Archive for August, 2007

Yo, Boston: Sun Tech Days are Coming!

August 31, 2007

I’m taking a quick break from my vacation to let you know that Sun Tech Days, a free technology event for developers that Sun has been holding around the world on a regular basis for several years, will be in Boston September 11 and 12th. The event will be held at the Sheraton Boston on Dalton Street.

Go here to register and for more information, including the agendas for each day.


Bald Eagle

August 27, 2007

[bald eagle]

A bald eagle on Bird Island off the coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Taken from a rocking boat with a hand-held Canon 500mm f4 IS lens.


August 24, 2007


I’m on vacation this week and next, traveling with my wife by car through New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. I plan to post occasional photos as I’m able. This first one was taken in New Brunswick, not far from Mary’s Point on the Bay of Fundy.

The Fakes Are Coming: Fake Steve…and now Fake Jonathan

August 13, 2007

As I mentioned in this entry, Fake Steve (author of The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs) was unmasked recently. In the meantime, other Secret Diaries have appeared, authored by Fake Bill Gates, Fake Steve Balmer, and now…Fake Jonathan.

I assume at some point we’ll see a Secret Diary of John Mackey, but we already know who will be writing it. 🙂

Perseid Meteor Showers: TONIGHT!

August 12, 2007

The annual Perseid meteor showers reach their peak tonight and NASA is predicting a good show. Read full details on what to expect, where to look, etc. here.

The Most Beautiful Supercomputer in the World

August 11, 2007

Sorry everyone, but I’m not talking about Ranger, Sun’s 500 TFLOP system which is still a-birthing at TACC in Texas. More on Ranger and Sun’s Constellation System in the second half of this entry…

With my supercomputer-as-art background from Thinking Machines, I’m perhaps pre-disposed to appreciate nicely done computers and computer installations. I was blown away when I saw the photos below of MareNostrum, currently the 9th largest supercomputer in the world and the largest in Europe, which is installed in a former chapel at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC). Wow.

[marenostrum at the barcelona supercomputing center, view1]

[marenostrum at the barcelona supercomputing center, view2]

As beautiful as this is, the site is a bit more typical when you look deeper. Here are a few shots:

[marenostrum at the barcelona supercomputing center, under floor]

[marenostrum at the barcelona supercomputing center, rear view]

MareNostrum’s Myrinet interconnect fabric requires four cabinets. Myricom did a nice job of reducing the cable count as much as they could by using quad-link ribbon cables between their switch elements. But with 12 separate switch elements in the fabric that means they still have a lot of cables and more cables means more connectors, more points of potential failure. They also use one cable per compute node, as is typically done in cluster configurations. Lots more cables, lots more connectors.

Contrast this with Sun’s Constellation System approach, which uses one large, ultra-dense InfiniBand switch (therefore no inter-switch cabling) and node connections that are bundled three per-cable and connected directly to Constellation’s ultra-dense blade chassis. This takes complexity management to the next level and makes petascale computing systems an achievable goal.

For a cogent description of Constellation and its value proposition, including some nice diagrams, check out Jonathan’s blog.

UltraSPARC T2: Bigger Basket, More Eggs

August 8, 2007

With its 64 threads, the UltraSPARC T2 processor can handle big consolidation workloads. But it is fair to ask whether you should be comfortable putting more eggs (applications) into that bigger basket. We think you should be, in part because of all the work we’ve done around Fault Management for T2 platforms.

Scott Davenport has led the team that designed and developed the FMA implementation for T2 systems. He has an excellent blog entry that describes exactly what the team has done to diagnose CPU, memory, IO, crypto, and networking issues. Definitely worth a read.

UltraSPARC T2: Be My Guest, Guest, Guest…

August 8, 2007

I mentioned in my last blog entry that our new UltraSPARC T2 processor (code name Niagara 2) would make a nice consolidation platform with its 64 threads and with Sun’s SPARC virtualization product (LDOMs) that allows multiple OS instances (Solaris or Linux) to be run simultaneously on a single system.

Lest you dismiss this as random bluster, check out Ash’s blog and watch his flash demo. Picture a roughly pizza-box sized computer running 64 separate operating systems.

Pretty slick!

The UltraSPARC T2 Processor: More of Everything, Please

August 7, 2007

Sun officially announced the UltraSPARC T2 processor today. Technical specifications, datasheets, etc. are available here.

The question is, who should care?

Fortunately, this is a question easily answered. 🙂

Here is my unordered list of who I believe should pay attention to this announcement:

    Customers who like the T1, but need more horsepower. The T2 has 64 threads on a single chip, up from the T1’s 32 threads. Couple a T2-based system with our SPARC virtualization technology (LDOMS) and you’ll have quite a nice consolidation platform.

    Customers who like the idea of the T1, but who have workloads with floating point requirements. The T1 has one floating point unit on the chip to serve all 32 threads. The T2 has EIGHT floating point units–one per core. I expect some HPC customers with throughput requirements will find the UltraSPARC-T2 very interesting. Note the SPEC estimates cited in the announcement materials (estimated SPECint_rate2006: 78.3, estimated SPECfp_rate2006: 62.3.[*]) Lots more performance data here.

    Customers who have significant networking requirements in addition to their throughput computing needs. The T2 comes with integrated, on-chip 10 GbE.

    Anyone who needs beefy crypto performance. Yep, our chip guys managed to cram per-core dedicated crytpography functions onto the chip as well.

    Educators and entrepreneurs who will be interested in using the UltraSPARC T2 design as the basis of their work. We expect to release the T2’s design under open source, much as we’ve done already with the UltraSPARC T1. We’ve kickstarted some innovation with T1 and I expect to see even more interest with T2.

    And, last, anyone who enjoys saying things like this (you know who you are):

      Woo-eee, look at this 1 Gbyte flash drive I just bought for $10!
      I remember when we bought our first Fujitsu Eagle 1 Gbyte hard disk in the late 1980s. It cost $10K, fit in a 19″ rack, and needed two people to lift it!

    Soon (before the end of this year) you’ll be able to buy a T2-based system and say something like this:

      Woo-eee, look at this 1RU (1 rack-unit = 1.75 inches) server with 64 hardware threads, integrated 10 GbE networking, and onboard crypto I just bought!
      I remember when we bought that 64-CPU Starfire system back in the mid-1990s. It was six feet high, 40 inches wide and weighed about 1800 lbs!

There’s actually a serious point buried in that last bit of silliness, but I’ll leave that for a future blog entry.

[*] All Sun UltraSPARC T2 SPEC CPU metrics quoted are from full “reportable” runs, but are nevertheless designated as “estimates” because they use preproduction systems. SPEC, SPECint, SPECfp registered trademarks of Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation. Sun UltraSPARC T2 1.4GHz (1 chip, 8 cores, 64 threads) 78.3 est. SPECint_rate2006, 62.3 est. SPECfp_rate2006.

Fake Steve Unmasked!

August 6, 2007

Fake Steve has finally been identified as Daniel Lyons, a senior editor at Forbes.

For details on the revelation, see the article on the New York Times site (free registration required.) Or read the Forbes article here.

For those not familiar with the blog, The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, it is a wonderfully funny and sometimes very biting parody of Steve Jobs and the entire high-technology ecosystem. Fake Steve takes no prisoners.

Much love to Daniel for all his work on the blog over the last 18 months or so.