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Sun: a 3-Letter Word Meaning (Says McNealy) "Low-Cost Computing"

* Breaking News from COMDEX *

Opening COMDEX 2003 this morning in Las Vegas, Scott McNealy - chairman, president, and CEO of Sun Microsystems - had one thing to say above all about the future of technology: "The network is still the computer."

"Through all of the noise and the stock meltdown," McNealy said, "the network remains. The network is everywhere. Those who think it's not happening are missing the bet."

Considered by many to be potentially one of the most important addresses he has given since the incorporation of the company in February 1982, McNealy then went on to describe Sun's three-pronged attack on IT - with something for those running data centers, something for developers, and something for the end user.

Scott McNealy in action on the keynote stage at the first day of COMDEX 2003
with John Loiacono, head of Sun's operating systems products. Photo Copyright SYS-CON Media

Re-Stating Sun's Significance

"Sometimes we have to step above the noise," McNealy explained, "and re-state our significance."

That significance was most easily illustrated, McNealy reckoned, by the facts - whether it's the fact that, as he reminded everyone attending COMDEX and those tuned in to the Web simulcast worldwide, he is just one of the now 150 million owners of a Java-enabled phone, or the fact that 7 million Web sites run Java, "including all the major portals" (hockey-lover McNealy is particularly proud of the fact that NHL.com is one of them!).

"Sun supports 100% of the global Fortune 500, and 70% of Nasdaq companies," he went on, before mentioning that Java Cards alone were now seemingly as prevalent as plankton in the ocean.

Photo Copyright SYS-CON Media

Without stopping to drill down into the nuances of the Java Card 2.2.1 specification or to toot his horn about how Sun has beaten the world at showing that it can make something as small as credit card that still has the computing power of an Apple II computer, McNealy instead rattled off the success stories - "Belgium is putting in a national identify system, that's 10 million Java Cards right there."

Java smart cards would soon be issued the 5 million Department of Defense and US government users of the sensitive systems upon which national security depends, so that only after their card is authenticated using "multifactor authentication" are they able to get anywhere in those systems.

It is all an example of Sun's overriding commitment to reducing cost and complexity, McNealy declared.

"We're simplifying the business model," he continued. Including his own. "Imagine if we'd just used yahoo.com for e-mail and Salesforce.com for ERP, how many fewer employees I'd have needed at Sun," he said - only half jokingly.

He said he admires the model of Salesforce.com, with its 6,700 corporate customers but only one way of billing you. He loves scale and he loves simplicity.

"Our mission critical-strategy is moving the entire Chinese Ministry of Railways on to a single secure sign-on server. That's one million employees."

Simplicity. And with it, cost reductions.

And lots of cool technology and innovations.

"We're not doing mainframes," McNealy said, "we're focused with a heavy R&D bent, investing nearly $2 billion in R & D. I've yet to walk into a customer and have them say 'Please stop doing all this invention!'"

"Unload Java!"

Everybody's writing to him these days, he said. One correspondent urged him to "Unload Java."

"Hmm," mused McNealy out loud. "Ford, why don't you unload cars?" (The "Go figure" was unspoken but obvious.)

But McNealy didn't dwell on Sun's software for he had a major hardware announcement to make.

"We're now cheaper than Dell, and we have a Solaris X86 that runs like the wind," he said, noting that the fastest-growing part of our Sun's computer product lies in the data center, with people buying these machines in quantities from 1 to 100.

But people also want performance, he conceded, which is why he introduced next the President & CEO of Advanced Micro Devices, Inc -  known as AMD worldwide  - to confirm that today Sun and AMD were announcing the solution that both companies believe the industry has been waiting for: to be able to run both 32- and 64-bit computers. Henceforth, Sun's Java Enterprise System would be offered on the AMD Opteron processor.

"Both Sun and AMD have been working to figure out how do we best allow the IT community to exploit the 64-bit stuff," said Hector J. de Ruiz. "One of the things they want is the disruptive technology without the disruption costs. They want standards, and they want control."

As McNealy said, in conclusion: "Sun is trying to improve the life and times of those stuck in the machine room. We are the only company trying to do the right thing, long term."

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JDJ News Desk monitors the world of Java to present IT professionals with updates on technology advances, business trends, new products and standards in the Java and i-technology space.

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Most Recent Comments
U. Penski 11/20/03 02:00:37 PM EST

Unfortunately I couldn''t attend COMDEX.
But yesterday I visited SUN at a local tradefair in Cologne - the smartcard that has been demonstrated there with the Java desktop product is a fascinating device with much future.
Just think of putting a copy-protected OS license (Solaris or anything else) into the card as well :
Bye bye to the times where you have to literally throw away your W...
license when your hardware fails just because the expensive OS had been
compiled for that specific machine/laptop.
Or add a 10 byte display to the card - you could integrate those
automatic/daily password changers for your classically protected internet access.

Anonymous 11/18/03 10:56:28 AM EST

I''ve been doing Java since 1996, and I''ve been doing it in the enterprise and client space. I don''t see where the classloader''s rules are difficult to understand; they''re declarative, and they make sense. Just because an Apache product gets it wrong doesn''t mean that the specification''s wrong: it means that the Axis people didn''t bother understanding it before they "documented" it. It''s very difficult to expect Sun to compensate for programmers who can''t understand "a list of resources," in my opinion: people who can''t grasp that shouldn''t bother programming.

Jeff Lawson 11/18/03 10:52:34 AM EST

So ''Anonymous'' is one of those folks who hasn''t written much Java code then!

I didn''t mention anything about getting rid of the class path, I was merely pointing out that experienced Java programmers know that handling it correctly is a continual battle. The endorsed JAR file issue is just one manifestation. The fact that in some environments to get certain classes to load, a specific, non-default class loader must be used, is another issue.

The fact that the documentation that comes with developer''s software (e.g. Axis) all too often gets the class path configuration wrong should be evidence enough that there''s a big problem!

Sun need to provide a clear way to manage the class path rather that rely upon the cunning of programmers, a commodity that is in short supply at the best of times but even if it wasn''t we have better things to do with our time.

The appalling class path issue is easily the number one problem that prevents many novices from adopting Java and wastes so much of professional Java developer''s time.

Anonymous 11/18/03 09:55:07 AM EST

Are you insane? If you remove the "classpath issue," then you''re right back to static binding, and you''ll have more issues than you had in the first place. The issue isn''t the classpath itself, which is really amazingly simple - the issue is that nobody explains classpath succinctly. The classpath is a list of resources. That''s it. Novices (and people like them) who get confused forget that simple point, that a classpath is a list of resources. That''s it.

Classpath isn''t a dirty word, or a bad concept: after all, dynamically linked C programs in Linux and Windows (.so and .dll) have had it for a while, except they do it via LD_LIBRARY_PATH and ld.so.conf and a DLL lookup.

Jeff Lawson 11/18/03 09:49:15 AM EST

Java is great but it''s broken: fix the ''class path'' issue and all will be well; ignore it and Java will sink without trace! (Mediocre Java programmers think that class path problems are only encountered by novices. Experienced Java programmers know that problems with the class path are easily the biggest hinderance to progress.)

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