­gle: it turns out we gave Scoble over at PodTech a pre-release ex­clu­sive for his video cov­er­age. Which is not ex­act­ly high-gloss mar­ket­ing, most­ly just John Fowler in a monochrome meet­ing room with some journos, pulling dull sil­ver blades and I/O mod­ules out of dull sil­ver chas­sis box­es and talk­ing about the tech, tak­ing a few ques­tion­s. I think it’s im­mense­ly more ef­fec­tive than most product-launch bumph. As for the prod­uct­s, I don’t re­al­ly have an in­formed opin­ion; but if you un­der­stand blades, you prob­a­bly will if you watch the video.
Big, Big Iron · Yes­ter­day April 17th we did a great big honk­ing an­nounce­ment about server­s, er make that an an­nounce­ment about great big honk­ing server­s. Frankly, I know pret­ty well zilch about this class of ma­chine; I can re­late to Web pumps like the T1000/T2000, and to an x86 meat-grinder like the X4100 (which an ir­ri­tat­ed lit­tle bird work­ing for one of our cus­tomers just told me that you can’t buy at the mo­ment be­cause they’re sold out­); but these supertanker-scale things we cooked up with Fu­jit­su are from an­oth­er plan­et. I went pok­ing around blogs.­sun.­com look­ing for some­thing hands-on. Bin­go (but, er, anony­mous bin­go, which ir­ri­tates me; I’ve ex­pressed my opin­ion on this in­ter­nal­ly). First, “EXOTERIC” was down in the trench­es with Fu­jit­su and the iron, see New Sun-Fujitsu SPARC En­ter­prise Sys­tems. Se­cond, “BM Seer” fires a vol­ley of bench­mark­s: bang bang bang bang. I may not grok the fin­er points of main­frame tech­nol­o­gy but you can fol­low point­ers from the an­nounce­ment to the M9000 and look at the heavy-metal pic­tures. Ouf.
Rock Secret Contest · Check out Jonathan’s piece to­day on the Rock. Some­times he makes me ner­vous... but hey, let's have some fun with it. The first three peo­ple who can de­ci­pher his art­ful clues and guess (by com­ment­ing here) what the Big Cool Nifty Rock Se­cret is will win a round of blog ap­plause from me and al­so a neat Sun sweat­shirt or hood­ie (my own, un­opened con­fer­ence loot sit­ting at the back of a clos­et, this is not a Sun con­test etc etc) ...
Black Box Again · I was at a meet­ing the oth­er day, serv­ing as a pan­elist at the Wiki­nomics book launch tour with Don Tap­scott (in­ter­est­ing stuff, I’ll write about it when I’ve fin­ished read­ing the book). Dur­ing the pre-meeting schmooze I got talk­ing to a Univer­si­ty CIO and he was all ex­cit­ed about the Black­box. “Huh?” I said; he’s in the mid­dle of a city and has tons of nice mod­ern build­ings. It turns out his Seventies-era da­ta cen­ter filled up a lit­tle faster than they’d pre­dict­ed, and they have bud­get and lo­ca­tion for a new one but that’s go­ing to take a sol­id two years and by De­cem­ber of this year he’s look­ing at a big-bucks tem­po­rary up­grade of the old fa­cil­i­ty. An in­ter­im Black­box in a shed prob­a­bly saves him megabuck­s. I may have even helped a bit. I know his cam­pus a bit, and I seem to re­mem­ber what the tem­per­a­ture spec on the wa­ter hookup is (I won’t guess in pub­lic here though) and if I’m right, he’s got plen­ty of wa­ter that’s more than cool enough right there. So I said that and asked him “Are you sure you’re go­ing to need cooling?” and he bright­ened right up; if I’m right, he just saved an­oth­er pile of dough. Any­how, looks to me like the prod­uct has legs; I read some­where the oth­er day that we’re go­ing to be get­ting com­pe­ti­tion, which is un­sur­pris­ing.
Sun SPOTs · Hey, they’re fi­nal­ly ship­ping. I’ve been hear­ing this Sun SPOT buzz out of the labs for years, and now they’re sell­ing them; and some­one wrote the bloggers’ list to say that peo­ple are buy­ing them. Smal­l. Embed­dable. Wire­less. Ja­va on the met­al. Cool.
