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Oracle Won't Abandon SPARC, Says Ellison 280

Posted by timothy
from the this-intermediation dept.
fm6 writes "When the Oracle acquisition of Sun Microsystems was announced, it was widely assumed that Oracle was interested only in Sun's software technology, and would sell or discontinue all its hardware businesses. Larry Ellison, in an interview just posted on the Oracle web site, says that's not what's going to happen. In particular, SPARC isn't going anywhere (PDF): 'Once we own Sun we're going to increase the investment in SPARC. We think designing our own chips is very, very important. Even Apple is designing its own chips these days.'"
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Oracle Won't Abandon SPARC, Says Ellison

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  • I mean, how are you going to mitigate the blitzkrieg campaign IBM has launched against SPARC [slashdot.org] while you're busy with the merger details?
    • by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:24PM (#27871835) Journal
      Sun makes (made) awesome technology. They built things no one else could build. They also built things no one wanted. In fact, they had a really hard time figuring out what people wanted, this was their weakness.

      Oracle, on the other hand, is extremely good and marketing. They are especially good at marketing to business. They are also good at knowing what businesses want (or alternately, making business people want what they have). I don't like Oracle, but I have to say this may be the best thing that's happened for Sparc in a long time.
      • by t3chn0n3rd (1490333) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:52PM (#27872111)
        WOw, I didnt know oracle was buying Sun. I wonder will this increase oracles usage on Solaris
        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 07, 2009 @10:00PM (#27872187)

          WOw, I didnt know oracle was buying Sun.

          I wonder will this increase oracles usage on Solaris

          I'm going to bookmark this thread and reference whenever someone says "there's no such thing as a stupid question."

          1. If you scrolled down this far, you would have seen the link to the story about Oracle buying Sun titled "Oracle buys Sun" or any of the dozen related stories on slashdot or other sites including mainstream news.

          2. Solaris on SPARC is already the largest base for deployment of Oracle.

          I kindly request you change your handle from t3chn0n3rd to something that doesn't imply a familiarity with the technology world.

          If you have recently been in a coma I apologize for being so blunt.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gaspyy (514539)

        They are especially good at marketing to business. They are also good at knowing what businesses want

        This is just a minor nitpick, but knowing what your customers want is part of the marketing. Marketing is not just advertising, though many seem to forget that.

        • This is just a minor nitpick, but knowing what your customers want is part of the marketing.

          Good marketing includes hookers and blow.
          Give 'em that and then your customers will buy whatever you are selling.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mikael (484)

        They also built things no one wanted. In fact, they had a really hard time figuring out what people wanted, this was their weakness.

        That was supposed to be the job of their ambassadors and maybe the sales/marketing people - to get feedback from potential customers as to what they wanted to see in future products. Problem is, they mostly wanted a solid reliable OS that that they wouldn't have to wait for the first service pack before upgrading an entire department as well as having a competitive price/perfor

    • by rackserverdeals (1503561) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @10:11PM (#27872287) Homepage Journal

      I mean, how are you going to mitigate the blitzkrieg campaign IBM has launched against SPARC [slashdot.org] while you're busy with the merger details?

      Interesting choice of the word blitzkrieg to characterize the marketing campaign. I think it's very appropriate.

      Blitzkrieg [wikipedia.org] was a tactic to concentrate a large fast assault on the weakest part of the enemy, disregarding the flanks and trying to avoid the strong points.

      It had success early on for the Germans, it was not something that could easily be maintained and after a year or so the allies were able to adapt to counter those types of attacks.

      Lets not forget who won the war.

      IBM is trying to take advantage of the uncertainty some people have with the merger to grab some of Sun's hardware business.

      • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:31AM (#27873627) Journal

        Germany was a small country fighting the whole world. They lost not so much because blitzkrieg wasn't a valid tactic but because it is hard to win a battle when you fight a million soldiers and the enemy has a million in reserve.

        But in this case, it is IBM who is the giant. So if you want to compare things, this is the D-day landings by the free-world/IBM vs the much beleagured Nazi's/Sun who is fighting to many battles on to many fronts and who just can't keep up with the tech race.

        Analogies, you really shouldn't stretch them to far or they turn against you.

