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Sun Surges Into Research, Virtual Worlds

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the boldy-going dept.

Sun Microsystems 56

An anonymous reader writes "Sun Microsystems appears to be shifting its focus back to research, after several years of promoting its commodity servers and Java software. Earlier this week, it talked about its new Andy Bechtolsheim-designed video server in the New York Times. Yesterday, it invited reporters in to preview its plans to develop faster switches, new programming languages, and 3-D virtual workplaces. Robert Sproull, director of Sun Labs, made clear that Sun has big ambitions. 'General purpose computers have to be rethought,' he said. Among the projects close to leaving the labs is Project Crossbow, an evolution of the networking stack in Solaris; Project Sedna, a next generation switch for storage-area networks; and MPK20, a virtual workspace built on top of Sun's Darkstar gaming server."

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Holy crap (1, Troll)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18903829)

Sun still exists?

Wait until Studio 12 is released - for x86 Linux (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18904119)

It'll be free, just like gcc. And care to wager that it produces binaries that run a helluva lot faster than gcc-compiled binaries?

Let's see you post that comment then...

Fortress : replacement for Fortran? (4, Insightful)

Palmyst (1065142) | more than 7 years ago | (#18903921)

From my experience, the FORTRAN community is the most resistant among programmers to switch languages. Even F99 hasn't got much traction with them. So, best of luck with Fortress.

Re:Fortress : replacement for Fortran? (4, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#18904143)

Its easy. Sun plan to send samples of FORTRAN code to the police saying it scares them and all FORTRAN coders will be arrested for writing such disturbed text. No more FORTRAN community and a greenfield for SUN's new language. Problem solved.

Revolutionary New Interface! (1)

saudadelinux (574392) | more than 7 years ago | (#18905549)

The result is a server system capable of permitting hundreds of thousands of computer users to interact in a three-dimensional simulated on-screen world described as a "metaverse."
Rumor has it Sun's designed this amazing new USB interface for this system: thought-activated, bio-compatible, and self-sustaining, provided you don't mind floating in goo []

Re:Fortress : replacement for Fortran? (1)

WalletBoy (555942) | more than 7 years ago | (#18906997)

This might work in Boston, but what about the rest of the country?

Re:Fortress : replacement for Fortran? (2, Interesting)

Framboise (521772) | more than 7 years ago | (#18904167)

On the contrary the Fortran user community has been using an evolving language that allows code reuse over 50 years. Only the outsiders have a frozen and outdated opinion about what is Fortran today. Heh F99 doesn't exist. Fortress seems an attracting language for Fortran users because it allows to express algorithms in a way close to what mathematicians do since over a century. For example by using Unicode Fortress has finally a charatcter set matching the ones used by scientists.

Re:Fortress : replacement for Fortran? (4, Interesting)

UtucXul (658400) | more than 7 years ago | (#18904503)

For example by using Unicode Fortress has finally a charatcter set matching the ones used by scientists.
I do a lot of my work in FORTRAN 77, but I'm interested in programming languages, and tend to switch my smaller tools around from one language to the next (currently I like Python a lot). So I probably fall right into the class of people who Fortress is interesting to. But the idea of Unicode using programming languages seems like a really bad idea for a language that is trying to replace a numerical workhorse. The last time I looked at Fortress, I seem to remember that if you don't use a unicode aware editor, there was some LaTeX-like way to input math also, but even that seems a little heavy weight for numerical programming.

I guess what it comes down to is that of all the failing of FORTRAN, the fact that its math is less pretty than LaTeX does not seem like an important one. I know Fortress has some other features, but the whole pretty math character thing seems to be the one that comes up most.

Re:Fortress : replacement for Fortran? (1)

porpnorber (851345) | more than 7 years ago | (#18905323)

Actually, Fortress seems, in many ways, a nice piece of work. Your comment is well taken, but it does the effort a bit of a disservice to help people obsess about what is frankly a minor detail (and honestly I'm not persuaded Unicode support can be classed as a bug). Here, let's tell the /. community something exciting about the language: like the fact that its loops are parallel and distributable by default, and it is the iterator that determines the loop's serialisation pattern, if any.

Seriously, languages need to be judged by their semantics as well as their cosmetics, or we will be doomed to repeat the experiences of C++ and COBOL forever ('looks familiar, so it must be good!').

Re:Fortress : replacement for Fortran? (1)

UtucXul (658400) | more than 7 years ago | (#18905727)

I agree, cosmetics are not the only thing that matters in a language (after all, I use enough FORTRAN 77 that it would be sort of perverse for me to care only about a language being pretty).

All that parallel loop stuff is potentially very interesting. I work mainly with a parallel MHD code. If we could get rid of all or most of the MPI statements from the code it would dramatically simplify the code. I spent most of Monday hunting down a stupid little MPI bug.