The Open-Source Process · I have the good for­tune to work for the world’s largest cre­ator of Open-Source soft­ware. Big com­pa­nies be­ing what they are, this means that There Is A Pro­cess. Re­cent­ly, I went through it, and I thought the sto­ry might be of mild in­ter­est to those who are try­ing to fig­ure out how to make a liv­ing at the in­ter­sec­tion of the prof­it mo­tive and OSS cul­ture ...
Neptune · To­day we an­nounced some­thing, and let’s stick with the code-name “Neptune” be­cause of­fi­cial­ly it’s called the Sun x8 Ex­press Dual 10 Gi­ga­bit Eth­er­net Fiber XFP Low Pro­file Adapter, which just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it. I have to say it’s about the butchiest-looking NIC I’ve ev­er seen. Now, nor­mal­ly I would have by­passed the op­por­tu­ni­ty to blog, be­cause I’ve nev­er ac­tu­al­ly even seen a 10G wire or plug, and have no idea what the trade-offs are and what makes a good one. But our Ariel Hen­del wrote Rus­sian Dolls, the first para­graph of which dis­cuss­es love, soc­cer, and beer, and which in­cludes a re­mark­able pho­tograph; it is ac­tu­al­ly about Nep­tune. Speak­ing as a geek who likes fast net­works and good writ­ing, I think it’s won­der­ful.
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Blackflies and Black Boxes · On the grass just out­side the en­trance to our Men­lo Park cam­pus, there’s a big brown rect­an­gle where they had the Black­box sit­ting; it’d been tak­en up to San Fran­cis­co for the An­a­lyst Sum­mit and Ed­u­ca­tion con­fer­ence ...
Project Orange Box · The an­nounce­ment com­pares it to our Pro­ject Black­Box: “Lower pow­er, small­er form fac­tor, less ex­pen­sive, more ther­mal­ly ef­fi­cien­t, more en­vi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly (ful­ly biodegrad­able), or­gan­ic, and sim­ple architecture.” There’s a pho­to gallery; I par­tic­u­lar­ly like the I/O Panel.
In A Box · I’ve been in­side one of these and, well, you wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time there. Any lover of en­gi­neer­ing for its own sake would I think find the box breath­tak­ing; the cool­ing and power-supply de­signs are el­e­gant and beau­ti­ful, and then the whole thing be­ing wrapped up in an anony­mous steel rect­an­gle is in­to post­mod­ern ter­ri­to­ry. Suf­fice it to say that some of the ap­pli­ca­tions for this are things you Just Can’t Talk About, and you can bet those aren’t go­ing to have the snap­py green-on-black paint job. Others are go­ing to be graf­fi­ti tag­ging op­por­tu­ni­ties. Me, I have no idea how big the mar­ket is. But I’m glad we built it, be­cause it is just to­tal­ly drop-dead fuck­ing cool. [Up­date: Nothing’s re­al un­less it’s on YouTube.] [Up­date: Ni­co Wil­liams does the num­bers.] ...
GullFOSS · I’ve nev­er been 100% com­fort­able with this no­tion of a “group blog”, but I guess I should stop wor­ry­ing. The Aquar­i­um seems to have been a ma­jor suc­cess for the GlassFish peo­ple, and now there’s Gul­lFOSS, OpenOffice.org’s home on the bl­o­go­spher­ic range. As I write this, the lat­est post is their week­ly de­vel­op­ment sched­ule snap­shot, some­thing that more Open-Source projects would do well to post. I may up do­ing a 180° turn and think­ing that ev­ery sub­stan­tial de­vel­op­ment project should have a group blog.
Thumper Marketing · An email went around the in­ter­nal bloggers’ list say­ing “Hey, you might want to point to the Thumper con­test”. So I went to have a look and, yeah, it’s an in­ter­est­ing pro­mo­tion. But... does any­one else find the no­tion of us­ing YouTube to de­liv­er a fair­ly stan­dard cor­po­rate mar­ket­ing piece just a lit­tle weird? It’s con­ve­nient that ven­ture caps are back­ing star­tups that burn kazil­lions of bucks on band­width so that large pub­lic com­pa­nies can de­liv­er video ad­ver­tis­ing for free. Is it sus­tain­able? Weird­er things have hap­pened, I guess.