    • by davecb (6526) *

      Oracle wanted the hardware, so they could become the kind of top-to-bottom solution that IBM used to be in the Mainframe days. IBM failed to prevent it, so now they're loudly saying "sour grapes! sour grapes!"

      I suspect the commentators who missed why IBM and Oracle wanted Sun were the same ones who said IBM and Sun were doomed technologies, and that the future was NT 4 on Intel x86-32.

      And to answer the question literally, you put your marketers on marketing the company while you put your lawyers on work

  • Designing chips (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flaming error (1041742) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @08:54PM (#27871507) Journal

    "Even Apple is designing its own chips these days."

    Unlike Oracle, I think Apple is traditionally a hardware company.

    I wish them the best carrying on the Sun baton.

    • by Mad Merlin (837387) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:08PM (#27871665) Homepage

      "Even Apple is designing its own chips these days."

      Unlike Oracle, I think Apple is traditionally a fashion accessory company.

      I wish them the best carrying on the Sun baton.

      There, fixed that for you.

      • Re:Designing chips (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mabinogi (74033) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:16PM (#27871737) Homepage

        that's not traditionally, that's lately.

        Would you really consider an Apple II to be a fashion accessory?

        • by umeboshi (196301) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:33PM (#27871927)

          Would you really consider an Apple II to be a fashion accessory?

          Well, maybe the IIc. I remember watching teachers walking around looking smug while carrying those. ;)

        • Re:Designing chips (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Unoti (731964) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:53PM (#27872121) Journal

          Would you really consider an Apple II to be a fashion accessory?

          No, but arguably starting with Mac or Lisa. It's pushing the metaphor I'll admit in the sense that you wouldn't wear a Macintosh the way you'd wear an iPod. But the appeal of the Mac and the Lisa was as much or more fashion and style as it was practical.

          • by LKM (227954) on Friday May 08, 2009 @02:47AM (#27873337) Homepage

            "But the appeal of the Mac and the Lisa was as much or more fashion and style as it was practical."

            That's an interesting statement, and it betrays more about you than about the topic we're discussing. I remember back when I went to school and the schoolwork our teachers handed out suddenly changed from photocopied hand-written stuff to neatly layouted, professionally looking stuff. That was when the Mac came out and normal people were suddenly able to use computers in a meaningful way.

            You're a geek. You don't care about normal people, because you were perfectly happy with DOS or whatever you were using. To you, all that stuff that made computers usable for everyone else was just "fashion".

            You were as wrong then as you are now.

            To you, the iPod is a fashion statement because you were happy with the MP3 players that came before the iPod. To most people, those were unusable, bulky pieces of crap. You were happy with cell phones before the iPhone came out. Most people hated their cell phones and used them only for the most basic things.

            Perhaps creating things normal people can actually use seems like "fashion" to you, but most people don't use these devices for their own sake; they don't enjoy learning complex stuff just to learn complex stuff. They want to get stuff done, and all of those things that you like, all those ways you can tinker with your toys actually only get in their way.

            Apple's success is not about fashion and style, it is about normal people getting stuff done.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by m50d (797211)
              To you, the iPod is a fashion statement because you were happy with the MP3 players that came before the iPod. To most people, those were unusable, bulky pieces of crap.

              Size can't have been the thing, the first ipods were bigger than their competitors. As for the interface, well, maybe there are people who really do find that stupid wheel-thing easier to use, but there are dozens of players doing that now. So why is the ipod the one that sells? Fashion, plain and simple.

              You were happy with cell phones bef

              • Size can't have been the thing, the first ipods were bigger than their competitors. As for the interface, well, maybe there are people who really do find that stupid wheel-thing easier to use, but there are dozens of players doing that now. So why is the ipod the one that sells? Fashion, plain and simple.

                It's Fashion in the sense that people rather be seen with something that looks nice.

                Just like with desktops, early mp3 players had shit design. Some had cheap nasty neon coloured displayed, cases that make it look more utilitarian than fun. So people went with Apple.

