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Sun Microsystems

Sun Buys Cobalt 103

An anonymous reader was the first to note that Sun acquired Cobalt. The press release is full of all sorts of PR-speak to basically say that sun wants to enter the low-end server market, and this is how they intend to get into the market.
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Sun Buys Cobalt

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  • There is no pending lawsuit against Apple from Cobalt. There never will be because of the NextCube which predates Cobalt's stuff and Apple bought Next.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Absolutely not. Sun runs a majority of the big Oracle databases out there. Their profit margins on their large boxes are huge, and nobody is swapping out Sun boxes with Linux boxes where performance and integrity matter. Sun is very solid in their position. Why they'd want to mess with low-end boxes is totally beyond me. There's no profit in people running little Linux webservers from home. They should stick with big iron.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    VA? VA isn't even remotely in the same league as Sun! Sun is a massive, profitable company and VA is a garage startup that's losing money!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Excuse my ignorance of how this all works, but are there moderation anti-points for "incredibly untainted by any trace of grounding in reality"?

    Sun is a non-entity in the computing world like water is a non-entity in the Pacific Ocean. They're a $20 billion company with a growth rate that's the envy of their competitors, and their contributions to technology have more than once caused major changes to the face of the industry. Slam them if you will, but calling them a non-entity reeks of cluelessness.

    Now that I think of it, the proper category for this would be "astroturf" -- propagating the Redmond myth that Linux is somehow hurting a Unix-based company more than it's hurting Microsoft.

  • Umm Slackware did the same thing with artificially increasing its version numbers. So you can't complain there. IMO, Solaris is cool.. the only complaint I have is with that ugly ass CDE.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Couple of observations, folks:

    1. Sun now has several CPU lines in their products (mostly through aquisitions):
    T3 runs PPC 603e,
    Cobalt is x86 (old Cobalt was MIPS, but it is dead and buried, just so as Sun A7000 which was Motorola 88010);
    Most products run UltraSPARC (with changeover to US-III in two weeks);
    MicroSPARC-IIep is still alive in SunRay and Serengeti Console.

    In the end, UltraSPARC is not about to reunite these products.

    2. It may seem tempting to give Linux on Cobalt a boot, however there is a thing in the way Sun operates. Other divisions must pay SunSoft royalties on Solaris. Those are "funny money", e.g. they are included into the price. For example, if Network Storage was to produce a T3++ running Solaris in place of pSOS, they would need to charge customer with $250 or so (well, T3 is not a good example because Sun pays real royalties to ISI for pSOS. But you get the idea, compare that to Linux).

    On the whole I think that Linux has a good chance to be present in lower cost offerings from Sun.

    P.S. I saw a poster above mentioning US-IIe above with figures of 8W @400MHz for $145. This is decent for it, but a cobalt style box needs a lower point CPU, such as MediaGX. For comparison, MicroSPARC-IIep goes for $80 at 4W and 100MHz. Sun designers complain that it is too slow for a small Cobalt-like box, but costs too much. They'd like to have something with PCI, Flash control (and perhaps ISA/EBus2 and Serial) integrated, doing about 266MHz, 4W, all for about $70. Derivates of US-IIe are not going to meet these requrements.

  • by bluGill ( 862 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2000 @04:36AM (#769033)

    I'm a bit cynical because I work for a company that does a excellent job of selling high end devices. (ie mainframe) Several times we have bought or built a product that could have sold well in the low end market, but our sales force was unable to sell it. When they look at the ability to make 6 figgures when only closing 4 sales a year, and compare that with the amount of work they need to get any commission on a $1000 box they don't care about the small boxes.

    In other words, I'm not really surprized that sun did well with the high end products, but I'm not convinced they can make the low end work.

  • by _damnit_ ( 1143 )
    Actually, the kernel is usually referred to as 5.7 whereas Solaris is the whole collection of programs that accompanies the kernel and it is at 2.7 (7). It's like Linux, the kernel is 2.2.x right now, but RedHat is 6.2.


    _damnit_
  • Sun has always been the big boys in the High End stuff.

    Not really. Sun got their start in the workstation market (on Motorola and BSD before SPARC and SYSV), then they started selling what we would today call "workgroup servers" to support LANs of SPARCstations. Much later on, they started making genuine high-end products like the E10000. The "high end" market has historically been IBM, HP maybe some DEC and SGI in there, some Fujitsu and ICL.

    The reason this is noteworthy is because Sun often indicate that their ongoing strategy is SPARC/Solaris/Java, and making their money from hardware sales - unless I am mistaken, Cobalt are Linux on MIPS.

  • Why aren't there UltraSPARC chipsets for laptops?

    Sounds like you want one of these [unixlaptops.com].

  • Cobalt has been a great company. I'm disappointed to see to swallowed by Sun. I wish them well, but in the mean time, I'm liquidating my holdings of COBT.

    Why Sell? What value does the Sun deal bring to Cobalt? Cobalt has been doing pretty well establishing their market and channel partners. What does this deal do to benefit the company? Sure the stockholders get to line their pockets in the short-term, but it is bad for the company. Until today, Cobalt has been free to focus on doing the network server appliance right.

    Now Cobalt is being swallowed by the beamoth Sun, who will doubtless meddle in their affairs. As if bloated corporate meddling won't be bad enough, I imagine use of Linux may be on the way out at Cobalt. Hasn't Sun after all made it a corporate directive that they aren't going to be a Linux company? Sun might "support" Linux, but they sure as hell don't sell it.