Announcing · To­day, we an­nounced some faster server­s; I’m not a big-SPARC guy so the one that makes my heart go pitter-pat is the new Ul­tra; I just spent a week liv­ing on a year-old Ul­tra and while it’s damn fast, I man­aged to make it breathe hard with both JRu­by and the Gim­p. What’s more in­ter­est­ing is the PG&E re­bate. Check it out, but what’s even more in­ter­est­ing, to me, is that there are three ways you can read about it: Jonathan’s blog, the Sun.­com page, and the of­fi­cial press re­lease. The blog is the most in­ter­est­ing, with the Craigslist ref­er­ence and and the highway-rules con­tex­t. If you want de­tail­s, the Sun.­com page is OK, with some sam­ple cal­cu­la­tions and so on. Which leaves the press re­lease. It seems to have been care­ful­ly de­signed for un­read­abil­i­ty, its me­an­der­ing sen­tences stud­ded with com­pa­ny chest-pounding and its stilt­ed, committee-compromise quotes (even those from smart, gen­uine peo­ple like Dave Dou­glas) that no hu­man voice would ev­er ut­ter. Hav­ing said that, the press re­lease con­tains some use­ful facts that aren’t in ei­ther Jonathan’s write-up or the Sun.­com page. We (the world I mean) need to do mar­ket­ing bet­ter.
Thumper & Friends · We an­nounced a bunch of new box­es this morn­ing (of, course, the damn Regis­ter has had the poop for week­s, I find our leak­i­ness ir­ri­tat­ing). There’s a Real Big Opteron serv­er (per­son­al­ly, I’m more of a scale-out than scale-up kin­da guy, but big iron is a big part of our busi­ness). There’s a blade box. I know noth­ing about blades, nev­er been near one. Then there’s the Thumper oops X4500, it’s in­ter­est­ing. I even have a grainy am­a­teur­ish pho­to of the in­side of a pre-production mod­el ...
Engineering Beauty · This last week, I spent a bunch of time in a room with Andy Bech­tol­sheim. He brought along some of the new box­es he’s work­ing on; some al­most ready, some raw sheet-metal pro­to­type­s. I got some cool pix of a Thumper’s guts but they won’t let me run ’em. Any­how, when you lis­ten to Andy talk about these box­es, you re­al­ize that in their own way they’re beau­ti­ful. You have to watch it around him; if you ask a sim­ple ques­tion like why one server’s I/O is sur­pris­ing­ly faster than another’s, you’re apt to get a 45-minute dis­ser­ta­tion in­volv­ing ten or fif­teen pages’ worth of block di­a­grams (no, I’m not ex­ag­ger­at­ing). Any­how, while they say the X64 box­es are our fastest-growing prod­uct line, I think that group’s feel­ing a lit­tle starved for love in among all the T2000 hoop-la. The mar­ket­ing group sends me notes from time to time point­ing to their news (for ex­am­ple a pow­er cal­cu­la­tor and a vir­tu­al­iza­tion ma­ni­ac), won­der­ing if it’s blog­gable. I keep telling them to grow their own blog­ger­s, but they haven’t yet. Which is a pity, be­cause what Andy’s do­ing makes a pret­ty com­pelling sto­ry.
Network Too Slow? · I’m em­bed­ded at the Mother­ship here in Sil­ly Val­ley all week, and among oth­er things, heard about a prod­uct I nev­er dreamed ex­ist­ed. Check it out: the IB Switch 9p; it’s a nine-port In­fini­band switch, non-blocking even, each port up to 30Gbs and no, that’s not a mis­print. Why nine, I won­der? My poor lit­tle mind bog­gles at the thought of what you could do with a rack full of ei­ther Opterons or T2000s, maxed out on mem­o­ry and wired up with one of these things. To­day, store.­sun.­com says one of these pup­pies will set you back $8,500; I imag­ine that in a decade, there’ll be one in your wrist­watch to han­dle your per­son­al teleme­try.
