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Oracle Won't Abandon SPARC, Says Ellison

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the this-intermediation dept.

Oracle 280

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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280 comments

Are You Really Prepared for the Hardware Market? (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27871491)

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?

Re:Are You Really Prepared for the Hardware Market (5, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#27871835)

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.

Re:Are You Really Prepared for the Hardware Market (4, Funny)

t3chn0n3rd (1490333) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872111)

WOw, I didnt know oracle was buying Sun. I wonder will this increase oracles usage on Solaris

Re:Are You Really Prepared for the Hardware Market (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

One of the 'rare' times to +* mod an AC. on /..... (-1, Offtopic)

rts008 (812749) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872323)

Whoever you are, this was ++insightful, and ++informative.
For whatever reason you chose AC, I will still give you unofficial 'Kudos' for that.
Looking at the parent's UID, you might have included an:"are you extremely new here" phrase in your comment...it would be applicable in so many ways.

Well done, AC!!! Whoever you are!
I have also 'bookmarked' this one, and used the F.E.B.E. extension for Firefox to back up the bookmarks. :-)

There are no stupid questions... (1)

ThatbookwritingWheel (553383) | more than 5 years ago | (#27873281)

...there are just inquisitive idiots.

Re:Are You Really Prepared for the Hardware Market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27873247)

In the future, try thinking before speaking.

Re:Are You Really Prepared for the Hardware Market (2, Insightful)

gaspyy (514539) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872807)

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.

Re:Are You Really Prepared for the Hardware Market (5, Interesting)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872287)

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.

Well, if you want to stretch the anology (4, Interesting)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 5 years ago | (#27873627)

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.

Designing chips (5, Insightful)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 5 years ago | (#27871507)

"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.

Re:Designing chips (4, Funny)

Mad Merlin (837387) | more than 5 years ago | (#27871665)

"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 (5, Insightful)

mabinogi (74033) | more than 5 years ago | (#27871737)

that's not traditionally, that's lately.

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

Re:Designing chips (4, Funny)

umeboshi (196301) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (3, Interesting)

Unoti (731964) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872121)

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.

Re:Designing chips (1)

blackpig (1112913) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872599)

The Apple IIc was a nice looking piece of gear for it's day. Featured in a kids movie too, I think... Explorers?

Practicality and Fashion (4, Insightful)

LKM (227954) | more than 5 years ago | (#27873337)

"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:Practicality and Fashion (3, Interesting)

m50d (797211) | more than 5 years ago | (#27874043)

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 before the iPhone came out. Most people hated their cell phones and used them only for the most basic things.

Oh, come on. Compare doing any task you can think of on a near-contemporary, say the Razr. It's barely any different, and certainly not any harder. Nope, I'm not buying it. Fashion.

Re:Designing chips (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27872139)

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

*dons sunglasses*

Ohhhhh yeah. [chopshopstore.com]

Re:Designing chips (1)

paganizer (566360) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872167)

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

Re:Designing chips (2, Insightful)

pathological liar (659969) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872185)

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.)

Re:Designing chips (2, Informative)

ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872581)

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.)

Odd, since Jobs had left the company (ie. been fired) by then.

Re:Designing chips (3, Funny)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872979)

Odd, since Jobs had left the company (ie. been fired) by then.

That's why it was safe to start talking about it.

UI Design != Style (1)

LKM (227954) | more than 5 years ago | (#27873347)

What in the world does "UI design" have to do with "style"?

Re:Designing chips (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872425)

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 stealth software company (2, Interesting)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872955)

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 this neat idea of having devices, gigantic mainframe like servers (Sun's top line), portable enterprise database servers.. They are going with Apple's idea. Of course, they aren't stupid to abandon their "runs on Linux/AIX/zOS/Windows/Whatever" software.

Just imagine a Sparc which have accelerator functions just for database operations. That kind of possibilities kept Apple in PowerPC for years, G4/G5 especially have some excellent functions for media which came from Apple. Of course, times has changed and IBM started to hate end user desktop except consoles so they sold them out and moved to Intel. If you look at how easy was for Apple to move to Intel and how easy for them to release software for Windows when they want, you can't call them just a hardware company.

If something really bad happened to Apple, it is even possible to release OS X/iTools/iWork for Windows. Of course, we wouldn't get the same experience on millions of different configurations and substandard $10 cards. That is why you see Apple hardware.

