Sun's Niagara and vision.
Almost as a continuation of the earlier article, here's how Sun is in such a better position than IBM. It already has its own OS - Solaris, (which I must point out till now is a bit subdued) and that already has the power to exploit the power of its hardware offerings. It is launching its Niagara processor by 2006:
The Niagara chip has eight processing engines, or cores, each capable of running four simultaneous instruction sequences, or threads. Though it lacks circuitry to maximize the speed with which a given thread will run, Sun expects the chip to be useful for replacing large numbers of lower-end servers. Niagara is a crucial part of Sun's attempt to keep the Sparc family of processors relevant in the face of widely used x86 chips from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices and increasingly powerful Power processors from IBM. Niagara was spawned at start-up Afara Websystems, which Sun acquired in 2002. Each processor core on the chip juggles four threads, switching from one to another when one is held up by slow communications with the computer's main memory. Sun is touting the processor as a solution to power consumption woes in corporate data centers. Each Niagara processor consumes 56 watts. By contrast, it's not unusual for a high-end server chip to use between 80 watts and 120 watts.
Also, an older CNET article points out that they are banking on how large central servers will really be the key area for chip manufacturers as thin clients compromise on computing power a bit. I would endorse the view.
Sun's throughput computing plan is designed to vastly increase the power of servers and thus to reclaim momentum Sun has lost to Intel. The technique, which won't result in chips larger than those from competitors, sacrifices the ability to perform one task extremely quickly for the ability to do multiple independent tasks simultaneously.
Sun has changed dramatically in the last year, dropping its argument that its Solaris operating system and UltraSparc processors are sufficient for all computing needs and letting the Linux operating system and Intel processors into its product line. But essentially the company is sticking by one of its mainstay principles: Leave the computing work to large central servers, not to desktop machines.
In McNealy's vision, rather than each person having his or her own desktop computer, many people will share centralized servers. They'll carry not laptops but tokens that will grant them access to their private computing resources. "The shared resource model blows the doors off" the dedicated model, McNealy said.
As an alternative to PCs, Sun has loudly trumpeted its Sun Ray system, which does no processing on its own but instead relies on a central server. Sun is working on a future version called WAN Ray that can use wide-area network technology such as DSL lines or cable modems to connect to the server, McNealy said. Ultimately the idea will work with wireless networks as well.
In other areas, McNealy predicted a day when people will carry cards or chips activated by radio waves from sensors at hotels, gas stations and any number of other places. Once radio frequency identification (RFID) chips cost from 3 cents to 5 cents, "You'll put them on everything," he said.
Sun is really a company I look up to in terms of vision.