So, from my perspective, Fortress is mainly interesting for its potential to simplify numerical code. Unicode math is a minor point against it since that would seem to complicate code. But if they really can deal with splitting loops and arrays across processors in a transparent way, that could make up for nearly any shortcomings. As long as the performance is as good as had done MPI using F77 of course. As for that, I think we have a bit of a wait to see how Fortress shapes up. And I will definitely keep a hopeful eye on it.

Re:Fortress : replacement for Fortran? (2, Insightful)

Coryoth (254751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18908749)

I think you'll find that the Unicode character set is the one that gets commented on the most because that's the only feature you can glean from a supreficial skim of the quite long and detailed spec. If, on the other hand, you actually read the spec you'll find a lot of other very nice features, good concurrency control, software transactional memory, a very nice component system, an interesting parametric polymorphism system, some good functional programming primitives, and more. It is worth actually reading the spec.

Re:Fortress : replacement for Fortran? (1)

UtucXul (658400) | more than 7 years ago | (#18908929)

I have to admit, you sort of got me there. I downloaded the spec. I even started reading it. I could tell there was some potentially good stuff in there, but I didn't get through that much of it before moving on to skimming.

Although in my defense, the fact that when I read it, the closest thing there was to a compiler for it was an implementation of it that runs over the java virtual machine. And while that may be a good thing for language research, it isn't all that attractive from a numerical performance point of view.

Re:Fortress : replacement for Fortran? (1)

Coryoth (254751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18909289)

Fortress won't be hitting prime-time anytime soon. They are still working with a demo implementation for testing purposes (it doesn't even have all the features from the spec working -- contracts weren't available yet last time I played with it). Still, the language design looks pretty solid, and when they eventually come to building a final product I think it will be well wort investing time in if you do much numerical work. That means it may be worth investing a little time now familiarising yourself with what will be available.

Collaborative spaces. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18904093)

MPK20 sounds a lot like Croquet.

Collaborative spaces-For moderators. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18909215)

[From the article that the mods didn't read.]

Among the projects that would wow even a nontechnical person is Sun's MPK20 virtual workplace. Sun has built a client called Project Wonderland that handles the graphics rendering and provides the controls for moving an avatar through the make-believe world.

While MPK20 isn't a physical office, it contains many real-world collaboration features. A company employee could have their own office in MPK20 and hold meetings with other workers. Within the virtual office, presentations could be shown on a wall, along with documents and spreadsheets that could be modified by the group. Basically, just about any office application can be brought into the virtual world.

[From wikipedia]

The Croquet Project is an international effort to promote the continued development of Croquet, an open source software platform, a network operating system, for developing and delivering deeply collaborative multi-user online applications. It features a network architecture that supports communication, collaboration, resource sharing, and synchronous computation among multiple users. Croquet provides a flexible framework in which most user interface concepts can be prototyped and deployed to create powerful and highly collaborative multi-user 2D and 3D applications and simulations. Croquet can be used to construct highly scalable collaborative data visualizations, virtual learning and problem solving environments, 3D wikis, online gaming environments (MMORPGs), and privately maintained/interconnected multiuser virtual environments.

Obvious, -1 (3, Funny)

bricriu (184334) | more than 7 years ago | (#18904103)

Anyone who comments on how their virtual workspaces could be called "DarkSun" will be shot with a railgun. That is all.

Open Source Video Card (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 7 years ago | (#18904675)

If Sun is into development and building its brand on it, they should make an open-source video card. For Sun and pc platforms, solaris and linux of course. And most likely a professional and gaming version.

Re:Open Source Video Card (1)

plasticpixel (323537) | more than 7 years ago | (#18908839)

Interesting but Sun hasn't been a graphics company for about 10 years. All their
graphics people now work at nVidia.

Also, Darkstar is has nothing to do with graphics. It's a transaction server.
Someone like WoW or Second Life could replace all their backend servers with Darkstar
to make one contiguous 'world' instead of shards and separate servers for players.

Jonathan Schwartz (4, Interesting)

alienmole (15522) | more than 7 years ago | (#18904153)

Sun's new CEO [] is the driving force behind this. Quite a change from Scott McNealy.

Re:Jonathan Schwartz (1)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#18904311)

No surprise they are starting to focus on doing something constructive. McNealy was way too obsessed with fighting Microsoft to give SUN any solid direction.

Re:Jonathan Schwartz (3, Insightful)

mandelbr0t (1015855) | more than 7 years ago | (#18904665)

Indeed. My experience with Sun vs. Microsoft politics is that Sun was clearly willing to sink to Microsoft's level. They played heavily with vendor lock-in, trashing of un-(Sun)-certified techies and various other tactics that I had only really associated with Microsoft. I found these politics to be most like something you'd hear on a primary school playground.