LAMP and MARS · At that Rails con­fer­ence, when I was talk­ing to Obie Fer­nan­dez, he asked, more or less “How can Sun love us? We’re not Java” and I said, more or less, “Hey, you’re pro­gram­mer­s, you write soft­ware and there have to be com­put­ers to run it, we sell com­put­er­s, why wouldn’t we love you?” Any­how, we touched on par­al­lelism a bit and I talked up the T1; Obie took that ball and ran with it, say­ing all sorts of pos­i­tive things about syn­er­gy be­tween Rails’ shared-nothing ar­chi­tec­ture and our mul­ti­core sys­tem­s. Yeah, well, good in the­o­ry, but I’m too old to make that kind of pre­dic­tion with­out run­ning some test­s. Hah, it turns out that Joyent has been do­ing that, and have 76 PDF slides on the sub­jec­t. If you care about big-system scal­ing is­sues, read the whole thing; a lit­tle long, but amus­ing and with hard­ly any bul­let list­s. If you’re a Sun share­hold­er look­ing for a pick-me up, check out slides 40-41, 49, and 52-74. Oh, I gath­er that the T1, So­lar­is, and ZFS are OK for Ja­va too. [Up­date: The ti­tle was just “SAMR”, as in LAMP with two new let­ter­s. Enough peo­ple didn’t get it that I was forced to think about it, and MARS works bet­ter any­how.] [Up­date: Bryan Cantrill shows how to pro­file Rails with DTrace.]
Computers in the Right Places · Pre­vi­ous­ly I wrote that we didn’t have a good pro­cess for de­ploy­ing box­es to de­serv­ing re­cip­i­ents; but we’re re­al­ly mak­ing pro­gress. Item: Last month I not­ed the serv­er for Nex­en­ta. Item: They’re get­ting the kinks out of the T2000 try-&-buy; now we ship a se­ri­al ca­ble so you can boot­strap the suck­er, and I hear they’ve weed­ed out the sil­ly “Do you have a So­laris application?” qual­i­fier; I mean, it’s ex­act­ly the peo­ple who don’t that we want to talk to. Item: We sent Ul­tra 20s to Thomas Enebo (get a blog, Thomas) and Charles Nut­ter (good blog, Charles), AKA the JRu­by Posse. Item: I want­ed to do some­thing nice for an­oth­er well-known PHP-based open-source pro­jec­t, and found out that PHP5 runs slow­er than PHP4 on the T2000, which makes no damn sense at al­l, a key ad­van­tage of PHP is that it’s shared-nothing, as in hor­i­zon­tal scal­ing, as in, that chip should eat it for break­fast. So I had a talk with An­di Gut­mans over at Zend (PHP world head­quar­ter­s), and he couldn’t see a good rea­son ei­ther. So we’re ship­ping a T2000 to the Zen­di­ans and the prob­lem may be­come in­stant­ly ob­vi­ous, or it may re­quire some work, but we’ll crack that nut one way or an­oth­er. [Up­date: Thomas Enebo has a blog.]
Those Cruel Irish · Peo­ple in­side Sun were glee­ful­ly email­ing around Colm MacCárthaigh’s big Ni­a­gara bench­mark post and I was read­ing and found my­self laugh­ing out loud. The syn­op­sis is: it’s a big se­ri­ous bench­mark and the box did great, pret­ty well slaugh­ter­ing both a Dell Xeon and a Dell Ita­ni­um. But jeep­er­s, those Ir­ish dudes are heart­less, I’m sur­prised there weren’t smok­ing shards of cas­ing and sil­i­con on the floor. I think most Apache & *n*x geeks would find them­selves gasp­ing and snick­er­ing a bit at Colm’s write-up, but there’s some re­al wis­dom there too about filesys­tem and serv­er tun­ing and so on, al­though some of the tricks are def­i­nite­ly don’t-try-this-at-home. Any­how, here are some cute sam­ples:
“Also, in each case, the sys­tem was pret­ty much un­us­able by the time we were done!”
“... about 83,000 con­cur­rent downloads.”
[They man­aged to crash So­laris with the ex­per­i­men­tal event MPM]: “Then again, it was han­dling about 30,000 re­quests at the time, with no ac­cept mutex.”
“Of course, no serv­er should ev­er be al­lowed to get in­to that kind of in­sane territory.”
“Note: these are stupid val­ues for a real-world server... re­al­ly on­ly use­ful if you are do­ing some in­sane bench­mark­ing and testing.”
“...5718 re­quests per second.”
Hey Jonathan, let ’em keep the box. [Up­date: They’re keep­ing it.]

Servers In the Right Places · Ear­li­er this month I lament­ed that we didn’t have much of a pro­cess for do­nat­ing com­put­ers to projects that are do­ing good things. We seem to be mak­ing some progress on that, for ex­am­ple the T2000-tryout pro­gram seems to be run­ning a lot smoother. But that’s not al­l; for ex­am­ple, an X2100 showed up Fri­day on the doorstep of Nex­en­ta, as in GNU/So­laris. I think that this kind of thing is a com­plete no-brainer and hope that we man­age to do more of it.
