SPARC changed the marketplace in other ways, too, said McNealy.
For instance, it was the first microprocessor to have all of its computers shipping with internet protocol suite TCP/IP. “Seems obvious now, like duh, but back in the mid 80’s TCP/IP was competing with IPX (Internetwork Packet Exchange), LAN manager, Token Ring and all the other architectures out there for networking,” he said.
Sun decided to run Open Unix on its new platform, which McNealy called a “natural and obvious win.” On top of that, the team placed the RISC architecture and all the performance that offered.
But the platform only really took off when Sun launched the SPARC station 1 at $49.95, a price point decision McNealy said brought about a “magic cocktail” that blew the market away.
Taking a stab at chip rival, Intel, McNealy said it had never made sense for Sun to separate hardware and software, the way Microsoft is separate from the x86 chip maker. McNealy said such an approach led to “huge issues” and claimed performance had never been Intel’s key priority, or most aggressive growth path.
“We always called ourselves Sun MicroSystems. Not Sun Microsoft or Sun Microchip,” he said, defending the importance of the holistic system.
“That’s the advantage Oracle has now, being able to go all the way through to the applications, the middleware, the database and the entire stack.”
"We used to call it 'The network is the computer.' Now it's called ‘the cloud’” he added wryly.
John Fowler, executive VP of systems at Oracle, tied up the event with an echoing of Hurd’s opening assessments.
“Larry [Ellison] has got silicon on the brain, and an unhealthy obsession with hardware,” he said, adding, “I know Larry likes hardware, because he has planes, boats and cars.”
IBM has the benefit of a captive foundry, so they can produce unique technology for their microprocessors. Oracle doesn't have that advantage... but then, Larry Ellison is one of the few people who has a bank account as large as his ambitions, so maybe things could get interesting.
Hurd was actually quite a funny guy at the presentation yesterday, but you're right that funny does not a good businessman make.
Oracle is no slouch of a company though, and it seems to be taking its acquisition of Sun seriously,so it could yield some promising results.
Larry Ellison is a legend in his own mind.
Talk about someone with a god complex. If Mark Hurd does for Oracle what he did for HP, then I think Oracle will become even more irrelevent to modern technology.
Just my opinion.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.