"You don't want to switch to a .NET deployment. Java programmers are only slightly more cultured than cavemen, and Solaris SysAdmins are known to hang out at Furry parties. Besides, where are you going to find parts for all those Ultra-2s in your basement?"

"Oh yeah? Well James Gosling is a poo-poo head!"

No one wins in these dealings except Microsoft. Let me jump on the "good to see Sun doing something constructive" bandwagon.

Re:Jonathan Schwartz (1)

mandelbr0t (1015855) | more than 7 years ago | (#18904725)

Arrgh. I suck at being funny. I got the trash-talking backwards :(

Re:Jonathan Schwartz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18904969)

Ok, good. For a second, I was just really confused :)

A for effort, tho

Re:Jonathan Schwartz (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 7 years ago | (#18905485)

It works as a demonstration of just how ineffective they were, though. I think your point got through.

Re:Jonathan Schwartz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18904961)

See lately? It has become a end user friendly, fully automated site that you can easily reference to people. It is even localised in unimaginable amount of languages. was first sign of change I think. They finally understand what ordinary user want when they visit

I agree (2, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#18905019)

I have been quick to point how much damage that McNealy has done to Sun (while the fan boys defend him and has lousy last 5 years). Schwartz is the guy who might just bring Sun back again. He still has a LONG ways to go, but at least he is no longer lying and playing costly games such as funding SCO against Linux (huge waste of good will for Sun) or going after MS on Java. At one time, McNealy was good, but that was when the industry was much smaller and they had lots of room to maneuver. Now that they are the lumbering beast (like MS and IBM), it is hard to stay on top unless you do real research.

Re:I agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18909119)

"... or going after MS on Java. "'

Uh, huh. So you think that what MS was doing to Java was OK then?

"funding SCO against Linux "

Never let a good conspiracy get in the way of the truth. []

Arguably the most important question I asked Scott McNealy was, "What proprietary code had to be taken out of Solaris in preparation for open sourcing it?" McNealy responded by saying that the process of open sourcing Solaris actually started five years ago. "There were hundreds of encumbrances to open sourcing Solaris. Some of them we had to buy out, others we had to eliminate. We had to pay SCO more money so we could open the code -- I couldn't say anything about that at the time, but now I can tell you that we paid them that license fee to expand our rights to the code," he said, referring to the February 2003 multi-million-dollar purchase of expanded Unix SVR4 license rights from the SCO Group. That was at the beginning of SCO's war on Linux, and the timing of Sun's license purchase was suspicious. At the time it was widely theorized in the online press that Sun had purchased the expanded Unix licenses to help fund SCO's lawsuit against Sun's lifelong nemesis IBM and public attacks on Sun's part-time rival, GNU/Linux; if what McNealy says is true, a lot of pundits owe him an apology.

Re:I agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18910287)

if what McNealy says is true, a lot of pundits owe him an apology.

IF... McNealy is a lying shitbag. Sun paid SCO for one reason... and it wasn't for unix right that SCO didn't really own.

Ah, you sun fan boys (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#18911253)

Just out of curiosity, why did Sun pay 20 Million for what they could have developed for well under a million and why did they obtain a HUGE chunk of SCO stock (20 million worth)? More importantly, why did they sell it later on, when they were found out? Oh, wait. It must be a CONSPIRACY theory.

Just because McNealy lies like Nixon or Bush, does not mean that he gets to have a free ride. The simple fact is that he funded SCO alongside MS.

Obligatory Spaceballs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18905167)

"I see your Schwartz is as big as mine."

Oh yeah, research this (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18904365)

I still haven't received my Solaris 10 DVD.

Re:Oh yeah, research this (1)

Alinabi (464689) | more than 7 years ago | (#18904613)

I did, but it's not bootable.

Re:Oh yeah, research this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18907199)

I did, and it *is* bootable. Yay for me :)

Re:Oh yeah, research this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18904657)

Neither have I, actually. Maybe it's because I live in the Netherlands, even though it's supposed to be shipping internationally. I was looking forward to it, too, since it seems like a really interesting system.

Re:Oh yeah, research this (1)

ir (104) | more than 7 years ago | (#18908615)

you can download it for free

Sun's New Direction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18904447)

Hope they concentrate on their core competencies, ie: servers and OS's, since all those Java crapplets, and the general crappiness of Java certainly didn't help Sun's credibility.

Re:Sun's New Direction (5, Informative)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 7 years ago | (#18904559)

Java is an astounding success, and a wildly popular language.

In the enterprise. Java in the browser is widely acknowledged to be not-so-spectacular at best, even given modern advances. But most business-level development these is being done in either Java (or occasionally C#, for the suckers) and Java still dominates in a truly amazing way. In its way, it's the modern COBOL- somewhat verbose and clunky, but EVERYWHERE, and Going Nowhere. Fortunately for the world, it's brain-damage factor is a puny fraction of what COBOL's was.

