Company aims its Redshift initiative at expanding network loads
Moore's law and the commoditization of server boxes had most of us believing that the days of big iron were over. For a while at least, it looked as if Intel and Windows Server would take over the heart of the datacenter.
Perhaps even Sun Microsystems believed this would happen. How else to explain its adoption of x86 chips to the detriment of its high-performance Sparc product line?
The argument posited that it would be insane to spend $50K, for starters, on a Sun Solaris box when an Intel cluster at a third the price would do. Actually, in 1996, a high-end Sparc "mainframe" could cost more than $1 million.
Although many analysts -- and nearly all vendors with Windows hardware and software to sell -- endorsed the idea wholeheartedly, I don't think IT ever really bought into it.
If the poet William Blake said, "You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough," then IT departments never got there. You can never have enough performance, as IT knows. And now, with the advent of Web 2.0, SaaS, widgets, YouTube, and streaming video over your cell phone, that truth is self-evident.
Enter Redshift. Sun's answer to the newest demands on the network, one that could in fact indicate an actual shift taking place in the IT industry.
The name of Sun's initiative comes from an astronomical phenomenon -- the shifting of light toward the red end of the spectrum due to the expansion of the universe. Get it? Sun, universe, expanding -- as in scaling to meet the needs of an expanding network. You could say that with Redshift, Sun wants to be the Sparc behind the Web 2.0 network infrastructure as it evolves.
Of course, you can still deploy x86 rack-mount and blade servers, even with the Sun logo. But what Sun seems to be saying with Redshift is that fast, cheap, and easy no longer scale well enough. Wintel will just have to wait a bit longer before it becomes the heartbeat of the datacenter.
To meet these expanding network needs, Sun's latest products are built around Solaris ZFS, a 128-bit file system that yields almost unlimited data capacity, says Peder Ulander, vice president of marketing for Web 2.0 at Sun.
At the risk of becoming a commercial for Sun, here's how I see Sun reading the market as revealed by its Redshift initiative.
Project Blackbox is literally a virtual datacenter in a box. It houses eight server racks in a 160-square-foot shipping container. At 38 units per rack, it has the capacity for more than 700 CPUs, 2,000 cores, or 8,000 compute threads. And the entire network system architecture and management network are included inside.