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.”