UltraSPARC excites VARs and ISVs
`Sun has the applications lead. Now it's got the performance too.'
Perhaps the compute intensive design automation market will be the biggest winners with desktop UltraSPARC boxes. That's what Philip Laidlaw, platform partnership manager for Cadence Design Systems (San Jose) thinks. According to Laidlaw, design automation and EDA in particular, have never been constrained by memory, network performance, or I/O.
"The CPU has always been the bottleneck. Now we're seeing better than double the performance," Laidlaw said.
He rhetorically asks people to consider the implications. Sun has garnered 60 percent of the EDA market and a wide lead over the No. 2 vendor, Hewlett Packard. Yet only once in Sun's history has it delivered the fastest desktop workstation and that was back in 1989 with the SPARCstation 1.
"Users are very excited about this new machine. People have been waiting years for this kind of news," Laidlaw said.
SMCC invested a lot of effort to enable VARs and ISVs to hit the ground running when the new systems are unveiled, Kaewert said. Many months ago, early versions of Solaris 2.5, required on the UltraSPARC machines, were distributed. Then in July an ISV UltraSPARC lab was set up to confirm binary compatibility. And in early September, SMCC started shipping 80 UltraSPARC workstations out to ISVs.
Early lab tests revealed 14 of 15 applications were totally binary compatible with Solaris 2.5 and UltraSPARC. The one exception was an application that manipulated real memory addresses rather than virtual memory addresses, and that was something the ISV knew they needed to change anyway, Kaewert said.
ISVs and VARs say if there is any problem with the UltraSPARC announcement, it will come in one of two areas. Once again SMCC is saying SunOS users have to step up to Solaris to tap the power of the new workstations. Everyone expects this to be far less problematic than when Sun used this strategy with the LX and Classic. Beginning with Solaris 2.3, SunSoft regained its reputation for delivering a stable OS with solid performance, and improved on that with version 2.4. Although VARs and ISVs recall the painful past, they believe a compelling performance boost, together with a far more mature Solaris, will ensure dissatisfaction is minimal.
A second sticking point, said Artecon's Kammersgard, is that SMCC reduced the number of SBus slots in desktop workstations. To whatever extent users are dissatisfied with that, Kammersgard hopes to profit. Artecon has already certified its SBus expansion box for the UltraSPARC models and will announce them, and other offerings, when SMCC unveils UltraSPARC.
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