    Such corporate politics and meddling won't be good for Cobalt. Not that Cobalt will be ruffled by the direction of such a hypothetical directive. They've always firmly stated that they are not in the business of selling Linux, but that Linux helps them sell network server applianced.

    • I'm sitting here trying to think of one core competency of SGI's that Sun lacks, and can't source elsewhere. I'm drawing a blank.
    I'd have to agree.

    • SGI is going down.
    Very much looks like it, unfortunately. However, SGI pretty much have nobody to blame but themselves. Sun's upcoming UltraSPARC-III based workstations and servers, and their new super graphics stuff is going to make life even harder for SGI. (see New York event next Wednesday...)
    • This may sound kind of way out there, but here goes: Why aren't there UltraSPARC chipsets for laptops?
      • Short answer - very little demand.
      • There is the UltraBook [sunhelp.org] though, from Tadpole.

        US2e would be pretty ideal for laptops - it has most of the chipset on die already (the "northbridge"). Power efficient too. Demand is another matter...

  • by ChrisRijk ( 1818 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2000 @04:23AM (#769040)
    In the last quarter, Sun sold about 100,000 servers total. Not bad going - that's PC volumes.

    The embedded server market is really taking off, and Sun have been developing several things in this area for many years. I remember reading last week that they're expected to announce quite a few embedded/applicance server things in the coming months, and I guess this is one of them.

    Here's an interesting quote from the PR:

    • ``Today we're acquiring Cobalt to establish ourselves in low-end server appliances and immediately jump into the marketplace with a proven, world class product offering. This move is similar to our entry into the high-end server arena, which we did through our acquisition of Starfire server technology from Cray. Just as that product line has become one of our most successful product lines to date, we think the demand for these high-volume, turnkey devices will explode in the next couple of years. Cobalt is our bet for the future,'' said Ed Zander, President and Chief Operating Officer, Sun Microsystems, Inc.
    Only a week ago Sun announced the UltraSPARC-IIe [sun.com] - UltraSPARC-II for low-end embedded applications. It has 256Kb on-die L2, and pretty much the whole chipset on-die too and can use PC100 SDRAM, apparantly. The 400MHz part is $145 in volume and the 500MHz part is $225 in volume. They're pretty power efficient too - 8W max for 400, 13W max for 500.

  • by ChrisRijk ( 1818 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2000 @04:48AM (#769041)
    • Sun has unfortunately missed out on the whole low-end server game over the last few years, most likely because of their focus on Solaris and other "big iron" type products.
    Erm, Sun have made about $1-3Bn/year on the low end for the last several years. Their whole Netra range is embedded/low-end. Their 1U Netra t1 launched last year has been a big success etc. Their low-end sales have been very strong recently - growing 60-80% in the last year.

    • Whilst they had recognised the potential for webservers, they seem to have totally missed out on the idea that people would want to run them from home, and this is why Linux has taken off - it may not be as good as Solaris, but it runs on your home PC.
    Sun have always sold to business, not to the public. (while some people do buy them for private/personal use, Sun certainly aren't in the home computer business)

    • Now they're trying to get back into the low-end market through buy-outs rather than repositioning, because they're just not flexible enough to do so - just look at Java for an example of Sun's cluelessness when it comes to the market. Buying Cobalt may given them a portion of the market, but it will hardly path the way for them to gain any appreciable amount of market share.
    Sun started serious development, both hardware and software for the embedded and low-end server market several years ago. They already have a strong presence in the "soft switches" networking market and so on. The embedded/appliance style server market is just taking off, and have a strong reputating in the market, so it seems rather silly to write them off.

    Btw, most Java developers seem to me to be pretty happy with the Java licencing situation. You also don't seem to realise that Sun have relaxed the license fairly recently too - JCP 2.0, for example...

    • To be honest, I don't really see much of a future for Sun. All of their recent moves seem to be those of desparation - giving away Solaris, trying to keep Java proprietary and now buying Cobalt. Between Microsoft and Linux, they're fast becoming a non-entity in the computing world.
    Making Solaris 'free' has certainly been a sucess - especially on x86/Intel - about 200-300,000 installs in since it was released. That's more than on SPARC...

    Sun are growing faster than Microsoft, IBM, HP, Dell, Compaq, Intel. They're now the biggest server company (revenue wise) I think, and that's just before they're about to completely revamp their entire product line... (UltraSPARC-III finally coming next week.)

  • Actually, StrongARM is now an Intel chip.
  • Hmm... I've heard bad things about Cobalt's boxes, particularly in the area of security. (I *know* they used to be really bad about security... idunno about now, though.)

    You get bonus points for the Modest Mouse sig, though. ;)
  • Maybe Sun doesn't know it now, but perhaps this spells the demise (or rebirth, depending on how you look at it) of Solaris? If Sun purchases cobalt and that division continues to make Linux servers, perhaps they can convince Sun to merge the better features of Solaris into the Linux kernel. Just as SGI IRIX may in time enter the flame and be reborn as a more powerful Linux, perhaps so too will Solaris be such a phoenix. One can only hope.



    CmdrChalupa
    (who does not, for the life of him, know how to change his sig)
  • Buy the company and then close it down. Normal business practice.

  • Of all the people I know who own/use RaQ's, they all know the CPU type. Don't assume your lack of knowledge holds true for everyone.

    Similarly, don't assume that my comments indicate what I would do. If I were to buy a RaQ, you can be assured that I'd find out exactly what CPU it contained. However, neither you or I are in Cobalt's target market, and that market doesn't care. I'd guess that well over 95% of their customers will do the 15 minute setup, and then never touch anything else on the box again. To those users, why does the CPU matter?