Re:Apple is a stealth software company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27873711)

Apple is a company trying to provide the perfect user experience. You can't really separate their desire for great desire for great hardware, because what they want is to have the two combine perfectly. What's more, in the last decade they've been buying or buying out third party software whereas they've kept the devices in-house designs. The original iPod software was largely developed by other companies, in fact. (And if you look at the ridiculously rudimentary iTunes and App Store, you can clearly see those bits of software related to the iPod are not particularly important to Apple. They don't even care that the poor design stifles sales on the stores, they just want to move the hardware.)

Although I can't speak for its entire run, the iPod's hardware was a huge part of its initial traction in the market. The competition consisted of players with similar or more storage that were ungainly in size, or smaller players that had almost no storage. The iPod offered a pocket-sized mp3 player with the most storage, and Apple continued that tendency to focus on getting near the most capacity into ever more conveniently-sized iPods. They also had firewire, and a unique clicky-wheel that combined with the software for a great user interface. You can bet that many people bought iPods solely based on its hardware, but no one bought it having tried the software on it own.

Of course (4, Insightful)

SultanCemil (722533) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (4, Insightful)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27871669)

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 (4, Interesting)

stevesliva (648202) | more than 5 years ago | (#27871725)

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 (3, Informative)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27871885)

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 (4, Informative)

joib (70841) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (3, Interesting)

MouseR (3264) | more than 5 years ago | (#27871773)

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 (5, Informative)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872035)

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:Of course (2, Insightful)

Eskarel (565631) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872667)

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 of selling a database appliance is probably something that appeals to Oracle. Considering they just bought a company with heavy investment in hardware, operating systems as well as web and virtualization technologies. This is probably a rather appealing idea.

If they can make it work it's potentially a very profitable one, and they've got a better chance than Apple since they've just bought a company with all the bits they didn't have as opposed to trying to start designing and fabbing chips(something Apple has never done) even if it's only for the low power handheld market.

Re:Of course (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872799)

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 which cores are in the package, and sometimes they just turn off some unused cores in a previous, working design if the customer isn't that picky about die area. Furthermore, that stuff more or less disappeared when Apple went intel, but of course the iPhone is a whole different ball of wax.

Re:Of course (2, Interesting)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 5 years ago | (#27873001)

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 enterprise software company...

Come on people... Lets go to some enterprise focused sites (Register has a great section) to see the real deal before talking eh? A database company who hasn't produced any kind of "small" (sub 10 users) serving software pays billions just to kill mysql which doesn't compete in any of their segments, closes down Java, kills Sparc... If they are _that_ stupid, how come they are one of the largest software companies on Earth?

mmmmm chips (5, Funny)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 5 years ago | (#27871537)

hell, even doritos make their own chips

Re:mmmmm chips (5, Funny)

MBCook (132727) | more than 5 years ago | (#27871735)

No, they don't!

It's the big secret of the snack-food world. People have been killed for revealing it. They are actually made by *loud crash*

Oh crud, they found me! HELP M#*%(&#*# NO CARRIER

Re:mmmmm chips (5, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#27871899)

hell, even doritos make their own chips

Yeah, but their performance makes even Cyrix look good.

Re:mmmmm chips (2, Funny)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872431)

Yeah. At least Cyrix tastes of *something* (silicon). And they are quite crunchy too.

Mmmhhh... chips...

1976 called (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27871557)

They left a message about Apple and something.

My theory why: multiprocessors (4, Interesting)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#27871587)

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

Re:My theory why: multiprocessors (4, Insightful)

mako1138 (837520) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:My theory why: multiprocessors (5, Interesting)

Unoti (731964) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872161)

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] .

Re:My theory why: multiprocessors (3, Informative)

mako1138 (837520) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872257)

Moore's law [wikipedia.org] involves transistor count, not clock speed. Note the graph in the WP article.

But I agree that the infernal P4 got the industry to rethink clock speed as the be-all and end-all of microprocessing. Leakage at 90nm and below was a big problem, too.

Re:My theory why: multiprocessors (2, Informative)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872393)

Moore's Law (more like Moore's Observation) refers to transistor count, not clock frequency... and multicore does nothing to slow that down.

Re:My theory why: multiprocessors (5, Insightful)

jcnnghm (538570) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:My theory why: multiprocessors (2, Interesting)

Reservoir Penguin (611789) | more than 5 years ago | (#27873349)

Current generation CPUs with proper cooling already overclock to 8GHZ or more.

Re:My theory why: multiprocessors (1)

civilizedINTENSITY (45686) | more than 5 years ago | (#27873649)

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:My theory why: multiprocessors (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 5 years ago | (#27873869)

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.

AC Won't Abandon Slashdot, Says Frosty (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27871609)

f/p

Change in the wind.... (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#27871655)

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.

