Sun CEO: HPC Is Here to Stay

Despite the perception, Web 2.0 companies need scalable computer power, Schwartz says.

SAN FRANCISCO-Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz said high-performance computing is alive and well, noting that he sells Sun gear to newer Web 2.0 companies that ask for large multiprocessor systems to scale their businesses.

Schwartz, easily the most prominent C-level executive blogging for a major high-tech company, made his comments April 25 at the Web 2.0 Expo here.

The CEO, charged with driving Sun forward in an increasingly competitive market where systems vendors are turning their attention to Internet-based-or cloud-computing, cast aside the idea that companies just want several one-way "pizza box" servers.

"All horizontal scale, ultimately, scales vertically," he said.

To that end, Schwartz said that while the perception is that Internet-focused companies use those one-socket servers, their average node is a four-way platform, which carries a lot of computing power when running Sun's eight-core UltraSPARC T1 and T2 chips.

"To me, that looks like a 32-way computer. And by the way, when you sit down and talk to folks at companies like Facebook, they start talking to you about high-performance computing to interpolate and interrogate the social graph, and they all of a sudden need terabit switching," he said. "So I think we're seeing a very interesting shift from how do we simply serve the Web to how do we run analytics against it."

Keynote host Tim O'Reilly also asked Schwartz about a favorite topic of his: green IT. Sun, whose SMP systems consume tremendous amounts of energy, offers the Blackbox mobile data center as a supercooled solution to companies with power consumption woes. The Blackbox-known formally as the Sun Modular Datacenter-could prove to be a competitive advantage versus rivals such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Dell, Schwartz said.

The Blackbox, for example, could help cities such as Tokyo, where he said enterprises are paying 30 cents a kilowatt for power, which means the cost to run the server is greater than the cost of the actual server.

"Imagine if the gas in your car exceeded the cost of your car," he said.

Schwartz also championed MySQL as "a financial asset that is growing like a weed" and claimed Sun will be able to amplify the startup's Linux database assets success as the industry's focus shifts toward cloud computing.

He was excited by the fact that MySQL gets 70,000 downloads a day onto servers and storage devices, which he noted is what Sun specializes in.

"We get 70,000 opportunities a day to introduce them to the infrastructure that could provide an online backup for MySQL," Schwartz said.

His comments came two months after Sun sealed the deal for the Swedish company, which had become the poster child for how to succeed in running an open-source software business.