  • I wonder if Sun plans to migrate this to Intel Solaris

    Extremely unlikely, given that IIRC, Cobalt boxen are MIPS based. That said, it wouldn't surprise me to see that change in the future. With few people adding additional software to their Cobalt servers, the CPU becomes increasingly irrelevant. Sun could quite conceivably bring out a new range based on embedded UltraSPARC processors (or StrongARM or whatever -- even Intel, though that's unlikely). End users wouldn't notice any difference (people don't notice when they're using my Sparc Linux box instead of the normal Intel ones, for example). An UltraSPARC based Cobalt would be capable of running both Linux and Solaris, and it'd be interesting to see which one they picked -- my guess is they'd stick with Linux. A few years ago, they all but admitted Linux was faster on low end machines -- at the time, they were aiming for the high end anyway, so they weren't too bothered about letting little things like that slip out. I doubt we'd hear such an admission now, though.

  • Uh, dude, the RaQ4's run an AMD K6-3.

    Yep, so they do. That illustrates just my point perfectly, though. The earlier RaQ2s didn't have an Intel compatible CPU. They made the change for the RaQ3. The user doesn't know (or care) what CPU it contains.

  • This is an interesting move for Sun, but I'm puzzled about how Sun will avoid market confusion. The Cobalt boxes run Linux, and Sun has a pretty clear strategy to put Solaris at the front of their offering. It isn't concievable that Sun would bother porting Solaris to MIPS (the processor in the Cobalts) and it also isn't concievable that Sun would want to support the systems in a high profile way.

    My guess is that Sun will leave Cobalt to operate as a very separate entity and that their corporate image will reflect no difference. The move may have been an effort to keep other larger Linux players from doing the same thing, or it could have been just a move to get their stock to bump up a few points this month. You never really know.

    I have personally worked with these boxes and I avoid them. They are rather finicky if you want to change very much, but they are great for datacenters and ISPs who do dedicated server hosting. Otherwise, I find them to be quirky little boxes that I would prefer not to touch.

  • What position are you refering to? The fact that they appear at every Linux conference showing that they run with Linux? The fact that they still ship StarOffice for Linux for nothing? That they're PRO-Linux?

    Sure, they have their own OS and they'll gladly sell it with their hardware, but you're not REQUIRED to buy the OS. They don't even pretend to care what OS you run...

  • On the installation/setup side, Samba on Linux isn't hard to use, but it is hard to learn. Once it's set up you forget about it until a new release of Windows comes along...

    My response? Write books! See here [oreilly.com] for O'Reilly's approach to learning to serve Windows clients.

    --dave (distinctly biased!) c-b

  • Sun has always been the big boys in the High End stuff. As the prices of Processor drop and the power of them increase. They see that "Low end" equipment is being used alot of time where their "High End" equipment shuold have been used. I do not see this as a suprise let just hope they plat fair.
  • Uh, that's funny. The way I remember it, Kiva/Netscape's app server, also acquired by Sun, had the more advanced and scalable backend but no good tools to speak of, and NetDynamics had the better development tools and a somewhat anemic and behind-the-curve backend.

    The current iPlanet product is essentially a successor to the Kiva/Netscape engine with tools based on NetDynamics, though now most heavy coding can be donw ith your choice of Java IDE. And they provided migration tools and support assistance to customers moving to the merged product.

    But I guess conspiracy theories are more fun.
  • by hatless ( 8275 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2000 @09:18AM (#769054)
    Cobalt isn't in the same business. Cobalt makes preconfigured, browser-managed server appliances for vertical markets, with a focus on easy deployment and easy, GUI-based management.

    VA makes high-performance general-purpose servers with nothing but a raw OS installed on them.

    You might as well say eMachines and SGI are competitors because they both make desktops that run Windows.
  • by hatless ( 8275 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2000 @05:17AM (#769055)
    Sun already makes low-end 1U servers. This isn't about buying Cobalt's mediocre hardware like faulty serial consoles, power supply issues, and slow IDE drives. It's about software.

    Cobalt makes plug-and-go server appliances. Although you can telnet/SSH into a Cobalt and you can install your own software on them, that's not their selling point. The selling point is that they're web-hosting/email/caching/etc. appliances that can be set up in about ten minutes and managed both by admins and customers almost entirely through slick web interfaces.

    This is why ISPs and hosting providers love Cobalt. For instance, the latest Raq models come preconfigured to run as hosting servers for Apache with MySQL, PHP, ASP (thanks to their Chilisoft acquisition), POP and IMAP mail, FTP, log reporting and so forth. With 24/7 phone support for the whole shebang available. And at a price not much different from a vanilla 1U server, that makes them a bargain if you're a hosting provider.

    They have competitors, none of whom have gotten it right. Plain servers aren't really competition at all. The Whistler InterJet competes with the Qubes, but it's too rigid and locked down. The Netwinders suffer from awful marketing and a so-so web inetrface.

    Cobalt is a brand ISPs trust, and small development shops that build sites on hosted space like the consistency across Cobalt-based hosting providers.

    I expect you'll see Sun continue to sell $1200 x86-based, single-processor Raqs and start offering higher-end machines with SCSI and fiber channel, multiple processors, redundancy and so forth, all with Cobalt's well-thought-out browser-based administration rolled in for customers that prefer a few large machines for hosting over racks full of small ones.

    And owning ChiliASP can't hurt the iPlanet server line. That's the Cobalt-owned, complete, COM-aware, VBScript and JScript-running Active Server Pages environment for Unix and Linux. Don't be surprised if you see that engine's backend translated into Java and made available on the iPlanet Application Server, for a massively-scalable way to run existing ASP-based applications alongside JSP/servlet/EJB apps.

