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Sun and Oracle – aftermath of the big event Comments Off on Sun and Oracle – aftermath of the big event

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Last week Oracle held a marathon 5 hour webcast session, where they laid out their plans for Sun and their technologies. Sun’s website now redirects to Oracle, and although all the old Sun website links are still live, it’s now Oracle through and through.

The webcast held no surprises, really. As I mentioned previously about the Sun/Oracle merger and Larry’s talk on Oracle’s use of Sun technology, Oracle weren’t going to ditch Sun’s hardware line. The analysts were full of hysterics and gloom, but I’ve yet to meet an analyst who has the slightest clue of what’s going on. They’re paid to make noise and sell ‘research’, not to know what they’re talking about.

As predicted, there’s more investment in Sun’s hardware line, including lots more tasty new CMT processors, and a scaling up of the line to larger multi-socket machines. The high end gear will continue, as will the partnership with Fujitsu. SPARC continues to get a lot of investment and love, and will be a big focus going forwards. Amen to that.

Pretty much all of the software stack will stay and get integrated with Oracle’s offerings. I note with distaste that Oracle’s crappy Internet Directory remains the ‘enterprise’ offering for LDAP and identity management, with Sun’s LDAP products being pushed at smaller deployments. On the OS side, it’s a bit of Linux, and Solaris, Solaris, Solaris – Oracle recognise it’s the best commercial UNIX currently on the market, and that the feature set is unmatched.

Storage lives on, with Sun’s excellent Amber Road Storge 7000 Unified Storage boxes becoming ZFS appliances. Particularly exciting is their integration into OEM – imagine simple management of RMAN backups to ZFS appliances, giving low level snapshots and all sorts of goodness. I can see a lot of places going for that in a big way.

The big question for me was around OpenSolaris. No mention of it at all. It’s Open Source – that particular cat is out of the bag, and it’s not going away. So the question is what sort of effort will Oracle put behind it? Lots of new, OpenSolaris specific features – the new IPS packaging system and the Automated Installer – have potential, but aren’t up to scratch yet, and quite frankly don’t play well with existing Solaris infrastructure.

My bet is we’ll see less effort in re-inventing the wheel, and more focus on making OpenSolaris a more palatable Solaris 11. There’s a big Solaris installed base out there, and the focus on x86 and new features has so far meant that OpenSolaris isn’t really a credible upgrade path.

As I expected when I first heard the news, Oracle are going to be leveraging Sun’s technology and services and own and optimise the entire stack, from the silicon up to the application. This gives them a chance to really tune everything and to go head to head with IBM. May you live in interesting times, as they say.

Obviously there’s more, lots more. Oracle have handily posted up each section of the webcast so you can pick and choose which session you want to watch here. There are also a series of special short webcasts which focus on specific product areas – you can view them all here.

PS: as a side note, Thomas Kurian, who presented the Software Strategy webcast, managed to give one of the dullest presentations I’ve seen. Seriously, that was a really important session, but I almost nodded off a couple of times. Dire.

New SPARC solutions are on their way Comments Off on New SPARC solutions are on their way

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The Hotchips conference is over, and with it comes some news from Sun about their SPARC plans. Sun shared details of it’s “Rainbow Falls” processor – the next iteration in the Niagara line.

Boasting 16 cores, each with it’s own cache, it’s an impressive bit of silicon. Each core has 4 Coherency Units (COU). Familiar to anyone who’s played with big Silicon Graphics kit and other cc:NUMA boxes, Coherency Units keep track of memory contents (from L2 cache up to physical RAM).

4 COUs per core, along with 16 seperate L2 caches, is a lot on a single die. To simplify things (and to help improve performance) Sun has added a Core to Cache Crossbar (CCX). Two cores will share a single entry point into the CCX, which is linked to every core on the chip.

It’s essentially a standard switching crossbar – like UPA, Xbow, NUMAlink etc. – except it’s linking cores and L2 caches, not CPUs, RAM, and I/O bays.

All pretty impressive stuff – remember, this is all on the processor die – and it sounds like it would be ideal in a large system. Those M9000 boxes look pretty inviting, especially after the disappointment of the Niagara system board upgrades for the F15k.

And in fact, maybe that’s what Oracle has up it’s sleeve. The Prophets of Larry have said they will be making a major SPARC announcement on October 14th, during Larry’s yearly sermon to the faithful at Oracleworld. (Sorry, guys – I love you really)

With IBM pushing forward development of it’s fearsome Power7 chip, and with Power6 a bit of a monster anyway, Sun clearly needs to keep in the game – especially after (foolishly) canning Rock.

The Oracle announcement will be aimed clearly at blowing the doors off IBM – check their rhetoric and the fuzzy teaser advert on the Sun plus Oracle is Faster page.

Now, there are a number of ways they could bury IBM in the TPC-C benchmarks. Most obvious would be a massive RAC install, probably with Fujitsu’s new 8 way SPARC64 chip. But that wouldn’t really be blowing the Sun SPARC trumpet, would it?

The current top end Niagara box – the T5440 – can have up to four 8 core Niagara CPUs (along with half a terabyte of RAM). It’s pretty good, but again – the only way you can scale is by clustering them. Oracle have an insanely great scalable database solution with Oracle RAC, so it would seem a no-brainer.

However, if Sun are close to releasing Rainbow Falls, they could use the system boards and interconnects from the M9000 chassis to produce a hugely thread-dense NUMA machine. All that coherency hardware makes no sense for a cluster – it’s role is in a big Single System Image (SSI) machine.

We’ll find out in a month.

Sun’s OpenSPARC CPU 2 comments

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Back in 2005 when Sun released the Niagara chip – the UltraSPARC T1 – they also took the unusual step of open sourcing the hardware design of the CPU. Having a ground breaking 8 core, 32 thread CPU was impressive enough, but sharing the internals with anyone who was interested – awesome!

Recently Sun have announced a partnership with Europractice, who are a pan-European group setup to promote student learning of chip design across Europe. It follows on from the successful Eurochip organisation which had similar aims.

With Europractice, Sun are making CPU design details, chip architecture documentation, and FPGA tools available to Universities across Europe. As part of that, Sun are hosting two one day events in London at the beginning of December to spill the beans on all aspects of the OpenSPARC design, as well as some history of the SPARC family.

Sadly this is only open to Europractice members from academic institutions, but Sun have continued their theme of openness by making all the slides and documentation available via their web site.

You’ll need a (free) Sun site login, but head on over to https://wikis.sun.com/display/OpenSPARC/Slidecast+-+All+About+OpenSPARC and download over 5 hours of slides, complete with voice overs and designer notes.

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