Sun Microsystems

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SUN redirects here, for other meanings see SUN (disambiguation).

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Sun Microsystems, Inc. Template:Nasdaq is a computer, computer component designer, and software manufacturer founded in 1982 and headquartered in Santa Clara, California, in Silicon Valley. Sun's manufacturing facilities are located in Hillsboro, Oregon and Linlithgow, Scotland.

Sun's products include computer servers and workstations based on its own SPARC and AMD's Opteron processors, the Solaris and Linux operating systems, the NFS network file system, and the Java platform. From June 2005, Sun also produces laptops called Ultra 3 Mobile Workstation [1]. The pioneering OpenLook (Sun's own graphical user interface) was very stable but would now be considered minimalistic. A wide choice of windowing systems are now offered, including Open source contributions.

Sun Microsystems is headquartered on the west campus of Agnews Developmental Area in Santa Clara, California, which was formerly an asylum. The east branch is also owned by the company and is located in San Jose.

Brief history

The initial design for Sun's UNIX workstation was conceived when the founders were graduate students at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. The company name SUN originally stood for Stanford University Network (which is reflected in the company's stock symbol, SUNW, which now stands for Sun Worldwide). The company was incorporated in 1982 and went public in 1986. Its founders were Vinod Khosla, Scott McNealy, Bill Joy (a primary developer of BSD Unix), and Andy Bechtolsheim; McNealy and Bechtolsheim remain at Sun. Other Sun luminaries include early employees John Gilmore and James Gosling. Sun was an early advocate of Unix-based networked computing, promoting TCP/IP and especially NFS, as reflected in the company's motto "The Network Is The Computer". James Gosling led the team which developed the Java programming language. Most recently, Jon Bosak led the creation of the XML specification at W3C.

Sun's logo, which features four interleaved copies of the word sun, was designed by professor Vaughan Pratt, also of Stanford University. The initial version of the logo had the sides oriented horizontally and vertically, but it was subsequently redesigned so as to appear to stand on one corner.


Sun originally used the Motorola 68000 CPU family for the Sun 1 through Sun 3 computer series. Starting with the Sun 4 line (SPARCstation 1 onwards), the company used its own processor family, SPARC, which employs an IEEE standard RISC architecture. Sun has implemented multiple high-end generations of the Sparc architecture, including Sparc-1, SuperSparc, UltraSparc-I, UltraSparc-II, UltraSparc-III, and currently UltraSparc IV. Sun has developed several generations of workstations and servers, including SPARC Station series, Sun Ultra Series and the Sun Fire series. Sun also has a second line of lower cost processors meant for low-end systems which included the MicroSparc-I, MicroSparc-II, UltraSparc-IIe, UltraSparc-IIi, and UltraSparc-IIIi. Sun has had a difficult time keeping up with its competitors' processors' clock speed and computing power, but its customer base has been fairly loyal due to the popularity, and legendary stability, of its SunOS (and later Solaris) versions of Unix.

File:Sun small.jpg
The console of a Sun workstation running the X Window System

For the first decade of Sun's history, the company was predominately a vendor of technical workstations, competing successfully as a low-cost vendor during the Workstation Wars of the 1980s.

For a short period in the late 1980s, they sold an Intel 80386–based machine, the Sun 386i. An x86 port of Solaris has been available since then. Currently, Sun is again selling x86 hardware and has introduced a version of Solaris for AMD64.

In the mid-1990s, Sun acquired Diba and Cobalt Networks with the aim of building network appliances (single function computers meant for consumers). Sun also marketed a network computer (diskless workstation, as popularized by Oracle Corporation CEO Larry Ellison). None of these business initiatives were particularly successful.

In the late-1990s, as Sun's workstations were lagging in performance when compared to that of their competitors and especially to Wintel Personal Computers, the company successfully transformed itself to a vendor of large-scale Symmetric multiprocessing servers. This transition was enabled by technology that was acquired from Silicon Graphics and Cray Research. The Cray CS-6400 server line was transformed into the very successful Sun Enterprise 10000 mainframes. Driven by the increased prominence of web-serving database-searching applications, blade servers (high density rack-mounted systems) were also emphasized.