                Apple is seen as the innovator and the others, who are now ripping off Apple's ideas, are seen as knock-offs. People rather have the original than the imitator and perhaps more importantly, the others won't work with iTunes.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by petermgreen (876956)

                Size can't have been the thing, the first ipods were bigger than their competitors.
                Bigger than the low storage flash based players (flash was a lot more expensive then, a player with gigabytes of flash would have been unthinkable). But a bit smaller and a lot sleeker than things like the DAP jukebox. The UI was also pretty well designed afaict (if you are going to have a jukebox style mp3 player the interface is pretty critical).

                Making a good product is all about getting things right accross the board. If y

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Hatta (162192)

              I remember back when I went to school and the schoolwork our teachers handed out suddenly changed from photocopied hand-written stuff to neatly layouted, professionally looking stuff. That was when the Mac came out and normal people were suddenly able to use computers in a meaningful way.

              My teachers didn't seem to have any problem making handouts in Word Perfect on DOS. The tools are there on either platform. The only reason Macs were more prevalent in schools is because of Apple marketing directly do the

          • It's pushing the metaphor I'll admit in the sense that you wouldn't wear a Macintosh the way you'd wear an iPod.

            Well no. You'd wear a Mackintosh on top of your other clothes, to keep them dry.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:56PM (#27872139)

          Would you really consider an Apple II to be a fashion accessory?

          *dons sunglasses*

          Ohhhhh yeah. [chopshopstore.com]

        • by paganizer (566360)

          I'm pretty sure when you are talking about everything since the first Mac, you can't really say "lately".

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          No, but compared to PCs of the era I could probably get away with calling the SE/20 or SE/30 fashion accessories.

          They were certainly great little machines too, but style was key (and that's where you start hearing the anecdotes about Steve micromanaging the UI design of everything.)

        • by glwtta (532858)
          Would you really consider an Apple II to be a fashion accessory?

          Fair enough, but that was, what, 30 years ago? I think "lately" is a bit of an understatement.
    • Apple is a software company which happens to design hardware that they believe will run their software perfectly. It is hard to explain but, if you look at pre touch iPods, they are significantly weaker than other offerings in hardware specs. What makes people buy them is the software they run. Same thing can be said for iPhone vs. Nokia 5800. They didn't change overnight, it is same deal since first Apple 1. That is why people dreaming about official OS X on generic PC are kinda... Dreaming.

      If Oracle has t

  • Of course (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SultanCemil (722533) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @08:54PM (#27871511)
    Well, of course he's going to say that - he's not just going to say "well, we're planning on axing 20,000 jobs and kissing bye-bye to the SPARC line". He has to at least maintain the *illusion* that they're going to keep producing SPARC chips.

    I love the line about "even Apple" is designing its own chips. One could say "even Sun" sells Intel.
    • Re:Of course (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rackserverdeals (1503561) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:08PM (#27871669) Homepage Journal

      Well, of course he's going to say that - he's not just going to say "well, we're planning on axing 20,000 jobs and kissing bye-bye to the SPARC line". He has to at least maintain the *illusion* that they're going to keep producing SPARC chips.

      I love the line about "even Apple" is designing its own chips. One could say "even Sun" sells Intel.

      Sure, buy a company and kill off their highest revenue generating, and highest margin products which coincidentally are chosen more than any other platform to deploy your own database product. That's real smart.

      Anyone that thought it would make sense to kill off sparc doesn't have a clue or is just likely spreading IBM FUD.

      • Re:Of course (Score:5, Interesting)

        by stevesliva (648202) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:15PM (#27871725) Journal

        Sure, buy a company and kill off their highest revenue generating, and highest margin products which coincidentally are chosen more than any other platform to deploy your own database product.

        Servers were Sun's highest margin stuff? No wonder they plummeted and got bought. But if Oracle doesn't find value in offering servers bundled with software, one would wonder why IBM does. It's pretty clear that servers are now second fiddle to IBM's software business.

        Is it just me or was he explicit about maintaining Sparc, but said nothing about x86 servers? I'll have to find the rest of the interview on Reuters.

        • Re:Of course (Score:4, Informative)

          by rackserverdeals (1503561) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:28PM (#27871885) Homepage Journal

          Servers were Sun's highest margin stuff? No wonder they plummeted and got bought.

          I said highest margin products, meaning not software or services. The SPARC line of servers is higher margin than their x86 line.

