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Sun Sacks UltraSparc V and 3300 Employees

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  • by msgmonkey (599753) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:08PM (#8826257)
    First they settle with Microsoft for $2 billion, and now this. Are things really this bad for Sun?
    • by Grant29 (701796) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:13PM (#8826291) Homepage
      They can't compete with the cheap hardware. Sure their HW and SW is top notch, but it's just as easy and cheap to through a small linux cluster together to get the high performance needed. (ala Virginia Tech Mac cluster). Sad to say, but I think that the innovative ideas will be squashed by the cheap alternatives. This goes for many companies other than just Sun though.

      --
      Retail Retreat [retailretreat.com]
      • by fm6 (162816) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:39PM (#8826444) Homepage Journal
        This goes for many companies other than just Sun though.
        Except that other companies aren't on a holy mission to save the world from Microsoft. There used to be others, but they either went out of business (Be) or watered down the religion (Apple). I always knew that the day would come when Sun would have to make the same choice. The bubble simply delayed that day, as VC-bloated dotcommers willingly paid a premium for Sun's kewler hardware.
        • by Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:55PM (#8826530) Homepage
          Except that other companies aren't on a holy mission to save the world from Microsoft.

          Right. That's why Sun was recently seen in a Redmond park giving Microsoft a blow job for a cool 2 mil.

          • by njcoder (657816) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @06:09PM (#8826963)
            5 Insightful. Do you know how much effort Sun put into all the US and EU anit trust cases?

            When it comes to Microsoft, linux and the OSS talk a good game, but it's sun fighting the fight.

            You think microsoft was going to find a way to kill linux before? Imagine how much easier it will be now without all of sun's money and time spent in the court system.

            The OSS made a big mistake alienating Sun that is going to hurt them. The more and more I read the various OSS 'news' sources, the more I think that somoene, maybe IBM, has gotten the OSS community to take on their fight aginst. MS.

            Every one applauds IBM for their fight against SCO, an annoyance, and ignores Sun for their fight against microsoft.

            THIS IS what their customers want. Sun has always been criticized for not listening to their customers. Their customers want Sun to stop fighting MS and start working with them on better ingegration. So they put asside some of their principles and work things out with Microsoft. And now the OSS community criticizes them about it.

            Let's see, customers on one hand, a bunch of ungrateful people on the other that no matter how much time and money you invest in them, how much software you give them, they just keep asking for more and more and trying to stab you in the bback whenever they can.

            Wake up peaple, if it's such a big deal now that Sun isn't fighting microsoft, why didn't you make it a big deal when Sun WAS fighting microsoft tooth and nail. And in most cases winning.

            • If I had mod points they would have been yours.

              Sun has done a huge effort, trying to make people open their eyes (Perhaps a little too much, with McNealy alienating most people with his comments), and they never had any serious backing by the OSS crowd. Damn shame that they've had to fold, and damn shame that people are now complaining that they've "given up on their principles" - Geez... Why didn't people support those principles in the first place?

              If you can't walk the walk, don't talk the talk
              • Sun has done a huge effort, trying to make people open their eyes (Perhaps a little too much, with McNealy alienating most people with his comments), and they never had any serious backing by the OSS crowd.

                Sun spent a huge amount of money creating an alibi for McNealy when the company went down the toilet.

                Sun's situation had nothing to do with Microsoft, their market is eroding because of Linux and cheap commodity hardware. They would be in serious trouble even if Linux had never been written, the cost

                • "Sun spent a huge amount of money creating an alibi for McNealy when the company went down the toilet."

                  How is sun spending money to defend itself against Microsoft's misuse of Java that was in violation of their licensing creating an alibi for McNealy? Same goes for spending money and time in all the anti-trust cases against MS?

                  "Sun's situation had nothing to do with Microsoft, their market is eroding because of Linux and cheap commodity hardware. They would be in serious trouble even if Linux had neve

                  • IBM's revenues (Score:3, Interesting)

                    by solprovider (628033)
                    IBM still makes a ton of money of their mainframes and their sales are still rising

                    I am not disagreeing about IBM's hardware sales, but IBM has become a services company, and they leverage services to sell the hardware.

                    According to this report of IBM revenues [infoworld.com], services were $10.4B of total $21.5B for 2003Q3. Almost half the revenues are from services, and the profit margin on services is much higher than the margin on hardware.

                    This year-end report [gartner.com] states that all hardware sales increased, including th
            • by demachina (71715) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @07:55PM (#8827588)
              I'm trying really hard to remember a case where a company stopped "fighting MS and start(ed) working with them" and came out a winner in the end. Dell and Intel might be considered successful partnerships with Microsoft but they are partnerships in name only since Microsoft tends to dictate all the terms and conditions.

              SGI tried to stop fighting and work with Microsoft on Fahrenheit among other things. They pretty much cratered the company in the process. Not sure anyone remembers Fahrenheit, but it was an attempt to develop a next gen 3D API beyond Direct3D, OpenGL and Performer. It became very obvious from day one that it was mostly designed to divert SGI's attention from backing OpenGL against Direct3D. SGI was dreaming of defining the 3D standard for all those millions of Windows desktops. Microsoft wasn't concealing the fact that everything going on there was irrelevant unless it could be shoehorned in to Direct3D:

              http://www.theregister.co.uk/1999/11/29/ms_quiet ly _dumps_windows_opengl/

              Microsoft simply DOESN'T work with its competitors. It very rarely works with its partners. Its partnerships tend to be a smaller companies who think by partnering with Microsoft they are going to be "made men" in the mafia sense of the term, but at some point if the project is successful or not Microsoft will, one way or another "whack" the partner. The one strategy most likely to lead to a desirable outcome is for the small company to sell its assets to Microsoft, probably for less than they are worth, but still make a tidy profit and run.

