Friday, September 17, 2004

This could be interesting ...

The difference between humans and white mice.

I'm watching with amusement as IBM prepares to stub its toe with their new, curiously named "OpenPower" low-end boxes.

Now, I will freely admit I am entirely confused by what they're doing. Why on earth would you ship a proprietary computer that doesn't run your own operating system (AIX)? If I were trying to freak out my installed base, that's exactly what I'd do.

Surely they should read my earlier entry here, regarding the history of OS blunders, and the difference between humans and white mice. (White mice learn from history, while humans have a harder time in far broader fields of endeavor.) Chips don't matter if they don't have software (see Dec ALPHA for the ideal example), and software doesn't matter if it doesn't run in volume (see HP/UX on Itanium).

Second, saying "it's ok, we run linux" is like saying you "run the internet." Sure feels like IBM is trying to avoid specifying the distro. Why? Because they'd be doing demand creation for Red Hat. And why buy WebSphere when you can just use what comes in Red Hat? - "Jonas (Red Hat's app server) is just a toy, it's just for the low end" said IBM's exec at the Smith Barney Tech Conference I just attended in NYC. Notwithstanding the familiarity of that refrain to how linux itself was mistakenly positioned a few years ago, the irony is that IBM is positioning these new boxes as low end boxes. Presumably ideal for running a low end app server, and just using what's in Red Hat.

Finally, the 'P' in Power5 stands for Proprietary. You can't claim your chip is open if you're the exclusive supplier, guys - at least you can dual source SPARC from Sun or Fujitsu. Perhaps we should rename SPARC OpenSPARC. Nah, I like what AMD is doing with "industry standard" better. And while SPARC is outshipping Power 3:1 (so sayeth IDC), sure sounds like we're the industry standard.

IBM saying they're using this to come after Sun really suggests they've gone a few degrees shy of plumb - the single biggest threat to low-end SPARC isn't a funny low volume Power5 box without an operating system. The big alternative to SPARC arose years ago from volume in the x86 market. That's why we've built out the most complete family of Solaris/Opteron systems the industry has to offer, and we're starting to drive into the $20B+ x86 market. Volume has spoken.

That's also why we changed tack with SPARC, to move away from the single thread approach, to truly parallelized multi-core computing. And not just a tepid two core approach - the internet is one massive, multi-threaded application environment. Every user is, for all intents and purposes, his own thread - whether they're shopping for chandeliers on eBay, or managing wealth at Lehman Brothers. So if you want to see what multi-core computing looks like, allow me to help. It looks like this:

Multi-core reality

This is the silicon for our Project Niagara chip: 8 cores * 4 threads per core = a 32-way computer. On a chip.

And did I mention we have silicon, and not just a JPEG file?

And I saved the best for last. Are you ready?

It's already running Solaris. A volume OS that eats threads for lunch, on the world's most advanced massively parallelized silicon.

That's not just a box.

Multi-core SYSTEM

That's what we call a system. A system built for internet workloads. Not for the expedience of a press release. And a system that gives customers yet more choice, rather than taking choice away.

(And before you ask, yes, we are planning a nicer box when we ship :)

Source: COO - Jonathan Schwartz's Weblog (Sun MicroSystems)

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