          Sun's services revenue [rackserverdeals.com] has grown to be almost what their products revenue is over the years. While they're not as big as IBM Global Services, the combination of Sun's services and Oracle's will give them a leg up.

          • Re:Of course (Score:5, Informative)

            by joib (70841) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:04AM (#27873485)


            I said highest margin products, meaning not software or services. The SPARC line of servers is higher margin than their x86 line.

            It better have damn good margins. Intel, and to a lesser extent AMD, can amortize their R&D and fab costs over a zillion units. Meanwhile, last quarter [theregister.co.uk] Sun sold 60000 servers, 28000 of which were x64, leaving only 32000 SPARC systems. Again, of the SPARC systems $500m revenue was for the Sun-Fujitsu SPARC enterprise products using Fujitsu SPARC64 chips, and $300m revenue for their own Niagara systems. So yeah, with those revenues they better have damn good margins if they are going to spend more than a pittance on R&D.

            It wouldn't surprise me if they sell the rest of the SPARC chip business to Fujitsu pretty soon, provided Fujitsu wants it. That doesn't of course mean they would be killing SPARC, just that they'd be expanding the current Sun-Fujitsu deal to cover all SPARC chips.

            As for Ellison's comments, his job at the moment is obviously to convince Sun shareholders to approve the deal, some of which might well have some sentimental attachment to the SPARC business. I wouldn't trust what he says wrt Sun for one second, at least until the deal is through.

            As for services, with hardware increasingly commoditized, that's the obvious way to go. It's no surprise that the remaining survivors of the unix wars, IBM & HP, are both heavily into services.

    • Re:Of course (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MouseR (3264) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:20PM (#27871773) Homepage

      For as long as I can remember, Apple has been designing and outsourcing their own chips. Be it in the form of custom ROMs or VLSIs wich Apple is a big user of.

      Sort of a weird line coming from my boss whose also on Apple's board of directors.

      What I think he meant was to emphasize that while Apple uses Intel and makes it's software (like Oracle), they also design their own chips (more so where the AIM alliance's desktop grade PPC was viable).

      • Re:Of course (Score:5, Informative)

        by larry bagina (561269) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:45PM (#27872035) Journal
        The last year or so, Apple has been putting some serious effort into custom chip design, purchasing P.A. Semi [wikipedia.org] and hiring key design guys from IBM and AMD/ATI.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Eskarel (565631)

        Apple is starting to design their own chips, more specifically it appears for their iPhone and iPod ranges(no news so far on they trying it for PCs and I don't expect any). They've hired some heavy hitters from AMD, and made some noise in the press about it. It's fairly recent and they haven't to the best of my knowledge released anything about it yet.

        Presumably they're after technology which will provide them with a competetive advantage in the performance/battery life arenas.

        For the same reasons, the idea

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        For as long as I can remember, Apple has been designing and outsourcing their own chips. Be it in the form of custom ROMs or VLSIs wich Apple is a big user of.

        Nobody is impressed by a "custom ROM" (and nobody uses a non-programmable ROM any more, and few even use a non-electronically-erasable one) and VLSI just means "Very Large Scale Integration" ... the integration of thousands of transistors on a single chip. It's also a company that put together a lot of "custom" silicon for Apple. But in the chip industry nothing is ever a one-off, and SOP is to have a library of cores which are integrated into "custom" solutions for different customers; the custom part is w

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ilgaz (86384)

      I think many misses the fact that Sun makes some great blades running Windows enterprise... Or the entire "enterprise" market which POWER is the king, Intel, Sparc are fighting each other, AIX is a huge player, Cell started to have huge popularity as HPC newcomer etc. It is something like different universe.

      Of course, I won't see a Sun workstation in my usual life, I won't sit and admin a Enterprise server but that doesn't make me treat Sparc as something so sucky that can be easily abandoned by an enterpri

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fm6 (162816)

        I work for the part of Sun that makes the blades you're talking about. Two important details: they also run Linux, Solaris and ESX Hyperviser. And although I'm certainly glad you think they're great (as I do), remember that x64 systems (blades, rack mount systems, and one lonely workstation) are still a relatively small part of our business.