In summary, if you'd like to say that Java on the desktop was ultimately a pretty lukewarm experience, that's certainly one thing. But you said it yourself - servers and OSs and server-side stuff.

Re:Sun's New Direction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18905017)

Right yes. Developing and maintaining one of the most widely used programming language for the last 12 years has done Sun so much damage.

Things Are Changing at Sun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18904561)

Well, Schwartz must be doing something right. By god, they're actually doing video blogs with lightsabers now! []

frost 4ist (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18904945)

Dim. If *B,SD is

Oh my god... (1)

bluemonq (812827) | more than 7 years ago | (#18905281)

The Sun? Appearing in virtual worlds? I knew it! There's no escape from the daystar! We're all doomed! Dooooooooooooomed!

Project Crossbow??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18905291)

Wasn't that the name of the 'evil' laser killing machine in Real Genius???

Let's go back to Ada! (0, Offtopic)

ezdude (885983) | more than 7 years ago | (#18905537)

It was good enough for the DOD and the Boeing 777, so why can't it be good enough for the rest of us. Seriously, I'm just saying this because I picked up a couple of Ada books recently.

Lawsuits... (3, Interesting)

ragtop70 (1094351) | more than 7 years ago | (#18905557)

Sun should watch out by naming anything Darkstar... As the former owner of, I was approached by someone (forgot the name, but then again, that's also being polite) from Illinois who claims to own every possible use (patents and copyrights) of the terms "Darkstar" and "Stealth" and provided documentation to the effect that he had forced Fortune 100 companies to stop using either term when referring to any product if they had not licensed the use of the term from him. This guy had nothing to gain by pursuing legal action against me (a hobbyist who simply wanted a domain name for e-mail and personal web hosting), but he has nothing to lose, really, by bringing legal action against Sun.

[ot] Re:Lawsuits... (1)

wild_berry (448019) | more than 7 years ago | (#18906087)

I assume that he had trademarks too, or you were had!

Re:[ot] Re:Lawsuits... (1)

ragtop70 (1094351) | more than 7 years ago | (#18906681)

I looked it up through the appropriate channels, did my research and realized that if Fortune 100 companies weren't willing to stand up to this guy, that I might as well... so, to that end, I sent him a reply stating that it was not for commercial purposes, that I would in no way, shape or form use the domain for commercial purposes and that if he wanted to pursue legal action that I would see him in court. There was no reply forthcoming from him and I let the domain expire.

Re:Lawsuits... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18907931)

You were had by a kook. By making this guy anonymous and spooky and powerful with this enigmatic little warning, you sound a little like one yourself. Halo effect I suppose.

mod Do3n (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18905963)

to get some eYe 5tartling turn

Sun is dying. (1)

ThoreauHD (213527) | more than 7 years ago | (#18906465)

It's that simple. Please post more news about things they'll never bring to market. They are folding in on themselves because they forgot what servers are supposed to do. And that is to SERVE PEOPLE. Thanks for playing Sun. You were rich while it lasted.

Re:Sun is dying. (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 7 years ago | (#18911043)

Yeah but it will take like 5 billion years!

Electronics 101 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18906573)

Chips within switching fabrics today are soldered to a motherboard and communicate over copper tracers.
Solder and copper traces? what a brilliant year. I have been getting really sick of seeing vacuum tubes connected together with wires and paper clips.

Sun's use of capacitators has the potential of increasing the number of ports to a maximum of 4,096, with a total bandwidth of 40 Tbps
According to google, the first capacitor was invented in 1745 by Pieter van Musscenbroech. I'm glad to see that sun have finally caught on to the trend.

What's In a Name? (1)

Flwyd (607088) | more than 7 years ago | (#18906795)

In a SAN, network performance is paramount. So who would buy a SAN product named for a rock that takes a long time to orbit the sun?

Sun Grid Utility + Darkstar = profit? (1)

NoBozo99 (836289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18907233)

I'm wondering if darkstar is a way for Sun to make it's Sun Grid Utility profitable.
Darkstar would be one way of showcasing how their Grid could be used to benefit developers
of server intensive application.

3-D Virtual Workplaces? (2, Funny)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 7 years ago | (#18907333)

"We'll need to do a meeting with Bob in accounting. He's the giant floating eyeball with tentacles."

Why is it called MPK20? (2, Informative)

ChrisGilliard (913445) | more than 7 years ago | (#18909405)

MPK stands for Menlo Park (where Sun's headquarter's is located). There are 19 buildings on the Sun Menlo Park campus. Hence, MKP20 is the vitual building.

with IBM's cell and multi core processors (1)

recharged95 (782975) | more than 7 years ago | (#18909605)

Here comes the second coming of parallel program. This is gonna be cool.
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