Re:Change in the wind.... (4, Interesting)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872009)

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.

Re:Change in the wind.... (4, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872165)

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.

Re:Change in the wind.... (-1, Troll)

cryptoluddite (658517) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872311)

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?

It's ridiculous. People say ARM is so much more power efficient, then forget that they have to emulate x86 because some video codec isn't written for ARM. A big reason people bought linux netbooks was to put bootleg Windows on them, to run Windows apps. Windows has like 90% of the netbook market now. ARM would have to be ten times better architecture than x86 to even make a dent in netbooks, and it's barely even 1.12 times better.

Hell, as phones get even more powerful we'll probably see the opposite... x86 invading phones. After all, how much cooler would an iPhone be if you could run crysis on it?

Re:Change in the wind.... (2, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872451)

The main thing keeping Crysis from running on the iPhone isn't the processor, it's the video card.

Re:Change in the wind.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27873051)

Well, that and the iPhone only has 128MB of RAM

Re:Change in the wind.... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27872887)

"Some video codec?"
          ffmpeg decodes nearly everything, I don't think I've used a binary codec in quite a long time... MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264, .flv, wmv9, even realvideo files, ffmpeg does it natively.

        Apps? Maybe skype, and googleeath (but googleearth would not run on one of these anyway due to lack of 3d accelerator.) I've heard there's a flash for arm so that's not missing. If you pop Ubuntu onto a powerpc or whatever, it's a revelation -- you realize quick, there's not that much on a linux desktop that relies on x86.

Re:Change in the wind.... (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | more than 5 years ago | (#27873553)

I generally agree about Joe Consumer preferring an x86 solution to run Windows.

At some point, our new Chinese FOSS overlords will fix that. Forget ARM; MIPS will be the driving force of x86 emulation...

An offshoot of the Chinese government has created a MIPS-compatible CPU known as Loongson (my point about FOSS - RMS uses one). The latest planned revision has specific instructions to execute x86 codes [wikipedia.org] with only a 30% performance hit. The idea being that the operating system will eventually transparently execute x86 code via qemu.

This x86 translation will target the hybrid Linux Unified Kernel [wikipedia.org] but may eventually make it into standalone Windows clone ReactOS.

While the above is initially only a Loongson/MIPS solution, the seamless qemu emulation may find its way into ARM solutions too (without the specific hardware support).

Your point about the performance hit of x86 binary emulation is valid but they're working on it. The Chinese gov't will pour heaps money into weaning their IT sector off US companies such as Intel and Microsoft.

Re:Change in the wind.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27872801)

The ARMs in music servers etc. are typically like 200mhz. IPhone's CPU is like 533mhz or so. The netbook ones would be up more like 1ghz (and have a DSP that does most of the work for video playback, music, and whatever else gcc manages to offload onto it...)

          As long as they aren't TOO sluggish, people will give up having it be REALLY snappy to get huge battery life gains.

Re:Change in the wind.... (1)

pizzach (1011925) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872901)

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.

Re:Change in the wind.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27872337)

Pfft.. the x86 architecture will NEVER be able to compete with RISC.

Re:Change in the wind.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27872409)

Pfft.. the x86 will NEVER compete with the RISC architecture.

Re:Change in the wind.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27872467)

Yes.

Every self-respecting geek hates x86, make included.

Larry Ellison's "oh snap" quote (4, Funny)

Renderer of Evil (604742) | more than 5 years ago | (#27871691)

"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.

Re:Larry Ellison's "oh snap" quote (4, Funny)

jsse (254124) | more than 5 years ago | (#27871739)

Ellison always finds ways to throw tiny daggers at Microsoft.

Very unwise move when the opponent can throw huge chairs.

Good for routers? (4, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 5 years ago | (#27871705)

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? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27871779)

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

It could power a new generation of desktop plushy toys that could notify the OCM about problems in DBMS

Re:Good for routers? (3, Interesting)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#27871883)

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.

Re:Good for routers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27871955)

why ? java runs much better on intel nehalems than sparc. try benchmarking it sometime.

More than routers (4, Interesting)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 5 years ago | (#27871911)

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:More than routers (2, Informative)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872095)

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.

Re:More than routers (1)

mako1138 (837520) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872103)

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

Re:More than routers (1)

feld (980784) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872233)

Sun isn't Oracle's recommended software platform. Oracle has been releasing stuff for Solaris later and later.

LINUX is the preferred platform right now. Go ahead, look at all the docs for an Oracle RAC. You never see Solaris mentioned in the recommended configurations.

Re:More than routers (1)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872619)

Sun isn't Oracle's recommended software platform.