              Microsoft seduces, it bullies, it uses slight of hand misdirection, it uses, it simply doesn't partner. One thing Scooter used to have right at SUN, you either fight Microsoft or you die, the only other viable strategy is to look small, don't get to profitable, and hope Microsoft doesn't notice you before you cash out.

              • by mcc (14761) <amcclure@purdue.edu> on Sunday April 11, 2004 @12:12AM (#8828701) Homepage
                Everyone keeps talking about Sun "working with" Microsoft. I just don't see where this is happening. I don't see "settling a lawsuit" and "partnering" as being the same thing at all.

                If you're talking about the cryptic "IP cross-licensing agreement", then why aren't you spitting the same venom at Apple? Because they signed such an agreement with Microsoft as well when they settled their lawsuits [msu.edu] against Microsoft in 1997. I don't see this cross-licensing as "working with". This is just an "okay, no more lawsuits" agreement. Sun hasn't given up on fighting MS, they've just given up on fighting them in the courtroom.

                Am I missing something?
          • by fm6 (162816) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @06:17PM (#8827000) Homepage Journal
            If you're a Sun zealot who believes that everything relating to Microsoft is unclean, then yeah, Sun debased itself for a few bucks. But if you're a Sun stockholder or customer who's tired of the way Sun wastes its energies fighting wars that Microsoft won years ago, it's Sun's management finally facing reality.
      • Their HW and SW may have been top notch in the early 90s. Sure ain't the case now.

        Their recent hardware hasn't really been that good. So far in my limited experience Sun processors have failed more than Intel CPUs have. Go look in the archives - Sun's CPUs are slow AND not something I'd rely on. 2nd level cache probs, memory probs, go look it up.

        Heck even the Athlons and Durons probably have a better reliability track record than the UltraSPARC III. Otherwise AMD would be dead now.

        If you talk about the r
    • by JPriest (547211) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:24PM (#8826361) Homepage
      The Register has it here [slashdot.org]. Sun Kills off Sparc V and Gemini and releases Niagara and Rock. Not as big a deal as most of you make it out to be.
    • Yes. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by WindBourne (631190) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:27PM (#8826381) Journal
      They are getting ready to layoff 30% of their staff, not 9% [linuxworld.com]
      After the election, HP and IBM will be doing some as well, but it it unknown how much.
      • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Doomdark (136619) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @10:45PM (#8828352) Homepage Journal
        Maybe, maybe not. Note that you are comparing something official announced by the company (which, amongst other things, means it's what's told as current truth to its shareholders) with unsubstantiated rumours, which at best outline one prominent way of thinking amongst Sun's leaders. Basically, even if rumour is true to its fullest, many things can happen now and then. Executives always keep many options open, have multiple scenarios, from best to worst case plans etc. etc.

        Personally, I very much doubt that company would total net reduction of 30% over next financial year. If they tried, they might as well liquidate company's assets right now and give proceeds to shareholders. That's where Sun's current value is (share value fairly close to book value, that is); to get more share value via growth, company HAS to continue spending on R&D... and that can not be done by firing 30% of employees during next year. It's hard enough to grow by 30% over couple of years; reducing by that amount in one year is only done on death spirals of companies when all other options have been exhausted. It's like amputating your left leg, instead of liposuction, to lose more weight.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 10, 2004 @07:13PM (#8827350)
      Here is the scoop. The SPARC64-V made by Fujitsu beats the pants off the UltraSPARC-V made by Sun. So, McNealy finally made a smart decision and killed the UltraSPARC-V project.

      Another interesting point is that the SPARC64-V was made almost exclusively by native (Japanese) engineers. Fujitsu, as a matter of traditional Japanese corporate policy, does not hire H-1B workers.

      Sun hired hordes of H-1B workers. About 66% of the people who worked on the UltraSPARC-V were former/current H-1B workers. This observation proves the fact that H-1B workers are not needed to create high-technology.

      Here's the sweetest part: Sun will sell re-badged Fujitsu servers, starting in 2006. I know. I work in Sun's server department.

      • Here is the scoop. The SPARC64-V made by Fujitsu beats the pants off the UltraSPARC-V made by Sun. So, McNealy finally made a smart decision and killed the UltraSPARC-V project.

        This is true of UltraSPARC-IV, not UltraSPARC-V.

        Sun's UltraSPARC-V was going to be a traditional continuation of the SPARC line vis-a-vis bigger faster more Hertz. Sun's next generation processor is going to focus on non-traditional approvements vis-a-vis multi-core processors like 2, 4, 8 processors on a chip. Something like

  • by LibertineR (591918) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:09PM (#8826263)
    Money talks, Sun employees walk.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:22PM (#8826357)
      Over beer, this is the way my friend and I see the future:

      0. Gosling leaves Sun for IBM.
      1. All Sun hardware will run on AMD
      2. Sun will port .NET to Solaris. Mono dies swiftly.
      3. Java bytecode will target the CLR
      4. Sun/MS/HP vs. Intel/Dell/IBM/Linux
      5. Apple keeps innovating

      • In fact, I would bet that the conversation was along the lines of Sun giving up the Java fight, in exchange for MS producing a 64bit SPARC compatible version of Windows Server 2003.