The ASF Server · Sun gave the Apache Soft­ware Foun­da­tion a serv­er last year, and I kept hear­ing, over cof­fee and beer, that they were run­ning some scary-huge num­ber of projects on it, all in­de­pen­dent­ly via zones; re­al­ly re­mark­able num­ber­s. I kept ask­ing them to write about it, and they kept not writ­ing. So here’s an email in­ter­view with Mads Tof­tum, who does a lot of sysadmin-ing around the ASF. I don’t know how typ­i­cal their work­load is, but I’m an old sysad­min my­self and I found this pret­ty in­ter­est­ing. Mads doesn’t blow his own horn much, but this is a re­mark­able in­stal­la­tion ...
Free Computers (ouch!) · If you fol­low Jonathan Schwartz, you will have ob­served a lit­tle flur­ry around our of­fer of free-trial (and maybe free-for-keeps) T2000 server­s. If you read the com­ments, it’s be­come ap­par­ent that our sys­tems for sup­port­ing this kind of mar­ket­ing pro­mo­tion, uh, need some work. I’m re­al­ly glad that Jonathan did this, be­cause I know from bit­ter ex­pe­ri­ence how bad we are at of­fer­ing hard­ware free­bies, and this will force us to fix it. Par­tic­u­lar­ly right at the mo­men­t, it seems to me a no-brainer that scat­ter­ing a few of our Opteron and Ni­a­gara box­es in the di­rec­tion of some wor­thy OSS projects and start­up com­pa­nies would be about the most cost-effective mar­ket­ing imag­in­able. On lots of oc­ca­sions I’ve gone run­ning ex­cit­ed­ly to the prod­uct groups say­ing “Hey, it would be re­al­ly great if we could get XXX a serv­er to try out!” and the re­ac­tion is along the lines of “Well yeah, but how would we do that?” It turns out that when you’re a big pub­lic com­pa­ny, if you have a de­fined pro­cess in place for do­ing some­thing, it’s easy and ef­fi­cien­t, and if you don’t, you’re in SNAFU ter­ri­to­ry. Lots of oth­er good stuff in those com­ments too, check them out. In par­tic­u­lar, I hap­pen to know that Wikipedia al­ready has one of the free-trial T2000 box­es, and that’s a very in­ter­est­ing ap­pli­ca­tion, so we’re go­ing to work with them see how fast we can make it run on that box. Sun is full of Wikipedia fan­s.
Dell, LDAP, IP Dandruff · I was look­ing at Neil Wilson’s Sun T2000 vs Dell 6850: LDAP AuthRate, a straight­for­ward Dell-vs.-Niagara LDAP bench­mark write-up, and two un­re­lat­ed but in­ter­est­ing things came to mind. First, this piece suf­fers from ma­jor IP dan­druf­f; is it re­al­ly nec­es­sary for the text iden­ti­fy­ing the CPUs to read “Intel® Xeon® EM64T” and “UltraSPARC® T1 with CoolThreads™ technology”? I know about de­fend­ing your trade­marks and so on, but this is im­pos­ing vi­su­al pain on read­er­s, and that can’t be a good thing. Se­cond point: here we have yet an­oth­er ex­am­ple of one of our peo­ple beat­ing up Del­l. In my time here, I haven’t no­ticed an or­ga­nized Dell-dissing cam­paign, but I have no­ticed per­va­sive or­gan­ic loathing for this one com­peti­tor all over the com­pa­ny, end to end. I mean, we com­pete with IBM and HP and Mi­crosoft and so on, but there’s a whole dif­fer­ent emo­tion­al lev­el around Del­l. My best guess is that it’s a cul­tur­al thing; Dell is do­ing well in this busi­ness with­out seem­ing to ac­tu­al­ly like com­put­ers very much. And one of the first things you no­tice if you work here is that peo­ple re­al­ly care about com­put­ers for their own sake; al­most ev­ery­one would be a tin­ker­er or hob­by­ist or spare-time hack­er if they couldn’t get paid for what they’re do­ing. I don’t think ei­ther Sun or Dell are go­ing away any time soon, so we can ex­pect the fun to con­tin­ue.
No Niagara! · Krai­gus Sh­meg­gus (hey, he made it up, not me), ex­plains why sysad­mins should stay away from Ni­a­garas, and of­fers ad­di­tion­al wis­dom on the per­fid­i­ous­ness of pro­fes­sors.