        The future of which is my biggest concern. I'm encouraged that Ellison has seen fit to debunk the assumption that Oracle wasn't interested in Sun's hardware operations.

    • Yes, when you've just bought a company that makes two chip lines that are a perfect performance fit for your flagship product, killing them makes perfect sense.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mzs (595629)

      This is not so much for the Sun employees or the JAVA stockholders, this is for the Oracle DB shops that run on solaris/sparc aka the guys paying big money to Oracle now. Oracle does not want to alienate them and get them to go IBM (and then possibly DB2) or Red Hat (and the possibly Postgress/MySQL). Also now Oracle will be making revenue on those solaris/sparc shops not just for the DB. They want to at least make outward indication that they do not intend to cause trouble for them.

  • mmmmm chips (Score:5, Funny)

    by McGiraf (196030) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @08:55PM (#27871537) Homepage

    hell, even doritos make their own chips

  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @08:59PM (#27871587) Journal
    They've reduced the size of the "wiring" about as far as it can go for silicon. Eventually something will completely replace it all, but it's not going to happen in the next 5 years.

    So, just dump more processors in a box, and optimise the processor's design to your needs.

    Apple figured it out, and Oracle's not stupid. This should work until the next big jump in processor design.

    RS

    • by mako1138 (837520) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:48PM (#27872069)

      People have been saying for years that we're about to reach the end of the line in terms of Moore's law. So far they've all been proven wrong, and scaling continues unabated.

      Dumping processors in a box is "easy", but multicore programming is not easy. The software tools are not there yet. Not to mention, you need deep pockets to roll your own multicore IC and build up the requisite software ecosystem. Just look at how much trouble Sony had with Cell. Everybody is watching to see if Intel will succeed with Larrabee.

      Now Oracle may have good reason to be interested in Sun's Niagara. Database applicances, perhaps.

      And where does Apple come into this, exactly? PA Semi's focus is on a totally different market segment.

      • by Unoti (731964) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:58PM (#27872161) Journal

        People have been saying for years that we're about to reach the end of the line in terms of Moore's law. So far they've all been proven wrong, and scaling continues unabated.

        I don't know about unabated. It's been progressing, but we hit a bump, and all the sudden it was all about multicore and such rather than just continuing to double the clock speed every year or two.

        Look at the palpable hump in this graph [wordpress.com].

      • by jcnnghm (538570) on Friday May 08, 2009 @01:08AM (#27872833)

        People have been saying for years that we're about to reach the end of the line in terms of Moore's law. So far they've all been proven wrong, and scaling continues unabated.

        Unless you know something I don't, you can't make a silicon wire smaller than the width of a single atom, so there is definitely a physical limit that we aren't that far away from. I've read that practically, the limit is 4nm for silicon nanowires. That means that if we're at 45nm today (Intel's 32nm chips are slated for 2009), and we're assuming size shrinks 50% every 18 months, in less than 72 months we'll have reached the practical lower limit for silicon features. Even assuming that you can make silicon chips with wires the width of a single atom, given that the atomic radius of Silicon is 110 pm, that only gives 144 months.

        In addition to that, at 3.2GHz, light in a vacuum can only travel about 9.36 centimeters per cycle. Given a dialetric constant for the Si02 used in chip manufacturing of 3.9, you can calculate the velocity of propagation of the electromagnetic waves through the Silicon as about 50.6% of C. Therefore, at 3.2 GHz, the electromagnetic waves inside the chip can only propagate about 4.7 centimeters per cycle. You also can lose a bit depending on the switching speed of the transistors, but they actually become faster the smaller they are, so the real limiter is the propagation speed.

        You've probably noticed that we haven't had any really major jumps in the clock speeds of consumer processors since about 2002. Intel originally thought they'd be able to scale the Pentium 4 Netburst architecture to about 10GHz, bu they ran into a frequency ceiling at about 4GHz.

        In short, unless there is a major materials breakthrough, or materials change, I would expect Moore's law to hold for the next five years or so, but not much longer after that. We're rapidly approaching the physical limits.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          Current generation CPUs with proper cooling already overclock to 8GHZ or more.
        • While I agree we are approaching a limit on transistors/area, maybe the way to go is increase overall transistor count by radically increasing chip size. Whatever happened to the idea of growing silicon in zero gravity to reduce defects and increase usable size? Are the materials science guys finding any solutions?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

          People have been saying for years that we're about to reach the end of the line in terms of Moore's law. So far they've all been proven wrong, and scaling continues unabated.

