Suns New Software Directions: RFID, Games, 3-D

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2004-03-30

Suns New Software Directions: RFID, Games, 3-D

MENLO PARK, Calif.—Sun Microsystems Inc. is hard at work on providing an end-to-end radio frequency identification (RFID) solution for major retailers like Wal-Mart and its suppliers.

Juan Carlos Soto, the director of advanced development in the office of Suns chief technology officer, told reporters attending Suns Software Day here on Tuesday that innovation was Suns DNA and that one of the many advanced technology projects his team was working on was the RFID Network, which stretched from tags to readers to RFID middleware, to integration, applications and the B2B scenario. At the event, Sun software executives also offered a glimpses into several other Sun initiatives, from Solaris 10 to new 3-D interfaces, as well as the companys Linux strategy.

According to Soto, RFID technology was now becoming inexpensive and vendors like Sun had a mandate from large retailers like Wal-Mart, which estimates that automating the receipts of its supplier goods into its warehouse could save it $ 6billion to $8 billion, he said.

Sun announced its Auto-ID group in the fall. Click here to read more about the companys RFID vision.

Suns current RFID offering included hardware, software, services and test centers, the first of which would be launched in Dallas, Texas in early May. These centers would allow customers to verify that their RFID solutions would work with retailers like Wal-Mart. A similar test center was also planned for Scotland, Soto said.

Suns solution was designed for scalability, manageability and failover, he said. The company was also helping drive industry standards, and it was incorporating its own real-world experience into the solution.

"But these are hard things to get right and takes a lot of trial and error and experimentation to get it right," Soto cautioned.

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Sun was also active in game technology, with the leading customer there being Wall Street, he quipped, noting that the company was now moving towards consumer-type games.

The total number of game consoles deployed was some 70-million, so "theres a huge volume out there." A lot of games were being written in Java, as were the cell phone games that consumers played today, he said.

Soto then turned to Project Looking Glass, Suns next generation 3-D desktop, which will allow existing 2-D applications to be run as they are today alongside 3-D applications— all within the same desktop.

"It allows users to move screens around and also take advantage of whats going on behind the screen, like jotting notes on the back of an application or to use more of the screen," Soto said.

"We are in the process of implementing this in a usable way. This is only the beginning of the possibilities for us in this regard. Were enabling compelling 3-D applications to be written while conducting usability studies. This is not necessarily the user interface that will be the final one," he said.

Sun would also consider making Looking Glass available to Gnome, but no final decision had been taken in that regard," he said.

Next Page: Solaris 10

Solaris 10

Next up at the event was John Loiacono, the senior vice president of Suns operating platforms group, focused his talk on Solaris 10 and low-cost computing, or Solaris 10 on x86 hardware.

Sun also had a project under development, known as Janus, which was essentially a migration tool that allowed Linux applications to run natively on Solaris x86, he said. Sun already offered a two-processor Solaris x86 solution and would be offering a four-processor solution sometime soon.

In addition, Sun was creating an engine that ran on any processor the customer wanted and was driven by the Java Enterprise System, he said.

Turning to Suns Linux strategy, Loiacono said the company had ended its own Sun Linux distribution and was supporting distributions from both Red Hat Inc. and Novell Inc.s SuSE Linux group, adding that all Sun software will run on Solaris and Linux. Loiacono said the company has joined the Open Source Development Lab (OSDL), and would promote the Linux Standards Base (LSB) as well as offer both Linux and Solaris at the same price.

"Whatever people have seen in feature and functionality upgrades in previous versions of Solaris, this will be dwarfed by the move from Solaris 9 to Solaris 10.

"The really cool stuff in there is dynamic tracing and fixing, known as DTrace and which is a dynamic optimization and diagnosis tool; a 10G bit Ethernet at wire-speed; the Next Generation file system, a trusted file system that is simple and allows administrators real simplicity and dramatically simplifies the volume management level functions; policy-based security; self-healing; and fault management as well as fine-grain partitioning," he said.

Some 70 to 80 percent of the features in Trusted Solaris will now also be found in Solaris 10, Loiacono said.

In a demonstration, he created three containers, each of which saw itself as independent, and provisioned individual applications for each one. If one of the containers is taken down by a virus or for some other reason, the other containers would continue to operate independently, he said.

Also, the customer could patch the operating system once and all the containers would be updated, Loiacono said.

He also reconfirmed Suns commitment to offering its Solaris solutions on both the x86 and SPARC hardware platforms at the same time. While "we are not there yet, we are headed in the right direction to achieve that goal," he said.

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