  • With a run time of "0.5 to 1 hours", I don't think anyone would want one of those.
  • Ten billion dollars seems awfully steep if they're buying Cobalt just to destroy them. After all, there are plenty of other linux machine rackmount machines to go around.
  • Hate to break it to you but, having 95% of the clients in the world all using the same protocol qualifies that protocol as being "common". And they've been working at their protocol for quite some time now, it's not like it was a kneejerk reaction to Linux. But past that, you're right. It'd be nice if they'ed tell people how it works so people could make interoppible software which could eventually challenge their positions...
  • I was interpretting "common" as being commonly used. which it is. It's just not open. But that doesnt' change the fact that it's the most commonly found protocol.
  • Maybe if linux can scale up to handle their entire product line and support things like hot swap and stuff, they will... But until then, they'll just use Linux where it fits into the puzzle. Like they should, rather than trying to shoehorn Linux into ever conceivable computer.

    Suns gone on record saying they support Linux in that Linux is Unix, so each sale of a Linux machine not only isn't a Windows sale, it's also a sale that further grows the Unix market, so when people have outgrown Linux they're already ni the family and can move on to Solaris on sparc hardware.
  • Cobalt blue?

    What is gonna happen when the Centaur buys Red?
    This is truly the beginning of the end...
  • by griffjon ( 14945 ) <GriffJon@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday September 19, 2000 @04:19AM (#769062) Homepage Journal
    Jupiter buys Potassium, and Venus is investigating a Sillicon purchase...
  • Considering the position of Sun when it comes to Linux, I wonder whether they will put Solaris on the Colbalt machines in place of Linux - I sure hope not.
  • How long it will take Sun to essentially ruin the Cobalt product line?

    I mean, sure -- the press release is full of good intentions about Sun wanting to compete in the low-end server market, but AFAICT, there's not a whole lot of profit in that area because of the wide availability of cheap hardware that can run Linux. And, with Linux being freely available, I don't see much profit in Sun putting Solaris onto the Cobalt hardware (unless it's a no-brainer -- I'm not knowledgable enough to say aye/nay on this one).

    So this strikes me as either an attempt to buy eyeballs (using Cobalts as is with Sun logos etc.), or the easiest way to remove a competitive force from the marketplace -- buy and kill by obsoleting the hardware or by poorly supporting it.

    What do you all think?

  • The clarification is that I don't think that Sun bought Cobalt to kill them off. My question is much more along the lines of "Will the cost of maintaining Sun's mammoth presence in the "Big Iron" marketing arena keep them from properly supporting Cobalt?"

    The best comparisons that I can think of are Microsoft buying Foxpro and Lotus' decision to not market the highly touted Improv spreadsheet which they had purchased and which was clearly superior to the company cash-cow (1-2-3) in many ways.

    Granted, you can still by Foxpro, but it is way behind MS-Access and MS-SQL Server in terms of marketing priority.

    Think about it this way: given equivalent marketing resources, do you put higher priority on marketing the high dollar product with a 10:1 profit margin, or the low dollar market with a 1.1 to 1 profit margin. The only time you go for the second is when you can sell sufficient volume to overcome the loss of revenue in the high profit area due to the dilution of the marketing budget.

    So the mucking up Cobalt happens if some Sun exec sees that they can't make as much money on the Cobalt line (at least in the short term) and pulls the marketing and support dollars away from the lower end servers in order to prop up sales of the high end, like IBM did to OS-2, effectively killing an otherwise superior OS.

  • Yes, i have 2 sun 386i towers. the higher end colbalt servers aren't x86 though.. i *think* they are mips based. only the low end cobalt's are x86.
  • whoa shows how long *i've* been in a cave... hehe
  • And after going after the "small server" line, they'll want the "big server" line. And look at what company wants to be purchased...

    It's a company sitting there with a sub-$5 stock price. It has a brand new product line that kicks ass, but they're not marketing it at ALL. They have all but pulled out of the workstation market. They've divested their share of embedded processors and have all but broken free from their application development houses. In fact, the only thing this company has right now is Big Servers and Big Workstations: categories which don't overlap with anyone else in the business really.

    What company will Sun buy next? SGI.

    -Chris
  • Star Office, cobalt, Who is next? It seems that Sun is expanding to the low end. I have even seen something about java on mobile phones.
  • I think the most interesting part of this news is less to do with Cobalt running linux than with Sun getting their hands back into the x86 market. Does anyone remember the Sun i386s range which failed a few years back?
  • If Sun is smart, they'll maximize their investment in Cobalt by maintaining -- and expanding -- the Cobalt brand name for low-end appliances.

    When you think of Sun, you hardly think of bargains. But that can be an asset. Some people are willing to pay more for the Sun brand name, no matter what technology is inside. Likewise, others will assume Cobalt's a good value even before they compare prices. It's the best of both worlds that Proctor & Gamble enjoys by selling both Tide and Gain.

    Sun should follow in the footsteps of Alfred P. Sloan by preserving the Sun brand name as their "Cadillac," and establishing Cobalt as their "Chevrolet."
  • As has been said, Sun have practically cornered the high end application level web market in the past couple of years, but their server products still remain out of the reach of the small-midrange service developer. The Netra range, which are excellent pieces of kit, are still far too expensive for the service bracket that they seem to be competing with: the ISP that offers dedicated servers will always go for 40 Cobalts or VA rackservers in a rack rather than 40 Netras as the price difference is roughly three or four-fold. As long as Sun don't start applying Sun prices (an 18Gb SCSI drive is still c £900 from Sun as opposed to £120 from yeraverage mailorder store) the Cobalt range will do fine.
  • The game in the low end market is cheap, cheap, cheap. So, they have a nice beginner friendly admin system. Sh*t on TCO, people down here in the basement want good stuff, cheap. And it turns out the subsegment of bottom feeders who are deluded into thinking they can save money by adminning with trained monkeys go with NT, anyway.