        If Sun chips can compete, great. If not, Sun becomes the largest vendor for AMD.

      • by leerpm (570963)
        There is a flaw in your reasoning. HP is one of the biggest supporters of Linux.
  • by mindless4210 (768563) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:09PM (#8826266) Homepage Journal
    "On the other hand, the cancellation underscores the difficulties Sun has been facing in the difficult world of chipmaking."
    Doesn't that just say it all?
  • Bummer... (Score:3, Informative)

    by qw(name) (718245) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:10PM (#8826272) Journal
    This is most unfortunate since the UltraSPARC line was extremely efficient. Under heavy loads even an UltraSPARC II with 128MB of RAM could outperform an Intel chip with ten times the RAM.
    • Re:Bummer... (Score:3, Informative)

      by gregfortune (313889)
      They didn't cancel the UltraSPARC line, just an attempt at a new core. They will continue development on the IV core...
      • I never said they were cancelling everything. I just meant that it was unfortunate that development was stopped on the V.
    • Re:Bummer... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by be-fan (61476) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:26PM (#8826370)
      Suns were fast not because the UltraSPARC chips were really good (they actually kinda sucked) but because of the insanely fast memory and I/O busses in a Sun machine. UltraSPARC being canceled is actually a good thing. It lets Sun concentrate on making good machines, and leaves the CPUs to companies who are good at making them.
      • Re:Bummer... (Score:3, Informative)

        by DarthBart (640519)
        Bull. There's this really nice thing in the SPARC chips called "hardware contexts". In a multiprocess environment, such as Unix, everytime a process gives up the CPU because its time slice is over you have to swap in a whole new set of registers, counters, and what not.

        In the x86 world, that's 90% done in software (the Xeons and new 64-bit stuff has some hardware support). In a SPARC (all the way back to the original sun4 class of machines), that's all done in hardware.

        Thats why you can throw all sort
        • The 80386 had a few instructions that handled task swapping, but I guess they sucked so badly that it was more prudent to do it all in software. I would have hoped that the newer architectures would have taken care of that but I guess they haven't.
        • Re:Bummer... (Score:5, Informative)

          by be-fan (61476) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @05:24PM (#8826682)
          x86 CPUs have very few registers to save, so hardware context switches (the x86 does have them via TSS segments) don't buy you anything.

          Hardware context switching is not why SPARC machines can handle huge amounts of load. The handle huge amounts of load because they have crossbar memory controllers, multiple I/O busses, and an OS (Solaris) especially tuned for high load situations.
        • typical sparc apologist drivel.

          the sparc _needs_ hardware contexts and register windows because it has a zillion registers to save and reload.

          the x86 on the other hand has very few registers, so saving and restoring them on context switches is very cheap.

          and since x86 cpus are so much faster than sparc now, sparc gets left in the dust.
        • Hardware CONTEXTS? (Score:3, Informative)

          by Prof. Pi (199260)
          Bull. There's this really nice thing in the SPARC chips called "hardware contexts". In a multiprocess environment, such as Unix, everytime a process gives up the CPU because its time slice is over you have to swap in a whole new set of registers, counters, and what not.

          Are you talking about the rotating register file? Sparc has a large collection of registers, of which a subset are addressible by the register-register instructions at any given time. You can move the window (which determines which subset

      • Re:Bummer... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Martin Blank (154261) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:37PM (#8826433) Journal
        RTFA. The UltraSPARC line isn't being cancelled, just the UltraSPARC V, which is based on an entirely different core than the IV, and has nothing to do with what its successor would have used. They're avoiding supporting an architecture that will pop up and go away in the space of a few years, and minimizing the stress on their customers that might otherwise be facing changing from one chip architecture to another in a relatively short span of time.
      • Re:Bummer... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by brlancer (666140) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @05:08PM (#8826593) Homepage Journal
        Suns were fast not because the UltraSPARC chips were really good (they actually ku inda sucked) but because of the insanely fast memory and I/O busses in a Sun machine.

        So, it wasn't the processor specifically, but THE ARCHITECTURE BUILT AROUND IT? For crying out loud, if the supporting architecture doesn't actually support you then you're not doing so well.

        Additionally, the UltraSPARC processors weren't as fast as x86 but they scale much better and have no end in sight, whereas the x86 can't compete in large multiprocessor systems and are starting to show future caps in terms of power, heat, and size. Sun isn't as concerned with higher speeds so they don't get whacked with the same problems, but make a more efficient processor.

        UltraSPARC being canceled is actually a good thing. It lets Sun concentrate on making good machines, and leaves the CPUs to companies who are good at making them.

        The UltraSPARC isn't being cancelled, the mark V is being cancelled.

        As well, who should we point to as good at making processors? Intel created a very poor design which they been able to keep pushing on quickly. They stay focused on releasing newer and faster models constantly, but the design is much poorer and has to constantly kludge itself to keep going. Intel captured the low end market and used that to push itself into higher end systems, but they hit bottlenecks that a better design could have avoided. They are not someone I would hold up as an example to be followed.

        • Re:Bummer... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by be-fan (61476) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @05:29PM (#8826713)
          So, it wasn't the processor specifically, but THE ARCHITECTURE BUILT AROUND IT? For crying out loud, if the supporting architecture doesn't actually support you then you're not doing so well.
          Eh? The UltraSPARC performed very poorly on things like SPEC, that were mainly CPU benchmarks. However, Sun machines generally performed well in real-world server scenarios, where the better architecture made up for deficiencies in processor power.