The Bubble and Sun's subsequent survival

During the dot-com bubble, Sun experienced dramatic growth in revenue, profits, share price, and expenses. Some part of this was due to genuine expansion of demand for web-serving cycles, but another part was synthetic, fueled by venture capital-funded startups building out large, expensive Sun-centric server presences in the expectation of high traffic levels that never materialized. The share price in particular increased to a level that even the company's executives were hard-pressed to defend. In response to this business growth, Sun expanded aggressively in all areas: head-count, infrastructure, and office space.

The bursting of the bubble in 2001 was the start of a period of poor business performance for Sun, as the growth of online business failed to meet predictions sales dropped. As online businesses closed and assets auctioned off a large amount of high-end Sun hardware was availible very cheaply. Much like Apple, Sun relied a great deal on hardware sales.

Multiple quarters of substantial losses and declining revenues have led to repeated rounds of layoffs, executive departures, and expense-reduction efforts. In 2002 the share price returned to the 1998 pre-bubble level, a pattern of escalation and decline comparable to other companies in the sector, and has hovered in the single digits since then. In mid-2004, Sun ceased manufacturing operations at their Newark, California facility and consolidated all of the company's US-based manufacturing operations to their Hillsboro, Oregon facility, as part of continued cost-reduction efforts.

Many companies (like E*Trade and Google) chose to build Web applications based on large numbers of the less expensive PC-class Intel-architecture servers running Linux, rather than a smaller number of high-end Sun servers. They reported benefits including substantially lower expenses (both acquisition and maintenance) and greater flexibility based on the use of open-source software.

Also, higher level telecom control systems such as NMAS and OSS service predominantly use Sun equipment. This use is due mainly to the company basing its products around a mature version of the Unix operating system and the support service that Sun provides.

Present focus

In 2004, in common with the trend of specialisation in the electronics industry, Sun cancelled two major processor projects which were emphasizing high instruction level parallelism and high operating frequency. Instead, the company chose to concentrate on processor projects emphasizing multi-threading and multiprocessing, such as the Niagara Processor. The company also announced a collaboration with Fujitsu to use the Japanese company's processor chips in some future Sun computers. Finally, it has a strategic alliance with AMD to produce market-leading x86/x64 servers based on AMD's Opteron processor. To this end, it acquired Kaelia, a startup founded by original Sun founder Andy Bechtolsheim, which had been focusing on high-performance AMD-based servers.

In February 2005, Sun announced the Sun Grid, a grid computing deployment on which it offers utility computing services priced at $1 (US) per CPU/hour for processing and per GB/month for storage. This offering builds upon an existing 3,000-CPU server farm used for internal R&D for over 10 years, of which Sun claims to be able to achieve 97% utilization. In August 2005, the first commercial use of this grid was announced for financial risk simulations. This deal apparently did not materialize, and sun admitted in October 2005 that after nearly a year, the Sun Grid service had yet to sign a single customer.

Sun's software initiatives are increasingly making use of Open Source, most notably including Solaris via the OpenSolaris community. Sun's positioning includes a commitment to indemnify users of some software from intellectual property disputes concerning that software. The announced business model is the sale of support services on a variety of bases including per-employee and per-socket.

In January 2005, Sun reported a net profit of $19 million for fiscal 2005 second quarter, for the first time in three years. This was followed by net loss of $9 mln on GAAP basis for the third quarter 2005, as reported on April 14, 2005.

On June 2, 2005, Sun announced it would purchase Storage Technology Corporation ("Storagetek") for US$4.1 billion in cash, or $37.00 per share. If approved, the merger would create a company with approximately 39,000 employees.

