Gwana-gwana landslide buries Sun Linux

Air war delivers lethal payload


Analysis What are we to make of Sun's Linux Desktop announcement? We inadvertently provided the answer ourselves talking to Sun executives yesterday. What a good idea it is, we mused, to revive the vendor show: the press arrives in droves, and for a few hours at least, you have their undivided attention.

The trick is to sneak something onto the wires, even though we will all have forgotten exactly what it was they said in a few months time. This worked a treat yesterday: Sun's plan to strike at Microsoft's desktop heartland made the leader column of the New York Times, which people round here seem to think is a very big deal. (The truth is somewhat different, as we'll see: Sun isn't so much striking at the heartland as making low-level offshore flying runs in planes equipped to broadcast rude noises).

As a residual benefit, many other parts of Sun's business bask in attention they wouldn't otherwise have received. For example today is "N1" day - and we nursed hopes of seeing a recreation of King's Cross station and Islington's Union Chapel as a tribute to London's most cinematic postcode - but that's a different N1. We'll also hear about elliptical cryptography, and much else too.

How HP, which has a $4 billion R&D budget and sets the pace in several research areas including memory, storage and imaging - would love to have this attention. Sun's secret is to fight an air war with big ideas - few of which may ever come to fruition - designed to capture hearts and minds and position Sun as a bleeding edge, visionary kind of place. Down on the battlefield, the warring parties fight each with the same gwana-gwana, and how HP and IBM despair that Sun customers keep returning to the company when HP and IBM can often provide superior kit.

But that's the value of the air war, you see. And Sun fights a great air war because it makes Sun a fun company to write about.

Destination: Gwanaland

Where it falls apart, however, is when the Gwana-gwana obliterates the content. What is Gwana-gwana?

Gwana-gwana is all the stuff that isn't useful. Useful stuff includes details such as utility pricing programs, failover times for HA clusters, and pin compatibility. By contrast, Gwana-gwana includes "go to market solutions" and earnest expressions of "meeting customer requirements". Gwana-gwana is the sound of a trade hack and a tech executive both snoring, only one is supposed to be talking, while the other one is supposed to be listening.

Sun indulges in Gwana-gwana along with everyone else, and Shahin Khan - far and away our favorite Chief Competitive Officer at any systems company beginning with the letter 'S' [here's why]- appears to have exclusive mining rights on Gwana-Gwana at Sun, and we suspect, runs some fiendish internal Gwana-distribution racket, much like Milo Minderbender in Catch-22.

(Milo/Shahin was hosting what Sun described as a "Competitive Lunch" today - but not having taken part in a speed-eating contest since fourth grade, we declined, citing fitness as an excuse).

Sun's Linux Desktop turns out to be prime-time Gwana-gwana. Sun will release a distro at some point in 2003 - can't say when; and it'll be competitively priced - can't say how much, but it will be cheaper than whatever we reckon Windows costs. Er, that's it for now.

N1 also looks like Gwana-gwana right now, for there's nothing as concrete as say, a Java Language Specification underpinning it. Sun thinks that data center resource allocation will look different in the future; but every other systems company thinks so too. They're all right. But to indulge in any more on the subject now is to participate in the Gwana-supply chain - it just isn't terribly useful.


The truth of the Sun Linux desktop initiative isn't as dramatic as the pre-launch hype, but then if you're a Sun shareholder you'll probably be relieved to hear that. Sun isn't doing a Novell: it just looks like it. Sun's Linux distro, one source told us yesterday, is just Red Hat and patches, only Sun can't call it "Red Hat and Patches". Despite years of air war bravado, Sun hasn't got to where it is by picking battles it can't win.

(As Sun's chief software architect Rob Gingell reminded us yesterday, and James Gosling chipped in with a "well, most of the time", no doubt ruefully thinking of old NeWS.).

Ray Noorda learned that the hard way. Sun's Linux should stand a chance of succeeding in education and call centres, the demographics it has targeted, if only because Microsoft's rapacious, and short-sighted licensing policies have priced them out of key home markets.

We also learned that although Sun simply wants to move batches of 100 licenses at a time, it will encourage its resellers to pitch for smaller deals. Sun doesn't really want to get into the OEM scrap with IBM, HP and YLWBD (your local white box dealer) at all, and the crucial part of the equation is that it sells enough servers to make it worthwhile. (The Linux PCs use Sun server authentication, and a JavaCard reader attached to the client). If it doesn't, the initiative will go the way of the ("What FREEDOM Looks Like!") JavaStation [Google cache][Take Me Back!] and NeWSPrint

As we've pointed out before, Sun is really much more pragmatic than it is Quixotic. ®

Related Stories

Sun's gwana-gwana mystery
Bye Ed - Analysts pull the chain on Sun chief

Recent Sun Coverage

Sun discloses UltraSPARC VI and VII, shows IV silicon
Sun punts cheap PCs at blue collar workers
Sun chip chief: real men can't afford fabs
UltraSPARC III hits 1.2Ghz
Sun claims ECperf 4way server best


Other stories you might like

  • Walmart accused of turning blind eye to transfer fraud totaling millions of dollars
    Store giant brands watchdog's lawsuit 'factually misguided, legally flawed'

    The FTC has sued Walmart, claiming it turned a blind eye to fraudsters using its money transfer services to con folks out of "hundreds of millions of dollars."