          Additionally, the UltraSPARC processors weren't as fast as x86 but they scale much better and have no end in sight
          How well a CPU scales is more a function of the machines memory and bus architecture than the CPU itself. x86 CPUs like the Opteron can scale very well --- its just that Sun machines are much more commonly equiped with the cross-bar memory controllers and other system support that you need to get a scalable machine.

          whereas the x86 can't compete in large multiprocessor systems and are starting to show future caps in terms of power, heat, and size
          I wouldn't compare SPARC so much with x86 as I would compare it with PowerPC, the former Alpha, PA-RISC, and Itanium. Relative to the other major RISC architectures, SPARC CPUs themselves were never very impressive.
    • Re:Bummer... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shanep (68243)
      This is most unfortunate since the UltraSPARC line was extremely efficient. Under heavy loads even an UltraSPARC II with 128MB of RAM could outperform an Intel chip with ten times the RAM.

      I have:

      333MHz UltraSPARC IIi: Ultra 10 128MB RAM in one bank.
      300MHz IBM G3: Old Clamshell iBook 192MB 222 PC-100 SDRAM
      300MHz Intel Pentium II: Generic PC 384MB 222 PC-100 SDRAM

      In Ubench, the x86 and PPC are much faster than the UltraSPARC (in the processing test, not memory). I can't remember how much quicker the PII w
  • by Orthogonal Jones (633685) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:11PM (#8826276)

    Sun cannot compete with Linux/AMD64. Hopefully Microsoft did not buy IP ownership rights for Java, because Sun ought to open-source it before the company expires.

    • by bwy (726112) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:21PM (#8826349)
      Sun cannot compete with Linux/AMD64

      Well, I don't know that Sun is in the same marketspace as AMD/64. Personally I'm still wondering what will fill the gap in every corporate data center I've visited recently. There is a strong trend that I see.... everybody has their "x86" room- it is usually PC Servers running Win32 or maybe Linux. But here is the real trick- the "x86" room is always intranet type apps and *maybe* the rare external web site that gets lower volumes.

      The rest of the datacenter might be things like Sun 6500's, 10Ks, or holy shit, a 15K or two. What fills the gap here? I'm starting to see more and more large IBM servers moving in. I guess IBM is really going to capitalize?

      Also, BTW, a lot of shops now only have a "token" mainframe as I call it. A 390 box that sits at the back of the datacenter happily running whatever few legacy servicing systems might be left that will undoubtably be maintained for years to come. The IT guys still attached to these boxes as admins or programmers are an interesting breed. Talk about skittish folks.
      • Even these Sun rooms are moving to RedHat and Dell now. Look at the job boards and search for "bank linux migration". The number of hits is staggering (at least in EU).
        • On the other, entirely irrelevant hand, if we search google for "bank linux migration", versus "bank sex migration", it's clear that we should all be dropping our CS degrees and immediately hijacking the Bank to Porn conversion industry.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    To either make Java OSS or sell it to IBM?

    There's not much left to recommend these guys...

    what...you choose them because you want solaris? I think not.

    And I've geared my companies entire strategy around Solaris. I feel really stupid now.
    • No they will not.

      One thing you need to remember about Sun - it will tale a solar eclipse for them to accept that a solution is technically superior and not try to stab it in the back later. They also do not understand the idea that exchanging patent and IP warning shots across the bow is business as usual for a large company and take a number of past incidents personally.

      Good example for the technical side is NIS vs DNS. Java as of 1.4.2 still did not have any resolver functions in the standard libraries
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:11PM (#8826282)
    They couldn't get Windows to run on it.
  • Tad bit misleading (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Allen Zadr (767458) * <Allen.Zadr@gmailMOSCOW.com minus city> on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:12PM (#8826283) Journal
    The article went on through the whole thing and at the very end it says that the layoffs are not specific to those design teams. This is why I read the article, I found it difficult to imagine them laying off highly skilled engineering teams at that size and scale.

    Anyway, I'm very happy to see that they are not planning on putting out an interim processor. I wouldn't take kindly to that as a consumer or enterprise buyer (I've been both).

    As a consumer, I don't want to buy something with only a 2 year shelf life (less used product will be available in the future). As an Enterprise buyer - they won't have all the bugs out due to low volume.

  • Article on The Reg (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    From The Register Yesterday: Sun shelves UltraSPARC V in favor of the great unknown [theregister.co.uk]
  • Perspective (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bill_Royle (639563) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:26PM (#8826377)
    Every time I think of Sun, I think about my commute home past their headquarters. In the summer of 2001 (if memory serves correct), I drove by via San Tomas and saw a tree in one of those planter boxes - like the wooden boxes that trees come in when you buy them from a nursery.

    This tree was a HUGE oak tree though - had to be 100 feet tall at least, with a trunk that was probably 5 feet wide. And it sat there in a big planter box waiting to be "planted." The transportation costs alone must have cost a fortune.

    The point is, while the industry began plunging into the abyss, Sun was farting around buying full-blown oak trees to make their campus look "pretty" - while other companies were working to stay afloat.

    It seemed then that they had their blinders on, and while a fair amount of companies are stabilizing now here in the valley, they seem to be trying to stop the bleeding a bit late.

    Perhaps if they'd spent less time farting around with building campuses and more time on building their market, they'd be in better shape. After all - if you let your employees go, who's going to look at the trees?