    So, Cobalts are cool, but they won't provide an attractive value proposition until they get cheap.

    I wonder if Sun's financial clout will allow the cobalts to be manufacturered cheaply, er, inexpensively.
  • I think you have this backwards. The lower end ones (RAQ1-2 and Cube) are MIPS. The RAQ3 is a AMD K6, and I don't know for sure what the new RAQ4 is, but I'd guess atleast x86, probably AMD because of the pricepoint. (AKA, they're cheap chips d00d! ;) )

  • Considering the position of Sun when it comes to Linux, I wonder whether they will put Solaris on the Colbalt machines in place of Linux - I sure hope not.
    I read the article and noticed that Linux was not mentioned at all. Considering the buzzword quotient attached to Linux, you're speculation doesn't seem that farfetched.
  • If you stick to real plain perl and static pages cobalt is OK. Try doing some servlet stuff and ooooh!. Maybe Sun will improve the Java support.
  • Just so It's known, The RAQ 4i has an AMD K6 475 clocked at 450.
  • and, by extension, we might find out how many people buy these things because they're linux-based instead of their form factor or aesthetic qualities. it wouldn't surprise me if they put solaris x/86 in the x86 models, although don't the low end machines still have mips chips in them? solaris doesn't run on mips, never has, i don't think. it used to run on powerpc, but that was long ago.
  • You sir... are an (trolling) idiot. How many Sun servers have you purchased and/or even seen in the last year(s)? These machines are truely things of beauty. Works of art to be sure. Java proprietary ?!?! Hardly. THE F*CKING SOURCE CODE IT AVAILABLE FOR F*CKING DOWNLOAD! Just because they don't want to turn it over to an cluster f*cking stds body doesn't make it proprietary! Does it? Wow... I may be drunk, but in the morning I'll be sober, and you will still be a dumb-*ss! Oh yeah BTW, my SUNW has done pretty well over the last several yrs (how's your MSFT doing these days?) out.
  • There's no real motivation for Sun to do that.

    Cobalt has their business headed in the right direction. (See this [excite.com] graph and info.) and to boot, their stock price is hanging in a relatively buy-ripe price range.

    So, given Cobalt will now not have to bleed cash into a new marketing organization and their trends for cash flow and revenue, they should be profitable for Sun.

    Given that Cobalt's business really compliments Sun's, there shouldn't be too much incentive to muck things up there.

    As usual, we'll have to wait and see how things pan out.
  • Linux will stay for a while, but Sun has a better OS to put on the box. One thats more mature and reliable... Solaris X86... However, the products that still use the MIPS chips will probably stay Linux for a while, or they might switch to NetBSD/OpenBSD since its more secure than Linux. Who knows, Sun could kill the product line, but chances are they won't for a while at least. Not like Sun is gonna kill development of Linux/MIPS any time soon... Chances are sun will keep the Cobalt interface stuff, go through it and get rid of the Linuxisms, and re-package it as a simple management interface for commercial sale. Who knows what after that...
  • If they truly are buying Cobalt to get a jump into the low-end server market then they will stll want to offer these with Linux.

    For one they are already tested and configured for Linux. And another thing is that Solaris will add a signifigant price to the machine (Sun Tax?).

    So why would they take off a tested OS configuration to replace it with a more expensive alternative? Not because Sun requires you to buy their OS either, they sell many machines with Linux or *BSD already.

    Devil Ducky
  • If they are focused in "categories which don't overlap with anyone else in the business really" and they still cant turn a profit what does that tell you? It tells me that there is no market. No one is buying SGIs stuff because nobody wants SGIs stuff. (yes "stuff" is a technical term) You dont buy a company that is loosing money trying to sell to a market that doesnt exist anymore. Oh wait! SGI did that when it bought Cray.

    I like a lot of what SGI has done interms of hardware and software but their business model has always sucked.
  • by DzugZug ( 52149 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2000 @04:41AM (#769085) Journal
    Wow spread of 14 and change! Wish I could have heard about this yestarday.

    I dont think this is a move to shut cobalt down. Companies usualy pay cahs if they want to do that. This is a big value added play for sun. They tend to make wise business decisions and I dont see how they would benefit from killing someone who isnt a direct competitor. Especialy considering that they had to dilute by $2B to do it.

    Sun is one of my favorite companies in the tech sector. No they arnt as smart as microsoft and no they arnt as cool as apple but I think sun is the best of both worlds.

    BTW: If you dont know what a spread or dilution is, please read a book on M&A (mergers and aquisitions) before you moderate me down for not making any sense.
  • Actually, StrongARM is now an Intel chip.
    True; sort of. They got it from digital who designed it. I mean is Tru64[Digital Unix] compaq's? No. Its not changed enough to be anything but Digital's Unix. The SA110 and SA1100 arn't changed one bit (other than the logo printed on them)... But Intel does /promise/ to make a new line. And there's this support chip they're promoting.