          That means that if we're at 45nm today (Intel's 32nm chips are slated for 2009), and we're assuming size shrinks 50% every 18 months, in less than 72 months we'll have reached the practical lower limit for silicon features.

          I don't know if you realize it, but you are really just confirming the OP's point -- you are just another person predicting the end of Moore's law based on the technical obstacle du jour.

          Moore's law is solely about the number of transistors on a single IC for a constant cost. Feature size may appear to be a limiting factor, but that doesn't mean it will be one when we get to that point. Just like leakage for features sizes below roughly 100nm was once thought to be an insurmountable obstacle to Moore's law

          • by Viol8 (599362)

            "technical obstacle du jour."

            I think the speed of light is more than an obstacle of the day. More like of the last 14 billion years and I don't see that changing in the next few decades. Do you?

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            The smart money is on the breakthrough, we've had plenty of them before and there is no reason to believe they are going to stop coming.

            Exactly. However, it isn't going to happen in the next few years, and from what I can gather, the next 5 are going to be the age of massive multiprocessors. There will be improvements, but nothing like the 1990s. There will be a breakthrough in speed, but Oracle is looking at the here and now, and the here and now is saying "highly specialised silicon multi-core chips arr

      • Dumping processors in a box is "easy", but multicore programming is not easy. The software tools are not there yet. Not to mention, you need deep pockets to roll your own multicore IC and build up the requisite software ecosystem.

        But when you deal with servers you don't need to worry about that, you can just launch a thread/process for each client.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:07PM (#27871655) Journal
    For many years, there were a multitude of different architectures, and all of them were supported by major software developers. Over time the number has gotten smaller and smaller, the only one used in typical desktop computers anymore is the x86 (mainly thanks to Intel investing mountains of money into the manufacturing process). Unfortunately for Intel, manufacturing isn't the advantage it once was: AMD is still able to compete with them moderately well even when they've been a generation behind in manufacturing. Other things are coming into play besides raw processing power, things like power consumption and battery life.

    Intel is going to have trouble competing on battery life with ARM, or even PowerPC. Going into the future, we are going to see more ARM based netbooks (and they are going to be more usable), and the already common ARM handheld device is going to become more powerful. Suddenly there is going to be a need for software that runs on more than one architecture again. This is a good thing, in my opinion: it means x86 will not necessarily be the dominant processor forever into the future.
    • by bcrowell (177657) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:42PM (#27872009) Homepage

      Going into the future, we are going to see more ARM based netbooks (and they are going to be more usable), and the already common ARM handheld device is going to become more powerful.

      Can you amplify on this? I tried an intel-based netbook recently and was pretty dismayed at the performance. I have an ARM-based music server running Linux, and although it's fine for the purpose I'm using it for, it feels agonizingly slow when I ssh in and do things on the command line -- I shudder to imagine what it would be like running Gnome and OOo or Firefox on that CPU. It seems unlikely to me that anyone could make an ARM-based netbook with acceptable performance any time in the near future, unless they were using software much more lightweight than Gnome, OOo, and Firefox. And yet I hear people talking as though ARM-based netbooks will be on the market within a year or something. What am I missing here? Is it all vaporware? Are clock speeds of ARM chips improving at some fantastic rate? It's one thing to run software like iPhone apps that are designed from scratch for a low-end CPU, but I just don't see how it's going to happen with a more traditional desktop software stack.

      • by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:58PM (#27872165) Journal
        Sure. ARM is not a single processor, it is a family of processor pieces. Companies license the various pieces from ARM, and put them together in any way they want. Thus you can get a cheap, low power ARM that only costs a few dollars, or you can get more powerful chips. You can also tweak the design in weird ways like reversing the byte order. You can get some that carry their RAM with them on the same chip. Thus the ARM in the iphone is different than the ARM in the Kindle which is different than the ARM which is in the doorknob at the hotel.