Niagara Day · You can’t pos­si­bly imag­ine the amount of work it’s tak­en to get here. Richard McDougall has put to­geth­er a Ni­a­gara Blog­ging Car­ni­val which is the right place to start if you’re the kind of per­son that the MSM (Main Stream Mar­ket­ing, that stands for) isn’t aimed at; i.e., not a CEO, CIO, or jour­nal­ist. My own per­son­al fa­vorite Ni­a­gara news­bites: Item: No­body gets 100% yield on their chip­s. I gath­er that for the Ni­a­garas that don’t turn out per­fec­t, we’ll sell ’em cheap­er as 7-core, 6-core, 4-core, or what­ev­er. Some of these con­figs might turn out to be the deal of the cen­tu­ry de­pend­ing how we price them. Item: They’re open-sourcing the hard­ware, too. I’m not sure ex­act­ly what that means in the big pic­ture, and the li­cens­ing is go­ing to mat­ter, but it’s cool. Item: Those eight cores, when one’s not busy, they stop it. No, they don’t idle-loop it, they stop it. Ob­vi­ous when you think of it. Item: When not to use the new stuff. Item: How the I/O works. Item: What makes chips wear out and fail? Lots of things, but es­pe­cial­ly heat; so low-wattage chips are RAS win­ners. Item: Max­i­mum geek-out! Last item: When you have Ja­va threads that map re­al close­ly on­to So­laris threads that map re­al close­ly on to hard­ware thread­s, and you al­so have a lot of well-implemented hard­ware thread­s, this is what hap­pens.
Ultra Sysadmin · I’ve got this Ul­tra 20 which among oth­er things has a huge disk with room for lots of op­er­at­ing sys­tem­s. I want to fool around a bit with Lin­ux and So­laris Clas­sic and GNU/So­lar­is, run some Bon­nie num­bers and al­so shake down my own stuff on all these dif­fer­ent box­es. I ex­pect­ed pain, and I’ve al­ready had some. This post will be my di­ary of the things that go wrong, and right ...
Bonnie Z · In case you hadn’t no­ticed, yes­ter­day the much-announced ZFS fi­nal­ly shipped. There’s the now-typical flur­ry of blog­ging; the best place to start is with Bryan Cantrill’s round-up. I haven’t had time to break out Bon­nie and ZFS my­self, but I do have some raw da­ta to re­port, from Dana My­ers, who did some Bon­nie runs on a great big honkin’ Dell [Sure­ly you jest. -Ed.] server. The da­ta is pret­ty in­ter­est­ing. [Up­date: Another run, with com­pres­sion.] [And an­oth­er, with big­ger data. Very in­ter­est­ing.] ...
Niagaras and Hummers · As a long-time Green, this Eco-Responsibility an­nounce­ment makes me pret­ty hap­py. Hum­mer Over­floweth is an­oth­er news sto­ry that made me hap­py and al­so, I think, high­lights a trend that au­gurs well for Ni­a­gara, not to men­tion civ­i­liza­tion and san­i­ty in gen­er­al. No I’m not say­ing all of the com­pet­i­tive chips out there are like Hum­mers (well, ex­cept for some of the high-end Xeon­s). But the CoolThreads stuff is the Toy­ota Prius of the CPU world.
How To Use Your Ultra · So, I’ve got this meat-grinder that runs NetBeans just in­sane­ly faster than my Pow­erBook, and I’d like to use it. The trou­ble is, I’ve al­ready got 3,397,120 pixels’ worth of screen real-estate and if I add more I won’t be able to see out my win­dow; and one key­board & mouse are enough. So­lu­tion: run the Ul­tra head­less and talk to it via the Mac, us­ing X11. It’s not problem-free but it work­s. Il­lus­trat­ed with pic­tures of de­li­cious­ly smooth, stream­lined ac­tu­al work­ing code. [Up­date: There is hope.] ...