    Used to be anyone could buy an SA direct from Digital in quanitities of 1 for $26 [At least that's what MadDog said when he spoke about how cool they were and Digital was still around]. That really promoted hobbyists to be interested in it; but now I can't seem to find a decent way to get one without buying 10,000 or a development kit (a couple hundred dollars). Damn Damn Damn.

    Course if you have any suggestions for getting a couple chips to build something fun with, please do tell.

  • by daniell ( 78495 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2000 @06:37AM (#769087) Homepage
    Yes, I'd say that Sun has bought this for SW reasons. At Sun, engineering a HW solution without using a SPARC is frowned upon (of course), so the core of the design for the Cobalt line will have to change. Now that's too bad because MIPs chips are cheap and SPARCs arn't (no even that new one isn't so cheep.

    UltraSPARC-IIe for low-end embedded applications. It has 256Kb on-die L2, and pretty much the whole chipset on-die too and can use PC100 SDRAM, apparantly. The 400MHz part is $145 in volume and the 500MHz part is $225 in volume. They're pretty power efficient too - 8W max for 400, 13W max for 500.
    Now, I wouldn't claim that that's particularly power efficient. compare to:

    • A PowerPC (MPC750@400Mhz) MAX 5.8W
    • Digital's StrongArm (SA110@233) MAX 1W
    • [I couldn't find MIPS R4000 info]
    Granted the Intel Chips use a lot of power, but I'm not sure the USparcIIe is actually applicable to something like a laptop. -Daniel
  • ...but Sun has a better OS to put on the box. One thats more mature and reliable... Solaris X86...
    Ugh! Solaris may be "more mature" (chronologically) but Solaris x86 is no match for Linux or any of the BSDs. The one strength that Solaris has is strong SMP support. Everything else - forget it! On the same hardware, Solaris x86 is much slower than Linux or *BSD.

    And then of course Linux and the *BSD's are much nicer to use. They come with all the Gnu tools as standard whereas you have to install them separately on Solaris; and all the system calls make much more sense. The SunOS4 (BSD-based) -> Solaris2 (SysV based) switch was the worst thing Sun could have done, in my book. Yes, I know there were some good reasons for doing so; but on the whole SysV is baroque, bloated and clunky.

  • This may sound kind of way out there, but here goes: Why aren't there UltraSPARC chipsets for laptops? Our chipset designers here at work are using UltraSPARCs machines from Sun, and their machines not only fly along, they are so slick it's not funny (although Solaris leaves something to be desired..). The actual box is hardly twice the size of a laptop (component and space wise), and if you are right about that power consumption, they would be more than power efficient enough for a laptop.

    I guess it's all about what the market wants and what will sell. Too bad, I'm all for small, fast, and integrated user machines.

    Rami
    --
  • And you know this because WHY?

    What is your source?

    Perhaps Cobalt didn't think it is worth their time/effort.
  • I could see Sun buying SGI just for the NUMA technology licenses. Didn't they license the technology (for the Gigaplane) from Cray before SGI bought Cray?
  • It's extremely relevant to those of us who don't just stick to using the Cobalt GUI. Admittedly, the RaQ is a bit of a no brainer, but it also happens to be a flexible, and compact sever solution. When it comes to making improvements to the RaQ, be it new or upgraded software, the CPU type makes a big difference at times. Of all the people I know who own/use RaQ's, they all know the CPU type. Don't assume your lack of knowledge holds true for everyone.
  • In other words, I'm not really surprized that sun did well with the high end products, but I'm not convinced they can make the low end work. Why not? Cobalt did ;P
  • Uh, dude, the RaQ4's run an AMD K6-3. I know since I admin one.


    If design is not Bauhaus, it is Baroque.
  • Exactly.

    Compiling from source is a PITA on a RaQ (slow, wonky GCC implementation, missing header files). Having x86 RPM's to cherry pick from rpmfind.net makes my job easier.


    If design is not Bauhaus, it is Baroque.
  • by nightspd ( 111464 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2000 @08:55AM (#769096) Homepage
    Can't you see the obvious...This is a direct assault against EMC's storage market. Here's the facts. Sun has indicated in the last few months their desire to get into the server appliance market. Here's the chronology:

    06/12: Ed Zander details Sun's "Storage for the Net Economy".
    07/14: Sun announced "Purple", Codename for it's StorEdge T3 Disk Arrays.
    07/14: Sun announced deal w/VERITAS to integrate Jiro and VERITAS V3 SAN Access technology.
    08/15: Sun announces a deal w/LinuxCare to offer support for StorEdge disk-array servers in Linux.

    I think we're about to see an explosion of low-cost Sun servers based on Cobalt technology. Sun will more than likely co-brand the line, similar to the Forte brand of software tools.
  • What company will Sun buy next? SGI.

    I'm sitting here trying to think of one core competency of SGI's that Sun lacks, and can't source elsewhere. I'm drawing a blank.

    SGI is going down.

    Temkin

  • In case you have an MIPS based Cobald Qube or Raq around and don't want to run a dead-old L*nux system, have a look at http://www.netbsd.org/Ports/cobalt/ [netbsd.org].

    - Hubert

  • Did anyone else notice that there was not a single mention of Linux in the Sun press release? This falls in line with Cobalt's decision earlier this year to distance themselves from Linux in their Marketing and PR efforts.
  • I have a small Cobalt server at home. It works great, and it's easy to admin. And if I want to, I can always telnet into the box and do more advanced things. It has given me no problems.

    And of course they have a very eye catching design. It's a great conversation piece.

    I hope Sun doesn't mess with they key to their success.
  • I heard Mercury was looking for some Mercury.

  • > the higher end colbalt servers aren't x86
    > though.. i *think* they are mips based. only the
    > low end cobalt's are x86.

