Former Sun Fellow and 20+-year Sun veteran Mike Splain is excited. As Oracle Executive Vice President and leader of Oracle Microelectronics, Splain sees the opportunity to innovate at Oracle as a much bigger playing field than he formerly had at Sun.
"In my group, we used to look up the software stack and say, 'We can do any innovation we want, provided the only thing we have to change is what's in the Solaris operating system--or maybe Java,'" Splain said, as noted by Paulo Folgado on the Oracle PartnerNetwork Portugal blog. "If we wanted to change things beyond that, we'd have to go outside the walls of Sun and we'd have to convince the vendors: 'You have to align with us, you have to test with us, you have to build for us, and then you'll reap the the benefits.' Now we get access to the entire stack. We can look all the way through the stack and say, 'Okay, what would make the database go faster? What would make the middleware go faster?'"
Splain headed up the Microelectronics Group at Sun. The Sun team designed the SPARC microprocessors, which led to the introduction in 2007 of the revolutionary Sun UltraSPARC T2 "System on a Chip" processor. The industry-changing processor packed the most cores and threads of any general-purpose processor, and integrated all the key functions of a server on a single chip: computing, networking, security, and input/output (I/O).
Thinking back on SPARC innovation, Splain said it has always involved some combination of hardware and software optimization. "Take our cryptography framework, for example. Sure, we can accelerate rapidly, but the Solaris OS has to provide the right set of interfaces that applications can tap into," Splain said. "Same thing with our multicore architecture. We have to have software that can utilize all those threads and run in parallel."
This hardware-software marriage bodes well for the newly integrated Oracle-Sun team. "Our chips are always designed to go into systems and be combined with various pieces of software," he said. "Our job is to enable the creation of systems."
The real value of large enterprise-class servers, in Splain's view, is their ability to run a lot of very large applications in parallel. Reflecting, he said, "The beauty of our CMT [chip multi-threading] machines is you can get that same kind of parallel-processing capability at a much lower cost and in a much smaller footprint."
Innovative SPARC: Lighting a Fire Under Oracle's New Hardware Business - Folgado's blog entry
Sun Microelectronics at Oracle
Performance Testing of the New 1.6 GHZ UltraSPARC T2 and T2 Plus Processors
Lightweight Crypto Accelerator of the UltraSPARC T2 Processor
The UltraSPARC T2 Processor and the Solaris Operating System
UltraSPARC T2 and T2 Plus Processors - product page
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