Sun Visualizes World Domination

By Sean Gallagher  |  Posted 2004-11-16

Sun Visualizes World Domination

A few years back at the very first LinuxWorld conference in San Jose—back when they could fit LinuxWorld in the San Jose Convention Center, and girls in BSD Unix red devil costumes attempted to lure top-hatted Linux kernel hackers into temptation—Linus Torvalds joked about his goal for Linux being "total world domination."

It was funny because, well, it was partially true. Linux proceeded to eat the lunch of all of the established Unix vendors over the next few years, and made Microsoft ever so queasy.

Sun Microsystems apparently learned some lessons from Linus. Despite the fact that Scott McNealy said Monday that Sun has been doing open source forever, and that Bill Joy had in fact been doing open source when "Linus was in diapers," it took Linux to show Sun the path away from its declining market share. And that path is paved toward, well, total world domination.

Go ahead and laugh. But below all of the droning of numbers and speeds and feeds at Suns quarterly launch event Monday was a vision no less ambitious than what Torvalds joked about back in 1999.

Im still parsing the usable data from the two-and-a-half hours of Scott McNealy and Jonathan Schwartz song-and-dance routines Monday.

There were very few surprises among the things that Sun announced as part of its Solaris 10 rollout. But the inflection of some of the announcements, as well as some of the things that didnt get announced, form an interesting picture of where Sun is going with this whole circus. And it looks vaguely like Ma Bell.

First, theres what Sun didnt announce. The most obvious thing that McNealy and Schwartz failed to mention was any further details on when and how Sun would open-source Solaris 10.

A passing mention was made that this was still in the works, but Sun apparently hasnt hammered out enough of the details of how its open-source community for Solaris, also known as Project Tonic, will operate.

Or it could be legal issues that are still in hang-fire. But considering that Solaris doesnt officially become commercially available until January, and that Sun held its big quarterly release party a little early this quarter, Id say theres probably going to be more news on that front before the end of the year.

Next Page: What about Sun Ray Server?

Sun Ray Server Software

3.0"> The same goes for the anticipated release of Sun Ray Server Software 3.0, which Sun showed off at LinuxWorld this summer.

Schwartz dragged Sun CIO Bill Vass up on stage to demo Suns internal Sun Ray implementation with Solaris 10—upgrading 30,000 users in just three days. And that was a pretty slick-looking Sun Ray he did the demo on ... but they didnt mention it. Hmmm.

Read more here about Sun Ray Server Software 3.0.

The quick mention of Suns next-generation UltraSPARC processor, code-named Niagara, during the event signals some of where Sun is going with all of this.

The chip can run 32 "hardware threads" simultaneously—acting as 32 virtual UltraSPARCs—on only 56 watts of power. Add to that the partitioning capabilities of Solaris 10—which include the ability to run virtual Linux partitions—along with the performance boosts and better processor utilization that Sun claims Solaris 10 and the application switch it announced Monday can deliver.

Add it up, and it becomes obvious where Sun sees its next big opportunity: data-center consolidation.

Now, tag on the Sun Ray strategy to that consolidation. What if you could serve 30,000 desktops without having to do actual desktop management? What if you could replace, say, 80 percent of your desktop computers with thin clients that look, act and feel close to the desktops they replace—without the patches, security risks or short life cycle?

With all of that extra room in your data center, you could throw a few racks of Sun Ray servers in (or at least Sun hopes you will) and do just that. Then theres the theme that seemed to dominate the event, being carried over from Schwartzs Wall Street presentation last month—the conversion of Sun into a service-based company.

Solaris user licenses are free, and Sun will "monetize" Solaris through support. Sun wants to sell customers CPU cycles on eBay (or through some other channel) for a dollar a CPU hour, storage for 80 cents a gigabyte-month, and Sun Rays on a monthly subscription, Schwartz said.

Imagine a world where somebody else runs all of your compute cycles and takes care of all of your storage, and you set up computer desktops in the same way you plug in office phones. Thats what Sun is imagining, and it wants to be the one sending you your monthly bills.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Rocket Fuel