    Just a thought... it seemed symbolic to me of what was wrong there - perspective. Shame though... they're so much more likeable than MS.
    • Re:Perspective (Score:4, Informative)

      by IntlHarvester (11985) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:45PM (#8826476) Journal
      I agree -- Sun was doing so well during the dotcom days that they totally lost track of their competitive position in the market.

      On the high-end, the death of SPARC was a long time coming, yet Sun continued to plow massive amounts of money into a chip that was not competing with POWER etc.

      On the low-end, they didn't do anything about the growth of Linux except diss it. Had they positioned Solaris x86 strongly against Linux back in the RedHat 5/6 days, they would have killed alot of Linux's market growth -- remember back in 1999, UNIX was the "safe choice" and Linux was not. But Solaris x86 was so obviously an orphan product that nobody took it seriously.

      Instead they spent a lot of time bashing Microsoft (not their #1 competitor) and farting around with things like StarOffice. And planting trees.
    • Perhaps if they'd spent less time farting around with building campuses and more time on building their market, they'd be in better shape. After all - if you let your employees go, who's going to look at the trees?

      Do you think this is isolated to Sun? This is SOP for companies in the U.S. Unfortunately, Wall Street gets pissy if you don't do things like this; investors have become increasingly dependent upon bling without considering things like products and customer base.

      It's sad that Sun is doing it b

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 10, 2004 @05:27PM (#8826701)
      Those trees were for the RiverMark development across the street from the Sun campus (nothing to do with Sun's campus). I watched them dig them out of the field and put them in planters (used to live over at Mansion Grove on Lick Mill Blvd & San Tomas/Montague); they were just being moved while the RiverMark construction took place. There was a huge field there with nothing but a couple of beautiful old oak trees that is now full of houses, shopping center, etc... I was quite impressed with the developers for taking the time and expense to save those great old oaks.
    • Re:Perspective (Score:3, Interesting)

      by timeOday (582209)

      Perhaps if they'd spent less time farting around with building campuses and more time on building their market, they'd be in better shape.

      Maybe, maybe not. Go back 20-30 years and look at all the companies that were selling big computers (and even workstations). What percentage are left? IBM and...

      Most of the strategies that come to mind were tried by one or more now defunct companies. Silicon Graphics decided to go Wintel and what good did it do?

      You can fault Sun for not being economical, but wh

  • by beamz (75318) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:27PM (#8826378)
    Please, if you're going to enourage your readerbase to read an article, please do the same.

    Sun said nothing about laying off the Ultrasparc V or Gemini staff.

    "Sun plans to lay off 3,300 employees, but many from the UltraSparc V and Gemini projects will remain at Sun, the spokeswoman said."
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:27PM (#8826379) Homepage Journal
    But the sparc *line* is to continue.. they are just having some really rough financial times, and don't want to waste money on 'incremental' chip releases.....

    Which is good, it means we still have 2 choices for desktops and servers out there (MIPS are long dead, and it seems ARM's are going to be only seen in embedded devices and handhelds... )
  • by Wateshay (122749) <bill...nagel@@@gmail...com> on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:29PM (#8826391) Homepage Journal
    Those who read the article will see that this is far from Sun getting out of the chip business and moving to Windows, but rather a retooling that will allow them to return to profitablility in the near future. Instead of the UltraSparc V, they're going to stick with modifications to the UltraSparc IV for the time being while they work on putting out their multicore followup, the Nigara. Personally, I'm glad to see this. Sun has been a stagnating company in the hardware department for a while now, and I think a good shakeup is what they need. There will always be a need for the rock-solid server market that they fill, and x86 just doesn't cut it in a lot of cases. So, don't worry, Sun isn't going anywhere, and if they did, someone else would step in to fill their place (and it wouldn't be MS &/| Intel).
    • a retooling that will allow them to return to profitablility in the near future.

      A retooling, huh?

      By tools, do you mean Win64, and .NET? That is the only 'retooling' where Sun stand to make any money. Every thing Sun does right now is being done better and cheaper by someone else.

      The only person looking to by Sun Hardware is Captain Ahab.

      • Sun is not always the best choice. In many (even most) situations, Windows or Linux on x86 are the best choice for a variety of reasons. However, if you think there's no legitimate market for the mid-end servers that Sun produces, then you're sorely mistaken. Windows and Linux are both decent choices for low-end servers*, and Linux clusters are increasingly becoming choices for the high-end range. When you look at the mid-end server range, though, Windows falls apart and although Linux is probably an ac
        • There is a market for Sun for mid range servers. However, there is not a PROFITABLE market for Sun in Mid Range Servers. IBM and HP will eat their lunch, as Sun cannot compete in a price war. Sun is out of options.
      • The only person looking to by Sun Hardware is Captain Ahab.

        I don't think you know how well regarded Sun is in the server environment. Linux is young in the server environment, and the only reason Linux is favorable to Sun is beacause Linux runs on everything. So you must be talking about Sun hardwardware vs. x86 arch.

        And yes, while cheap, the x86 platform has a number of shortcomings when you are doing heavy lifting.

        At work we just bought yet another Sun workstation, and when you are sharing a box w
    • by devinoni (13244) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @06:42PM (#8827188)
      Since the UltraSparc IV is really just two UltraSparc III's, and those were considered underpowered compared to the processors coming out at the same time. Sun's chip "strategy" is starting to remind me more and more like 3dfx's Voodoo "strategy" before they went belly up. They think they can fix their processing power crisis by putting more an more old designs together.