        So the fact that the ARM in your computer is slow is no reflection on every other ARM (also, if it is really that slow on the command line, the problem might be you don't have enough RAM. Realistically the command line was supported by chips running 1 at megahertz. You might want to check to see if stuff keeps getting swapped out). ARM can be fast or it can be slow, it can be anything you want it to be. It is a much more flexible design than the x86.
      • by pizzach (1011925)

        And yet I hear people talking as though ARM-based netbooks will be on the market within a year or something.

        Arm procesors are being used in smart phones/portable video game systems, the next natural step would be netbooks as they are slightly larger and more powerful. The Arm processor in the iPhone doesn't seem to have any problems running a portable version of Mac OS X and on top of that 3D games form the App store, so I am not seeing where you are coming from.

  • by Renderer of Evil (604742) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:11PM (#27871691) Homepage

    "If a company designs both hardware and software, it can build much better systems than if they only design the software. That's why Apple's iPhone is so much better than Microsoft phones."

    Ellison always finds ways to throw tiny daggers at Microsoft.

  • Good for routers? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:13PM (#27871705) Homepage

    While Oracle is big, I kind of doubt that they could ever keep up with Intel. Even in turn-key appliance servers (sort of an iMac of databases, pre-configured computer), Intel/AMD will outstrip them in performance and they won't be able to stay up to date.

    The only place I can think that this would be useful is routers. In a turn-key appliance like that that does a very specialized job (especially one that requires custom silicon to do the routing fast enough), SPARC could make sense. It would make it harder to steal their software (because you'd have to run on SPARC). It would give them total control (no need to source processors from external companies). They could even build the SPARC cores into the same chips that hold all the magic high-speed routing magic.

    SPARC could be useful, but I doubt they'll try and compete in the general market.

    This is just off the top of my head. Is there something special about SPARC that would make it remarkably good at some specific application that Oracle uses?

    • Re:Good for routers? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by FooAtWFU (699187) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:28PM (#27871883) Homepage
      A specific application? I can think of two applications that would interest Oracle. A database, and the things that use the database (mostly Java). So ask yourself: For the database - do Sun SPARC servers meet requirements like: high-performance I/O, multi-processing, reliability, clustering, and... say, having massive amounts of RAM? And: does Java run well on SPARC?

      ... okay, the last one's a silly question.

    • More than routers (Score:5, Interesting)

      by oneiros27 (46144) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:32PM (#27871911) Homepage

      It's not routers -- it's specialty appliances.

      Take for instance your GPU -- it's just a processor that's tuned to do one specific task. Now, imagine that Oracle could take Sun's experience to customize a chip for the type of instructions that their database used a lot. Sure, the chip might not compete on all tasks, but if they could give a simple drop-in oracle appliance (or even a mysql appliance, and make money by selling hardware and support for it), they might have a reason to stay in the hardware business.

      Now, I don't think that they should actually make the chips -- just design them for the right balance of power consumption / integer performance / floating point / cache / whatever makes sense for their applications.

      Oh -- and to answer your question -- Sun is Oracle's recommended software platform. And Sun bought the Cray assets from SGI -- the E10k and other 5 digit models are descendants of that line. SPARC are highly reliable, high performance processors (or at least, they were back when I used to work on Suns ... from 1995-2003) -- but it's like RAID -- if you can throw 10 cheaper processors at it, do we really need the one big one? And that all depends on what you're trying to run on it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Now, I don't think that they should actually make the chips -- just design them

        I don't think Sun has ever manufactured chips. They just design them and outsource the manufacturing. Ellison says they will continue to do that in the PDF linked in the summary.

      • by mako1138 (837520)

        I think Niagara [sun.com] may fit the bill.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Actually, routers might be a good match for SPARC. A processor that can handle comparing/transforming/etc ipv6 addresses in a single instruction and handle a high number of threads might actually be a nice match for a certain type of high-end router that has to do a lot of filtering. Sun is known for having a lot of backbone and always has been (right from the VME days.)

      • Actually, many specialty appliances are now moving to x86 hardware. Off the top of my head, Cisco and F5 both deploy linux/unix on x86 hardware.

    • Is there something special about SPARC that would make it remarkably good at some specific application that Oracle uses?

      8 cores per CPU with 4 hardware threads each, for one.