Go Get a New Computer · That is to say, if you’re a soft­ware de­vel­op­er, or any­one whose com­put­er does some heavy lift­ing, and yours isn’t that new be­cause you’ve been un­ex­cit­ed by the last cou­ple of years’ new sys­tem­s. I say this be­cause I’ve start­ed fool­ing around with an Ul­tra 20 (dis­clo­sure: I didn’t pay for it) and holy crap, have desk­side ma­chines ev­er come along while I wasn’t look­ing. Great big huge com­pli­cat­ed Web pages just snap in­to place; NetBeans starts up in sec­ond­s; com­piles are done be­fore your fin­ger leaves the “build” func­tion key. The Ul­tra, an Opteron at 2.6GHz/2GB, is I think about as über as a single-CPU ma­chine get­s. I sup­pose there are two-headed box­es that would eat its lunch, but that gets in­to some re­al mon­ey. Th­ese pup­pies start at $900 and stay un­der $3K and our mar­keters claim they’re out front on bang for the buck. I wouldn’t know, but the busi­ness be­ing what it is, I’d be sur­prised if the com­pe­ti­tion were dra­mat­i­cal­ly cheap­er or more ex­pen­sive; ex­cept for, I poked around a bit and didn’t find any oth­er main­stream play­ers sell­ing single-Opteron work­sta­tion­s. Would I have paid a kilo­buck or three for this pro­duc­tiv­i­ty boost if I’d known what it felt like? No doubt about it. Read on for some de­tail­s, pro and con ...
Galaxy · Sun an­nounced a bunch of new com­put­ers to­day. I’m a com­put­er geek and I love work­ing for a com­put­er com­pa­ny! I haven’t got my hands on any of these pup­pies yet, but if you plow through the reams of mar­ket­ing ver­biage, it looks to me like the three main claims are: (1) the highest-performance x64 server­s, (2) the most space-efficient en­ter­prise prod­uct­s, and (3) the most power-efficient en­ter­prise prod­uct­s, (uh, I as­sume by “enterprise product” they mean “computer”, just guess­ing). All mar­ket­ing cyn­i­cism aside, these num­bers look pret­ty #$!%^! hot to me. Un­der my geek hat I’m per­son­al­ly more in­ter­est­ed in the up­com­ing Ni­a­gara line; but stil­l, these Galaxy things look like nifty box­es. [Up­date: Wes Fel­ter of IBM says I (and Sun) am full of it, that our box­es are just clones. Wel­l, I be­lieve there are big dif­fer­ences in the specs on the num­ber of port­s, and of disks, and on the pow­er sup­plies, but I’m the first to ad­mit that I’m a hard­ware ig­no­ra­mus. That’s why I point­ed to that page full of bench­mark­s; bench­marks aren’t per­fec­t, but these seem to sug­gest, like I said, that the Galax­ies are stink­ing fast box­es. Al­so, to be fair, Wes linked to this neat In­foWorld piece.] [Up­date: Another da­ta point from Alex Har­den. I couldn’t fig­ure out why you’d want four net­work jack­s, but Alex does. I showed Alex’s piece to one of our x64 heav­ies and said “good, al­though we need to make it clear that we crush xeon mp.”]
Iron for Drupal · What hap­pened was, I read the Slash­dot sto­ry about Drupal’s serv­er melt­down, and winced sym­pa­thet­i­cal­ly; I have so been there. I keep hear­ing good things about Dru­pal, so I pinged my man­ag­er Hal Stern and asked “Think we could dig up a serv­er for some good guys hav­ing a bad day?” He talked to John Fowler, Supreme Opteron Over­lord, (hey Sun.­com, that page is out of date), and on Tues­day Dru­pal got a V20z. Holy cow, John found a good one, that sucker’s got two high-end Opterons and 4G of mem­o­ry, host­ing Dru­pal will prob­a­bly leave it enough cy­cles to sim­u­late galax­ies in the back­ground. Amus­ing side­note: Dries Buy­taert of Dru­pal wrote won­der­ing “under what terms we’d get such ma­chin­ery from Sun” and Hal wrote back say­ing a men­tion on the site would be nice, “and no of­fense, but the le­gal cost of any more ‘terms’ than above ex­ceeds our cost of the hardware.” As usu­al, I can’t re­sist the op­por­tu­ni­ty to gen­er­al­ize: ladies and gen­tle­men, what we have here is an ecosys­tem. Dru­pal has a prob­lem, the com­mu­ni­ty no­tices, Slash­dot broad­cast­s, we help them out, a nice piece of in­fras­truc­ture is strength­ened, the tide ris­es and all our boats float a lit­tle high­er. Is this a great busi­ness to be in or what?