    Actually they _were_ Mips-based, but Cobalt has announced in october 1999 that they were dropping Mips for x86. Its whole line is migrating progressively. This decision essensially boiled down to the wider availability of Linux software for x86 compared to Mips.
  • ... they will probably put these inexpensive UltraSPARCs into the next generation Cubes. No one cares what processor is in, especially in the Linux world where you can compile anything for the target architecture.

    As for the performance, it will be pretty good. These boxes are not processor-bound anyway.

    I also think they will keep Linux as the OS: can anyone spell UltraPenguin ? ;-) Another thing is that they will probably release a closed-source C/C++ compiler for Linux on SPARC for free, the way DEC did.
  • For common, read open, documented standard. Just another quibble over semantics, nothing to see here.
  • It was just a poor choice of word, that's all, I meant open and standard. I just despise SMB because it caused me more work without any benefits whatsoever, merely because the monopoly likes to make life difficult for those that don't just hand over money and not try something else.
  • Convoluted? In what way. I setup Mandrake in about 5 minutes to file and print share with my other boxes. Oh right, you mean file and print share with Windows clients, yes that is a bit harder, I blame the monopoly. If they used common networking protocols instead of their own badly-documented crud [samba.org] then you wouldn't have a problem and the Samba team would be able to do something better than have to figure out the garbage hack that Microsoft Notworking is (no offence to the Samba boys, you do a fine job, you just shouldn't have to)
  • If Handled correctly Sun Could really push Colbalt to the next level. Cobalt makes good stuff, I think sun might be able to make it better.
  • I think sun will be able to lower the production cost while adding their own "flare" tp the product. I am lookin foward to see what is produced and how they support those who own cobalt systems
  • I doubt that was Bowie, it was probably just someone who has actual business experience, unlike 99% of slashdot.

    anyone on AC automatically falls into this category too.

  • Sun obviously wants to nip VA in the bud by controlling the low end of linux rack boxes itself.

    If they can compartmentalize VA and hold them to certain margins and markets, Sun can keep them out of the more lucrative higher-margin mid-range market.

    The better Sun encircles VA, the better protected their midrange market is.

  • VA? VA isn't even remotely in the same league as Sun!

    Thats right (and obvious) - crush your competitors while they are small. Why wait for the more expensive battles that invariably loom if linux (and VA) continues to grow?

  • Cobalt isn't in the same business. Cobalt makes preconfigured, browser-managed server appliances for vertical markets, with a focus on easy deployment and easy, GUI-based management. VA makes high-performance general-purpose servers with nothing but a raw OS installed on them.

    Both companies are aggresively pursuing the rackspace market with 1U and 2U units that are fairly competitive in terms of features.

    I htink most of your description for both companies is arbitrary - both build linux boxes that could be useful in a variety of applications. I don't think the veneer of management software cobalt supplies really isloates them that much from VA competition.

  • Well according to this articel on cnet [cnet.com] they do want to move to Solaris and Sparc:

    "However, in the long term, Sun expects to move Cobalt's products over to
    Sun's UltraSparc CPUs and its Solaris operating system, Schwartz said."

  • Cobalt servers are neat. Because they are so damn small, I got the idea of RAIS Redundent Array of Inexpensive Servers.Simply apply the same reasoning behind RAID, that a bunch of cleverly configured cheap hard drives are better than one Super Drive, then a bunch of cheap servers is better than one or two Super Servers. An array of 100, or 1000, of these puppies would be pretty awsome to see, and if you could put all the hard drives in RAID 5 mode, and have it configured so that the whole mess is load balanced and failure tolerant, you would have an awsome server. But could it compete with Sun or IBMs really big iron like the RS/6000 or that $10 million Sun server I read a review about. At $3000 per server * 1000 servers, your still ahead.
    How many hits/sec can one cobalt handle, anyway?
  • Since Cobalt is suing Macintosh over the cube design, is Sun now going to put more lawyers behind the suit?

    Also, Sun / Cobalt / ChiliSoft will be a powerful combination. So much for IIS.


    Coincidence is the Superstition of Science

  • well hell, if you can't beat 'em, buy 'em out :)
  • Sun has unfortunately missed out on the whole low-end server game over the last few years, most likely because of their focus on Solaris and other "big iron" type products. Whilst they had recognised the potential for webservers, they seem to have totally missed out on the idea that people would want to run them from home, and this is why Linux has taken off - it may not be as good as Solaris, but it runs on your home PC.

    Now they're trying to get back into the low-end market through buy-outs rather than repositioning, because they're just not flexible enough to do so - just look at Java for an example of Sun's cluelessness when it comes to the market. Buying Cobalt may given them a portion of the market, but it will hardly path the way for them to gain any appreciable amount of market share.

    To be honest, I don't really see much of a future for Sun. All of their recent moves seem to be those of desparation - giving away Solaris, trying to keep Java proprietary and now buying Cobalt. Between Microsoft and Linux, they're fast becoming a non-entity in the computing world.

  • Not conspiracy theories, just going by the information I have.

    I agree with you here
    The way I remember it, Kiva/Netscape's app server, also acquired by Sun, had the more advanced and scalable backend but no good tools to speak of,...

    And I agree with you here
    [Netdynamics had] a somewhat anemic and behind-the-curve backend

    But this is hilarious.
    NetDynamics had the better development tools

    I hated ND's development tools. They were buggy and not very intuitive. As I recall, most people I know used a third-party front-end for most of their development.