  • Short sighted plans (Score:4, Interesting)

    by levram2 (701042) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:36PM (#8826429)

    "Then, in late 2006 and 2007, the company will release Niagara, a multicore, multithreaded chip."

    Sun will somehow finish a significantly more complex processor when they give up on this one? IBM, AMD, and Intel will be four times ahead of Sun in three years. By killing the UltraSparc V, Sun has to execute perfectly in an arena they've stumbled in the past.
    • by hitchhikerjim (152744) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:50PM (#8826505)
      They didn't give up on it... they finished it.

      On the surface it seems silly to cancel a chip that was basically done. The vast majority of money put toward a chip is in the design, not the manufacturing. But when looking at the potential of having 7 different chip architectures in the marketplace at the same time in a couple of years, it really makes sense to simplify the product line a bit. Keep the tried-and-true, and finish the biggest capability jump. They just cut out an intermediate step.

      I'm staying with US III machines for the next couple of years. In two years, say there was a new chip out that was only a littel better than the US III, and the Niagara coming out within months... I'd certainly decide to wait for Niagara and make the biggest jump possible (so I could sit on it a while). I suspect they'd have hardly sold any USV machines.
      • by YetAnotherGeekGuy (715152) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @05:09PM (#8826600)
        The vast majority of money put toward a chip is in the design, not the manufacturing.

        The intro only talks about it being taped out. That isn't the end of the design effort. In fact, that's when the really expensive validation work begins. Now its true that the amount of people (and thus salaries) goes down, but the really expensive validation phase ususally consumes more than half the R&D of a development. Heck, a single machine configuration to run benchmarks runs in the Millions of dollars (US).
      • by erice (13380) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @05:16PM (#8826636) Homepage
        They didn't give up on it... they finished it.

        Not quite. Big chips almost never work right the first time. Minor design changes are always required. Best case, Ultrasparc V was months and millions of dollars away from done. Each "spin" throught he fab is .5Million just for the mask set.

        I suspect the situation for Ultrasparc V was worse than that. If they had truly taped out then the chip would already be in the fab. More likely, the database was in condition that it could have been fabed but it was not meeting performance targets.

  • Hooray (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cubicledrone (681598) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:36PM (#8826431)
    And another group of several thousand highly-qualified people lose their careers! Just what society needs! Another example of how hard work and dedication just don't matter any more.

    Oh, and don't forget to "keep your skills current."

    "So, what was your last job?"

    "I was a microprocessor designer."

    "What makes you think you're qualified to work at Lying Rat Bastards Inc.?"

    "I have a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering from Cal Tech"

    "Well, unless you graduated last year, I'm afraid your skills aren't current. Thanks for stopping by."
  • Obvious... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:39PM (#8826445)
    Those developers deserved to be fired, not graced with a lay-off. They were a couple years behind schedual. AC Sun employee.
    • Re:Obvious... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by randyest (589159) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @05:26PM (#8826694) Homepage
      I wish you hadn't posted AC, though I understand why. I bet I know you, if you work(ed) in Sun Burlington. A lot of people there have privately expressed that sentiment to me. And there's a lot of truth to it based on my personal observations.

      I've been working with the HESE (High-end Server Engineering) group there for almost 4 years making ASIC support chipsets for this cancelled SPARC program ("Eagle"). We had already taped out one, had the first design for another cancelled two years ago, and were 70-80% done with it's replacement (they switched from InfiniBand to PCI Express, which was smart, but resulted in tossing away about $80M in development and lots and lots of cancellation fees from my company.)

      ASICs that should have taken 8-12 months tops were scheduled for 2+ year development cycles, then Sun's delays stretched that out even more. It was frustrating for me, since I spent a lot of time waiting for netlists and constraints, and aside from 2-3 key (lower-level) people I worked with who were competant, I saw so much waste and stupidity in the Sun management organization that I often got mildly depressed about it.

      Their management is sorely lacking in hierarchy -- there are dozens of people with power to influence any decision (they are "stakeholders" as Sun calls them) yet never any one powerful enough to make a final decision, and many of these folks are too smart for the company good. Rather than pick a workable implementation and go with it, they would have meeting after meeting for months arguing about which way was "better". There was never any "main manager" who would step in and halt the endless nitpicking and force a decision. This delayed projects to an almost silly degree, and it's hard to believe how incessant it is unless you see it yourself.

      So, just about everyone I worked with in Burlington was laid off. Some were given the chance to move to California to work on the SPARC stuff still going there, but most of their managers advised them that this program will also be cancelled within a few years, so unless they just wanted to go to California (few do), they should take the severance and run. Everyone I know did just that.

      So, now the project I was working on for Sun that was cancelled and revived slightly differently once, is now completely cancelled. My company still got paid, but nothing like what we would have made had we gone to mass production (though even those forecasts were dropping steadily every year before cancellation). Worse, we had 60+ engineers in Japan and four here in Mass. devoted to Sun, and we even turned down some projects last year because we didn't have the engineering resources to handle them. Now we wish we had those back, and our sales staff are hustling to bring in some more work.

      It just makes me sick, since I always thought of Sun as the great, innovative company, and I was so thrilled to be able to work with them (at first), and now they fall apart in front of my eyes.