Futures Fun · I spent the whole day at a com­pa­ny sum­mit on some broad-spectrum is­sues that the next wave of Sun hard­ware is bring­ing in­to fo­cus. This in­clud­ed a de­tailed brief­ing on our next three or four gen­er­a­tions of SPARC and x86 box­es; which is pret­ty well pure porn if you like com­put­ers in gen­er­al and servers in par­tic­u­lar. I can’t pos­si­bly even be­gin to talk de­tail­s, ex­cept for I am gonna have to come up with some wild-ass project so I can get my hands on one or two of these pup­pies. I’ll say this though: if you know what CMT and TLP are and think you’re hot stuff in that area, con­sid­er get­ting in touch with Sun, be­cause do we ev­er have a lot of in­ter­est­ing work.
Sun EC: Wednesday Highlights · What sticks to my mind: First, a fine sto­ry about how the Sun Ray hap­pened, a high-drama com­bi­na­tion of skunkworks bril­liance, or­ga­ni­za­tion­al can­cer, and ex­ec­u­tive churn. My bet re­mains that a lot of peo­ple end up us­ing a Sun Ray or some­thing like it, down the road. Then, from an over­heard con­ver­sa­tion about how peo­ple ought to cool their da­ta cen­tres: “If you’re in Kansas Ci­ty and you rent­ed a for­mer air­frame fac­to­ry, well, the hell with water-cooling.” OK, then. Pass­ing note: you know that Grid thingie? It seems that the in­stances are in­ter­nal­ly called “the farms”. Can’t re­al­ly talk about what’s grow­ing there. Fi­nal­ly, a sober, scary poster pre­sen­ta­tion on what hap­pens if a se­ri­ous wor­m/virus gets loose in the do­main of big So­laris and/or Lin­ux box­es; both tough nuts to crack these days, but I’m old enough to re­mem­ber the Mor­ris Worm.
Sun EC: On XP and Agile · To­day through noon Fri­day I’m at the in­ter­nal Sun Engi­neer­ing Con­fer­ence. We opened with a cou­ple of speech­es on XP and Agile Soft­ware Devel­op­ment by Ron Jef­fries and John Nolan. I think there were some peo­ple in the au­di­ence who weren’t quite con­vinced, but I learned a cou­ple of things ...
Open Solaris · Hey, the OpenSo­laris web site is up! You can­not pos­si­bly imag­ine how much work this has tak­en, and there’s still lots to do. I’m hap­py to see that this kind of ma­jor tech­nol­o­gy push comes with a list of blogs as a mat­ter of course. Speak­ing of which, the hard­core geeks in the crowd who want to get an insider’s feel for what this whole So­laris thing is re­al­ly about can by­pass all the business-oriented of­fi­cial mar­ket­ing stuff and go straight to Bryan Cantrill’s ex­cel­lent So­laris 10 Re­vealed, which will give you all the tech­ni­cal de­tails you could pos­si­bly wan­t.
Solaris 72 · I see via Daniel Price that build 72 of So­laris 10 is post­ed. The ker­nel geeks’ hearts will beat faster over the AMD64 sup­port, but what I think is al­so news­wor­thy is that So­laris comes with StarOf­fice (as in Sun’s souped-up ver­sion of OpenOf­fice) on-board. OK, here’s my chance to get a late fea­ture re­quest in: along with a full-function of­fice suit­e, how about a C com­pil­er? [Up­date: Re­quest grant­ed!]
Co-operating With Microsoft · In the flur­ry of news last week about our big deal with Mi­crosoft, there was quite a bit of talk about the pos­si­bil­i­ties for tech­ni­cal co-operation. I’ve been pok­ing around a bit to try to fig­ure out what that ac­tu­al­ly mean­s ...
OpenOffice · I spent the day Thurs­day at StarOf­fice in Ham­burg and came away with some of my ideas about XML & blog­ging changed. It was a side-trip; oth­er busi­ness took me to Brus­sels and OpenOf­fice wasn’t that far away and I had an agen­da there, which we’ll get to. But this is im­por­tant stuff, I think. [Up­dat­ed with a point­er.] [And again with Ge­of Glass’ OO.o-to-blog gate­way.] ...
Early Sun Notes · Here­with some ran­dom notes from a Sun Mi­crosys­tems new­bie ...
Gosblog · One of the nice side-effects of work­ing here is that I found out James Gosling has a blog. Def­i­nite­ly worth read­ing, if a bit spo­radic.
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