    However, the former president of NetDynamics left his new VP post with Sun shortly after the ND death announcement. I was told by a few people I used to work with that it was partially over Sun's treatment of NetDynamics and it's developers. The people I heard this from went to work for a startup founded by several of the top developers of NetDynamics. Now granted this info is second-hand, however it's second-hand from people who should know.

  • They were a small startup that had an application server and development tool that allowed developers to utilize Java to create a "web application" that ran server-side sort of like Microsoft's ASP, or IBM's WebSphere, or BEA WebLogic. It was more or less the industry leader in this type of development and directly competed with some of the things Sun was trying to do. Around the time NetDynamics 4.0 came out, Sun bought NetDynamics. Before NetDynamics 5.0 could be released, AOL bought Netscape and Sun licensed Netscape Application Server from AOL. Shortly after NetDynamics 5.0 was released Sun anounced that the NetDynamics line would no longer be developed, and instead they would be doing something new using Netscape Application Server. Most of the NetDynamics 5.0 code had been written before Sun aquired the company, so they never really invested anything into the product. Basically they acquired their biggest competitor in a paticular strategic line and stuffed them in a closet.

    Could the same thing happen here? Stay tuned.

  • I'm sick of Sun already. Between the Solaris identity crisis (the kernel version is 2.7, but they insist on giving it the insipidly alliterative name "Sun Solaris 7") and their patent/trademark hoodlums (see CmdrTaco's homepage [cmdrtaco.net] for an example [his Invaders program]), my destiny is becoming all the more vivid:

    Build a soundcard that doesn't suck, and

    Oppose Sun Microsystems, Inc., LLC, CRAP, ETC, in every way, shape, and form.

  • ...this is an obvious move by Sun to challenge Microsoft in the small server market (i.e.: the print/file server down the hall). Sun isn't content with the dot, it wants the printer, the files, soon, the world. Personally, my college uses Netware for that, and I'm ready to start the Win2K revolution (if I knew that Linux could file/print serve as reliably as Win2k, I would use it, but the Linux setup process is too convoluted, so I won't). I'm sick of the college network having a 275 ping on 10base when my high-school had a 120 ping on the same setup (with Macs, hehe).
  • "I have even seen something about java on mobile phones."

    That will really suck, picture this on your cell phone:

    Downloading addresses...
    Trying...
    Still Trying...
    STILL Trying...
    Download terminated; Java failed to initialize correctly.
  • As I recall, Lotus developed Improv in house, first for NeXT and later for Windows. Granted it was a clone of Javelin Plus but it wasn't ever available without the Lotus nameplate.

    Now, speaking of Javelin, it was bought by IRI and when they were bought out by Oracle, it was killed off.

  • What will Cobalt gain from Sun: 1) Cobalt support sucks big time, in Europe it is NON-existant. A saleman trying to flog these things said they didn't have European support, if they go wrong you can get a return in a week or so ! Cobalt management needs a good kick up the ass. Now Sun support is patchy in places (like SoCal where they use Kodak engineers) but if you've ever been stuck at 2am with a problem you can always get support and their European logisitics operation is one of the best in the entire business. It's not unusual to get advanced replacements on site within 2 hours, well before the hardware engineer arrives. Cobalt will benefit from Sun's experience of logistics and support that takes years to get right. 2) Cobalt saleman knock on your door with two pieces of paper - a price list (look they are cheap) and a glossy brochure (look they are a cooool bluuue). Laying off Cobalt's direct salesforce will save COBT money - these things should sell through the channel and off the page. 3) Strategy - where do COBT go alone? Different colour boxes, even cheaper boxes, or do they have the ability to start a mid-range server program - I think not. Cobalt stuck a GUI onto a Linux PC and painted it a pretty colour. They are great boxes if all you want to do is host a simple website and set up some POP boxes. They made hosting a web site for people without Unix experience easy, the end user doesn't know or care about whether it runs Linux or Solaris, or BSD. That was Cobalt's genius, what do they do next alone? As it happens I don't believe Sun will screw Cobalt, I think Cobalt will benefit. Yes they screwed up x86 - I believe they have learned from that. Sun want to do the end to end game, same as Cisco, which is why Cobalt made sense to Sun. Sun own the Unix datacentre, next aquisition set top boxes and every server in between. Take the Sun shares, your Grandchildren will thank you one day.
  • Of all colors to get, why cobalt?! If i owned a major corporation like SUN i would go for a more popular color, maybe even a primary color. If you want to go for odd colors, i'd say puce, maybe even the controvercial "Indian Red".
  • Dude, I want some of what you're smoking.

    Missed out on a market with next to zero profits? While focusing on machines that have huge profit margines? Wow, Sun really blew that one, because now they have enough money to buy a leader in the low end market...oh wait.

    Sun a non-entity?

    Oh man...

    That's funny.

    Look for a job lately? Notice how the 'non-entity' Sun is all over? Jeez...

    In non-ISP 'net markets, Sun is huge, at the expense of HP, SGI, and IBM. Sun is the only non-open source based Unix vendor to grow their market share lately.

    Not sure what you're talking about in regards to Java. Sure, Java's client side market didn't take off like it's server side has, which is huge now. And guess what all these server side Java programs run best on? Why, that'd be Solaris on a sparc! And Sun is basically the Linus on the Java world, the benevolent dictator who calls the shots.

    Need a sturdy web application built in the shortest time? You're hard pressed to beat Java on a Sun. And yes, I know Perl/PHP on Linux is close, but the fact is that Java is a cleaner language. When you have a team of coders at different levels trying to hit impossible deadlines, Java forces everyone to write decent and maintainable code.

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