    In a lawsuit [PDF] filed Tuesday, the US regulator claimed the superstore giant is "well aware" of telemarketing fraudsters and other scammers convincing victims to part with their hard-earned cash via its services, with the money being funneled to domestic and international crime rings.

    Walmart is accused of allowing these fraudulent money transfers to continue, failing to warn people to be on their guard, and failing to adopt policies and train employees on how to prevent these types of hustles.

    Continue reading
  • HPE unveils Arm-based ProLiant server for cloud-native workloads
    Looks like it went with Ampere – which means a certain Reg writer lost a bet

    Arm has a champion in the shape of HPE, which has added a server powered by the British chip designer's CPU cores to its ProLiant portfolio, aimed at cloud-native workloads for service providers and enterprise customers alike.

    Announced at the IT titan's Discover 2022 conference in Las Vegas, the HPE ProLiant RL300 Gen11 server is the first in a series of such systems powered by Ampere's Altra and Altra Max processors, which feature up to 80 and 128 Arm-designed Neoverse cores, respectively.

    The system is set to be available during Q3 2022, so sometime in the next three months, and is basically an enterprise-grade ProLiant server – but with an Arm CPU at its core instead of the more usual Intel Xeon or AMD Epyc X86 chips.

    Continue reading
  • US weather forecasters power up latest supercomputers to keep you out of the rain
    NOAA makes it rain for HPE, AMD

    Predicting the weather is a notoriously tricky enterprise, but that’s never held back America's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). After more than two years of development, the agency brought a pair of supercomputers online this week that it says will enable more accurate forecast models.

    Developed and maintained by General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) under an eight-year contract, the Cactus and Dogwood supers — named after the fauna native to the machines' homes in Phoenix, Arizona, and Manassas, Virginia, respectively — will support larger, higher-resolution models than previously possible. The cost to build, house, and support and operate these machines, now operational, will cost $150 million over the next five years, we understand.

    “People are looking for the best possible weather forecast information that they can get,” Brian Gross, director of the Environmental Modeling Center for the National Weather Service, told The Register.

    Continue reading
  • Google said to be taking steps to keep political campaign emails out of Gmail spam bin
    Just after Big Tech comes under fire for left and right-leaning message filters

    Google has reportedly asked the US Federal Election Commission for its blessing to exempt political campaign solicitations from spam filtering.

    The elections watchdog declined to confirm receiving the supposed Google filing, obtained by Axios, though a spokesperson said the FEC can be expected to publish an advisory opinion upon review if Google made such a submission.

    Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. If the web giant's alleged plan gets approved, political campaign emails that aren't deemed malicious or illegal will arrive in Gmail users' inboxes with a notice asking recipients to approve continued delivery.

    Continue reading
  • China is trolling rare-earth miners online and the Pentagon isn't happy
    Beijing-linked Dragonbridge flames biz building Texas plant for Uncle Sam

    The US Department of Defense said it's investigating Chinese disinformation campaigns against rare earth mining and processing companies — including one targeting Lynas Rare Earths, which has a $30 million contract with the Pentagon to build a plant in Texas.

    Earlier today, Mandiant published research that analyzed a Beijing-linked influence operation, dubbed Dragonbridge, that used thousands of fake accounts across dozens of social media platforms, including Facebook, TikTok and Twitter, to spread misinformation about rare earth companies seeking to expand production in the US to the detriment of China, which wants to maintain its global dominance in that industry. 

    "The Department of Defense is aware of the recent disinformation campaign, first reported by Mandiant, against Lynas Rare Earth Ltd., a rare earth element firm seeking to establish production capacity in the United States and partner nations, as well as other rare earth mining companies," according to a statement by Uncle Sam. "The department has engaged the relevant interagency stakeholders and partner nations to assist in reviewing the matter.

    Continue reading
  • California's attempt to protect kids online could end adults' internet anonymity
    Websites may be forced to verify ages of visitors unless changes made

    California lawmakers met in Sacramento today to discuss, among other things, proposed legislation to protect children online. The bill, AB2273, known as The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, would require websites to verify the ages of visitors.

    Critics of the legislation contend this requirement threatens the privacy of adults and the ability to use the internet anonymously, in California and likely elsewhere, because of the role the Golden State's tech companies play on the internet.

    "First, the bill pretextually claims to protect children, but it will change the Internet for everyone," said Eric Goldman, Santa Clara University School of Law professor, in a blog post. "In order to determine who is a child, websites and apps will have to authenticate the age of ALL consumers before they can use the service. No one wants this."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022