      On the bright side, I did get some great free trips to Japan and Australia on a extra-juicy expense account during the initial design win when we were wooing Sun every-which-way. Even met my wife on one trip to Japan. So it's not all bad for me, but it sure sucks for Sun.
  • by nizo (81281) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:42PM (#8826463) Homepage Journal
    SANTA CLARA, CALIF. - April 10, 2004 - Sun Microsystems, Inc., is pleased to announce their intention to expand into a whole different market with their new line of chips, labelled "SUN potato chips 1000". This new product is a direct response to the fritolay product [fritolay.com] with a similiar name. "We expect to have instant brand name recognition with the top consumers of snack products, primarily made up of computer geeks" one company spokesperson said with the condition that he remain anonymous.
  • by jd (1658)
    ...that the sacked employees do the same thing as the sacked Acorn RiscPC employees - rebel and set up a company producing the damn things anyway. They have the knowledge, and there are plenty of fabrication plants.

    Sure, they probably have no-compete contracts, but those generally expire after a short time. Short enough that they could reasonably "not compete" whilst they make a Sparc VI "clone".

    There'd probably be a lot of interest in them working on the LEON II, too. Picture the next generation of hig

  • No more Sun in EDA? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by erice (13380) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:47PM (#8826490) Homepage
    These are big, generally single threaded applications. In 2001, we used Suns becuase they supported memory sizes we needed. Gate simulation needed about 5GB of physical memory. P&R more like 10GB. For smaller jobs, we used x86 boxes. They wern't just cheaper. They were faster.

    But now EDA vendors are starting to support AMD64. With Sun's announcment, the performance gap is going to get wider. No Ultrasparc V. Niagara and Rock won't help, even when they get here.

    "The technique, which won't result in chips larger than those from competitors, sacrifices the ability to perform one task extremely quickly for the ability to do multiple independent tasks simultaneously"

    No good. No good at all. How long before Synopsys, Cadence, and Magma do the unthinkable and actually drop support for Sparc/Solaris?
  • by Nick Fury (624480) <massengillm@ncssm.edu> on Saturday April 10, 2004 @04:54PM (#8826527)
    Those in charge of sacking the Sun Ultra Moose V have been sacked... ...Those in charge of sacking the previous sackers hav enow been sacked as well. The processor race will now end in an entirely different manner from the way in which it began.
  • Sun actually SHOULD get out of the chip business and turn a profit for once. Either that or stop thinking their chips are worth what they say they are.

    I first thought, "About damn time", unfortunately, the article made me realize it's more of the same crap from Sun. Lay off employess, not admit defeat, repeat.
  • by bratgrrl (197603) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @05:17PM (#8826639)
    "We have no Linux strategy. Linux sux!"
    "We love Linux, so we are slapping our brand on SuSE Linux, and calling it JavaDesktop for no good reason whatsoever, and will get rich, rich I tell you!"
    "We want EVERYONE to use Java. Oh, pay no attention to those hoops over there..."
    "We hire the greatest talent in the world. Our employees are our most valued assets."
    "Microsoft is our arch-enemy."
  • by stealth.c (724419) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @05:47PM (#8826842)
    Sun is strange. They've always been that one company of whom I've never been quite certain what to think, but always desired to root for (if only on behalf of Java). And now Sun appears (to me) to have been seduced by Microsoft and then willfully gutted. ...And I would've bought a SPARC when the time came...

    If this isn't a kind of decline for Sun, I certainly hope they have one hell of a plan up their sleeves.
  • At first it looked like Sun was killing off the future of Sparc and laying off much of the sparc development team. In reality all they seem to be doing is killing off some dead-end development paths. The 3300 layoffs remark is revisiting old news -- a red herring, even.

    Ultra-Sparc is alive and well! If anything, Sun seems to be freeing up some engineers to work on the more promising future versions. As long as these extra hands and eyes don't slow things down (now, who's law is that?), this will probably be a good thing.

  • by rapiddescent (572442) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @06:04PM (#8826939)
    I am surprised that no one has mentioned the fujitsu primepower servers. I recently did a server procurement for a big organisation in the EU and tendered Sun against Fujitsu for lots of mid-range <8 cpu servers for a J2EE cluster and Oracle RAC databases.

    The PrimePower 850 just blew away the V880, even with 2 less cpu. The PrimePowers use Sun Solaris and are 99.9999% * compatible because (I didn't realise this) that Sun do not own the Sparc design, Sparc Consortium do. I do not believe that Fujitsu will buy Sun outright because they simply do not have the money and have been doing lots of expensive merging of various subsidiary companies this year to save costs; e.g. the old ICL has become Fujitsu Services along with some other straggler companies including Fujitsu's Sun reseller company.

    I would say that Fujitsu PrimePower are about 1 year ahead of Sun in terms of power & speed and in our tendering process were a lot cheaper as well.

    Probably worth mentioning that I didn't buy Fujitsu in the end because the machines were not certified to use Oracle RAC - instead, I went for HP (linux) - the business benefits for linux outweighed the change from solaris.

    * PrimePower won't run SunCluster - that scared me a bit about fujitsu's compatibility claims.

  • by digitalhermit (113459) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @06:13PM (#8826984) Homepage
    My first real computing experiences were on Sun hardware. I've logged lots of time in front of Sparcstations up to E6500s and dozens of E450s. At one point, I thought Linux was a fad because it was so amateurish and unpolished compared to SunOS/Solaris. I still know more about SunOS/Solaris than I do about Linux. What a difference a few years makes...