On June 26, 2005, Sun announced it would produce laptops. The laptop, called Ultra 3 Mobile Workstation, is based on Sun's Ultrasparc processor and running Solaris operating system. [2]

On September, 2005, Sun unveiled a new range of Opteron based servers, the Galaxy X4100 and X4200 servers, and the Aquarius X2100 server. These have been designed from scratch by the team led by Bechtolsheim to address heat and power consumption issues commonly faced in datacenters and are the first servers to display Sun's new brushed aluminium design.


Operating systems

All Sun systems have been based on Unix systems which are well known for system stability and a consistent design philosophy.

Solaris 8 with the Common Desktop Environment

The Sun 1 was shipped with Unisoft V7 Unix. Later in 1982 Sun provided a customized 4.1BSD Unix called SunOS as an operating system for its workstations. In 1992, along with AT&T, it integrated BSD Unix and System V into Solaris, which as a result is based on System V Release 4.

Sun offered a secure variant of Solaris called Trusted Solaris for releases before the current Solaris 10, which includes the same capabilities as part of the basic offering.

Sun is also known for community-based and open-source licensing of its major technologies. Though a late adopter, it has included Linux as part of its strategy, following several years of difficult competition and loss of server market share to Linux-based systems. Blastwave compiles and packages open source software for Solaris machines, and has automated software consistency tracking, upgrading and completeing dependancies as part of the upload process. Recently, Sun has offered Linux-based desktop software called Java Desktop System (originally code-named "Madhatter") for use both on x86 hardware and on Sun's Sun Ray thin-client systems. It has also announced plans to supply its Java Enterprise System (a middleware stack) on Linux. It has already released its newest OS, Solaris 10, under the open-source Common Development and Distribution License.

Java platform

The Java programming language took the best features from the industry standard language C++ and removed nearly all of its more difficult or unsafe features, such as pointers. Backed with a massive class library Java programs can call upon a large set of GUI, mathematical and Internet access code that is tried and proven.

The Java platform, developed in the early 1990s was specifically developed with the objective of allowing programs to function regardless of the device they were used on, sparking the slogan "Write once, run everywhere". While this objective has not been entirely achieved (prompting the riposte "Write once, debug everywhere"), Java is regarded as being largely hardware- and operating system-independent.

Java was initially promoted as a platform for client-side applets running inside the web browser. This positioning was never very successful and while browser-based applications have had considerable success in displacing compiled applications on the desktop, Java has never been an important part of the web-browser experience.

The platform consists of three major parts, the Java programming language, the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), and several Java Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). The design of the Java platform is controlled by the vendor and user community through the Java Community Process (JCP).

The Java programming language is an object-oriented programming language. Since its introduction in late 1995, it has become one of the world's most popular programming languages.

In order to allow programs written in the Java language to be run on (virtually) any device, Java programs are compiled to byte code, which can be executed by any JVM, regardless of the environment.

The Java APIs provide an extensive set of library routines. The Standard Edition (J2SE) of the API provides basic infrastructure and GUI functionality, while the Enterprise Edition (J2EE) is aimed at large software companies implementing enterprise-class application servers. The Micro Edition (J2ME) is used to build software for devices with limited resources, such as mobile devices.

Office suite

In 1999, Sun acquired the German software company StarDivision and with it StarOffice, which it released as the office suite under both GNU LGPL and the SISSL (Sun Industry Standards Source License). is designed to be compatible with Microsoft Office, is available on many platforms and widely used in the open source community.

The current StarOffice product is a closed-source product based on The principal differences between StarOffice and are that StarOffice is supported by Sun, it is available as either a single-user retail box kit or as per-user blocks of licensing for the enterprise, it includes a wider range of fonts and document templates and what Sun claims to be an improved dictionary and thesaurus. StarOffice also contains commercially licensed functions and add-ons - in these are either replaced by open-source or free variants, or not present at all. Whilst new releases of are relatively frequent, StarOffice follows a more conservative release schedule supposedly more suited to enterprise deployments.

Notable persons


See also

External links

Official Sun Information

General Unofficial Sun Information

Sun 3 Unofficial Information

Sun 2 Unofficial Information

Sun Stories

Liberty Alliance Project (Alternative to Microsoft's Passport technology)

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