    • by Spit (23158)

      Fast CPU doesn't mean fast system.

  • by McNihil (612243) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:29PM (#27871889)

    I'll wager this character "!"

    I have a funny remark regarding what Ballmer is doing but my post would be tagged as flamebait, so I'll just write the clencher: Toilet paper.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm trying to figure out if that was a insightful speculation or a bunch of words thrown together randomly.

  • Paranoid slashvertisement mutterings are one thing but this is a little blatant. http://img8.imageshack.us/img8/4136/javaidh.png [imageshack.us]
  • Why abandon SPARC? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by makinsky (1461215) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @10:00PM (#27872179)
    During their initial press release [prnewswire.com] Larry Ellison said: "Oracle will be the only company that can engineer an integrated system - applications to disk - where all the pieces fit and work together so customers do not have to do it themselves..."

    Doesn't that sound like they did actually want to keep all the Sun's hardware business including SPARC from the very beginning?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by XDirtypunkX (1290358)

      It makes sense when you think of Apple's success in vertical integration. Why not a drop in database box that is setup specifically with Oracle's service department in mind.

      Need more performance? Call up Oracle, a pre-configured plug-and-play rack mounted box arrives, you slide it in, plug it in and you have more performance.

      • I'd rather get a database-in-a-box that works so well you forget it's there until your receptionist calls you because it's detected a bad drive and ordered a replacement for you... rather than one where you have to find the magic dongle headphones before you can turn it on.

    • When they announced the merger, I assumed SPARC was one of the things they wanted. I don't have access to either the hardware or the software to test it, but the T2 seems to be designed almost entirely for applications like Oracle's database with lots of concurrent queries. Since the merger, I've heard from people running this configuration, and apparently it works exactly as I'd expect, with the added bonus that Oracle charges per socket so the T2 gives the best price/performance for large DBs. The only
  • by juuri (7678) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @10:05PM (#27872229) Homepage

    "Oh you want support for a database product on commodity hardware? Well we have this little MySQL thing you can use.

    Oh you want to continue to run Oracle? Well that is now only supported on our new line of SPARC hardware."

    Oracle can now (and will) sell you the entire database from sand to sql results at whatever price they deem acceptable to themselves this quarter. You thought license costs were crazy before? Well now they come with official hardware and support contracts for the box.

    • Even more than that. I'd suspect they'll probably buy out kickfire. Kickfire licenses mysql and mixes it with some custom a hardware( a sql chip they call it) and a column database for some pretty amazing speeds. Or they could just do it themselves, whcih I half expected with sun anyways.
    • You hit it in one. IF your company runs Oracle on Red Hat, prepare to get fucked.

      -B
  • by shish (588640) on Friday May 08, 2009 @01:25AM (#27872921) Homepage
    Could dedicated database hardware outperform generic x86/sparc in the same way that GPUs are several orders of magnitude faster than software rendering? I would presume that databases are too large and varied compared to the "run a single task 2 million times in parallel" of graphics, but I am not a database coder...
  • by MagikSlinger (259969) on Friday May 08, 2009 @09:47AM (#27876541) Homepage Journal

    With all the talk of container and "lego" [datacenterknowledge.com] data centers, Oracle wants to become fully vertically integrated so that you can go to Oracle and say: "I've got $10 million -- sell my data center blocks".

    Sun's already been developing their own data-center-in-a-shipping-container [sun.com], and Oracle now has all the bits and pieces:

    • Hardware that runs Oracle really well -- Sun SPARC
    • The operating system for big data centers -- Solaris
    • The Java application server -- BEA's WebLogic
    • The Database -- well duh!

    Also, having a horde of hardware engineers is Ellison's wet dream. As I said before, Larry Ellison wakes up every morning and asks himself, "How can I [fsck] Microsoft today?" Larry has stated in the past he wouldn't mind moving beyond databases, and with Sun's hardware and Java, he's poised to do pretty much anything he wants. So he might entertain delusions of mobile, return of the net appliances, home multimedia, etc. In the short term, though, I think he's hoping he can create custom hardware to make Oracle and Java run much faster. Will he succeed? Dunno, but Larry Ellison has a ferocious desire to succeed, and often, that's all you need.

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