While Solaris/SPARC is no longer Oracle's recommended platform, it's still the platform customers choose more than other platforms according to Ellison on the conf call when the merger was announced.

Solaris/x86 is the combo that seems to be lagging.

Right now, Oracle 11g 11.1.0.7.0 download seems to only be available for Windows on Oracle's site.

Re:More than routers (1)

tonyr60 (32153) | more than 5 years ago | (#27873039)

Right now, Oracle 11g 11.1.0.7.0 download seems to only be available for Windows on Oracle's site.

That would be because 11.1.0.7.0 is essentially a Windows fix release, perhaps.

Re:More than routers (1)

tonyr60 (32153) | more than 5 years ago | (#27873021)

Sun isn't Oracle's recommended software platform. Oracle has been releasing stuff for Solaris later and later.

LINUX is the preferred platform right now. Go ahead, look at all the docs for an Oracle RAC. You never see Solaris mentioned in the recommended configurations.

Look at the recent utterings from Oracle. Now Solaris is number 1, Linux is number 2, at least according to Larry.

Re:More than routers (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872751)

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.)

Specialty applications now deploying x86 (1)

Burning1 (204959) | more than 5 years ago | (#27873339)

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.

Re:Good for routers? (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872205)

You're thinking of PICs and ASICs, bro. If they do keep SPARC alive it would be for 2 reasons - existing userbase and the comfort of the merger(and the testemonials of the current SPARC users) to prospective SPARC buyers. The latter wouldn't fly until the economy sees an upturn.

Re:Good for routers? (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872609)

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.

Re:Good for routers? (1)

Spit (23158) | more than 5 years ago | (#27873693)

Fast CPU doesn't mean fast system.

Anyone betting on Microsoft buying out AMD? (4, Interesting)

McNihil (612243) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:Anyone betting on Microsoft buying out AMD? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27872597)

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

i just got off the toilet (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27871979)

i shit out an obama.

plop!

Re:i just got off the toilet (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27872217)

In Soviet Russia, Obama shits out a YOU!

plopski!

Slashdot ads (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872043)

Paranoid slashvertisement mutterings are one thing but this is a little blatant. http://img8.imageshack.us/img8/4136/javaidh.png [imageshack.us]

Re:Slashdot ads (1)

threephaseboy (215589) | more than 5 years ago | (#27873375)

Your adblock appears to be broken.

Why abandon SPARC? (5, Interesting)

makinsky (1461215) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:Why abandon SPARC? (2, Interesting)

XDirtypunkX (1290358) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872557)

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.

You guys aren't getting it. (5, Interesting)

juuri (7678) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872229)

"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.

Re:You guys aren't getting it. (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872675)

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.

Yeah, this is pretty much it (1)

Wee (17189) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872973)

You hit it in one. IF your company runs Oracle on Red Hat, prepare to get fucked.

-B

Re:Yeah, this is pretty much it (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27873307)

You hit it in one. IF your company runs Oracle on Red Hat, prepare to get fucked.

If your company decided to run Oracle on RedHat you're already fucked.

Database Processing Unit (3, Interesting)

shish (588640) | more than 5 years ago | (#27872921)

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...

Re:Database Processing Unit (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27873727)

There is potential, especially in data mining. The equivalent of "run a task 2 million times" is "search through 200 million rows in a table." A speed-up of two or three orders of magnitude is straightforward (SSDs and n-way parallel processing, n>32), but getting the next two is not quite so easy. Specialised hardware might help (4096-bit data paths, anyone?)

Traditionally, the big issue in database is disk management. It seems to me Sun has quite a good track record in this area, and system administration generally. Sun's recent experience with ZFS might be of use to Oracle too - not so much ZFS the product, but the experience and insight gained by the engineers working on it.

In all, I think there are quite a few possibilities for Oracle. IBM may be kicking themselves in a few years for missing the opportunity of keeping Sun out of Oracle's hands.

Haha (1)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#27873141)

Even Apple is designing its own chips these days.

Am I the only one whom read this sentense with an emphasis on the word "even"? I'm asking because it was funny and even funnier if it wasn't intentional.

Oracle Strategy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27873187)

I recently attended an Oracle conference. One thing that struck me about Oracle's strategy is that they get the best of the products they acquired and integrate into their current/own system.

E.g. if a user interface is better in the company's product they just bought, they will integrate it in their current system product.

They may integrate some features from MySQL that are superior to Oracle DB as an e.g.

from the most outrageouly ex;pensive DB (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27873377)

To the most expensive nix hardware. Oracle specifically tied into their hardware. Bend over.

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