    I think Sun started dying when they started to push remote framebuffer devices as a viable business solution. Besides costing more than a PC, it required extensive reworking of the network in many cases. They killed off (then brought back) Solaris on Intel when sticking with it might have slowed down Linux adoption in the data center (people looking for cheap hardware -- PC servers -- are generally not looking for Sun boxes). Sun was riding high on the dot.com and Y2K booms but they were too slow, too entrenched to react when the landscape changed. Their hardware can no longer keep up with equivalent priced Intel machines with equivalent availability features. Hell, even the Apple machines are eating into traditional Sun markets in research and academia. Why? Their low-end, slowest machines are still $1,200 more than Apple or Intel.

    Don't get me wrong. I liked Sun and still do. I want them to survive not only because it makes my skills more valuable, not only because they were largely friendly to open source, but because they have developed some cool technologies. But they have to change. Maybe these moves are a good thing (they can't be worse than the previous path). But they have to do more: quit being so wishy-washy with Linux (either embrace it fully or compete against it); make Java easier to install on Linux (I don't care if it's opened up or not); make Solaris9/Intel as functional as the Sparc version (where's SMC? At least make a Linux SMC client); lower the hardware prices to be more in line with the industry (even if this means putting together an IA32 or IA64 machine).
  • turnabout sucks eh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SideshowBob (82333) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @06:17PM (#8827008)
    I was an engineer at Apple in the mid- to late-nineties when rumors were rampant that Sun would buy Apple. Scott McNealy was once quoted as saying that the only reason he would want Apple was for the office space.

    My, how things have changed! :-P

    Not that Apple didn't deserve criticism in that era (I worked for a successful project that is still underway, however) but there were some damn fine people there that didn't deserve to be ridiculed.

    Pardon me while I enjoy a certain amount of schadenfreud at Sun's expense.

    And yes I feel terrible for the Sun people that were let go, its a rough market right now and they are (as I am) just pawns to the powers that be, that don't have any compunction about playing with peoples' livelihoods. I have no ill will towards the workers at all, just toward their executives.
    • by mikefoley (51521)
      Yea, I have to admit I'm enjoying a wee bit of schadenfreud with Sun selling out to Microsoft and re-examining their CPU choices.

      I worked at DEC. Scott took great pleasure in using DEC's situation to his advantage. DEC got in bed with MS, Scott jumped up and down. DEC moved to Alpha, Schott jumped up and down. DEC/CPQ/HP cancelled Alpha, Scott jumped up and down.

      I don't think Scott is jumping right now.

      I feel bad for the Sun employees however. Very bad.
  • by vlad_petric (94134) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @06:29PM (#8827085) Homepage
    Approx quote: "with enough layoffs we'll be able to make a profit without selling any product".

    Guess Sun is following their way.

    BTW, their processors have sucked for quite a while now, they were getting server performance from "the power of many" (i.e. by putting lots of processors in SMP or SMP/NUMA configurations). AMD's Opteron beats the crap out of a Sparc IV (with server benchmarks), it's just that there aren't solutions for more than 8 chips on a board for AMD (AFAIK)

  • by chiph (523845) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @07:30PM (#8827438)
    The UltraSparc V, which was based on a different design than the UltraSparc IV, would have required Sun and its customers to adopt, and then phase out, an entirely new chip in the course of a few years. Server customers tend to try to minimize technology transitions.

    This is probably the real reason behind the cancellation -- moving to the UltraSparc V would have obsoleted the installed base of software (or at least would have required code changes to get the benefit of the new architecture).

    And then the article goes on to say that after all those customers port their software to the V (at some huge expense), they'd have to port their stuff again to the next generation of Ultra Sparc processor. No wonder it was killed -- IBM learned that lesson back in the System/360 days. The last thing you do is prevent existing programs from working on your new machine -- because at that point the customer will say: "Well, we have to rewrite our code anyway, let's see what other hardware vendors have to offer."

    Chip H.
  • by nkrgovic (311833) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @08:25PM (#8827714)
    Ok - here goes my carma, but I just have to say it.

    The cancellation of UltraSparc V is probably a good thing for everyone. US V was to be a new design, not fully compatible with the old ones, but instead leaning towards Itanic. This is good, mainly because it means that they will continue to focus on Sparc compatible chips. This means more stable hardware for us. Also this means that they will continue the focus towards multithread/multicore chips - which are terrific for server usage. KISS design, the way it should be done.

    The alliance with Fujitsu is definitely a good thing. Fujitsu has great potential as a chip maker, and their Sparc CPU's are just as good as those made by Sun. What's bad is the supporting logic (Fujitsu-Siemens sparcs have limited LOM and are more expensive). This "union" if it happened would probably mean that we would see future sparcs with the best from both worlds.

    Even the MS "pact" is not bad. It gets more money to sun, so that they can continue with the work, and shows us the perspective of using Sun instead of MS software for our server, while still being able to support MS clients. This would allow us to phase out MS from the corporate server pool easily, and also open room for Linux and other unices on the corporate desktop. Weather we like it or not MS is the current office standard and it will take us a lot of work to get it out of there. Not for the "office" (i.e. word, excel) but for the "groupware" software as the main backbone (outlook, exchange, and the new products).

    The only "bad" thing is the layoff of 3000+ workers from the US, and the potential move of sun's cpu production from T.I. (and the US) to Fujitsu. And this is noting bad for the computing industry. It is bad for the US economy, but that's just the US. The rest of the world - and the unix community will probably end up benefiting from this.

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