Is DTrace Sun's killer application?

Is DTrace Sun's killer application?

Summary: Wednesday evening I'm at Le Colonial in San Francisco's Tenderloin District having a spirited discussion with one of Sun's young Turks, a bright software engineer called Bryan Cantrill. We're talking about a technology he and his team have developed called DTrace.

TOPICS: Oracle

Wednesday evening I'm at Le Colonial in San Francisco's Tenderloin District having a spirited discussion with one of Sun's young Turks, a bright software engineer called Bryan Cantrill.

We're talking about a technology he and his team have developed called DTrace. Quite simply it is a way to spot performance bottlenecks in today's complex IT systems. If you don't have that kind of capability these days, and he says IBM doesn't, then you need it because finding performance bottlenecks is near impossible without such tools.

DTrace is an open source technology but that is just a checkbox feature  (open source arguments are so 2003...) DTrace is also a sales tool. With DTrace, IT departments can pinpoint and optimize their IT processes, which means they are optimizing their business processes, which means immediate bottom line benefits. The ROI argument on such things is a no brainer.

What is interesting about Sun's approach is that here is a way to sell Sun systems. It is a new way to be proprietary and still be a good open source citizen.

But this is not new, Sun has always used software to sell hardware; you could say that it wraps metal around software.

These days Sun has a decent story in terms of where it fits into the IT landscape. But that has required a jarring shift in culture, and a big adjustment from years of unbridled growth, to coping with years of lean and progressively leaner times.

Sun isn't anywhere near capturing the stunning margins of its pre-bust glory days but then again neither is anyone else. It's important to remember that the IT enterprise market didn't go away, it's still a massive market, and Sun has managed to hang onto a piece of that ecosystem.

Even if IT budgets don't grow by much these days, the mix of IT budget spending is shifting towards new projects and away from legacy infrastructure maintenance. That's good for Sun and other IT vendors.

The question is whether Sun can continue its cultural adjustment, and accept that its customers have to manage heterogeneous IT environments. DTrace only runs on Solaris (and Mac OS X but that's not an enterprise system). Will DTrace convince them to go homogenous? If it is powerful enough maybe it will.

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Additional info:

Bryan Cantrill's Blog: The Observation Deck

Topic: Oracle

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  • so whats the difference between

    D-Trace sounds a lot like Performance Monitoring on Windows. If its not how exactly is it different.
    • The difference is

      DTrace is not just a performance tool. It is a way to drill down to the most basic system calls and discover EXACTLY where the performance issues are. It is WAY more powerful (and can be more WAY more complex) that just the typical graphs or other "standard" tools (in Unix iostat, vmstat, etc.). Once you've seen DTrace in action you will be amazed at the amount of information you can gleam. (On the other hand you can become swamped with data overload if you get over zealous.) The best part is that it is part of the kernel and has very minimal impact to overall system performance. (Again, you can do bad things if you try for too much data.)
      • Open source?

        So what do they mean by "open source". How are they licensing it? If it is licensed in such a way that it can only be used with Solaris, then the term "open source" really doesn't mean a whole lot, because technically it may be open source, but it is not open source in the sense that people think of typical GPL open source software. If it is GPL or a GPL like license, then it will only be a matter of time before it becomes available for Linux (and possibly (depending on the license) other Unixes for that matter). So "open source" really doesn't mean that something is not "proprietary", it simply means that it is not "closed source". The true opposite of "proprietary" is simply "open" or "free".
        George Mitchell
      • just copycat, hardly revolutionary

        Since last decade one could look at Performance Monitoring and get all data about the system on Windows.

        From what you say, it seems it is the same. D-Trace is almost a decade late and its just a copy.
        • Ignorance is bliss.

          You obviously have no concept whatsoever of what DTRace is about. This gives you the ability to drill down into the OS down whichever path you choose, to whatever granularity and find out what exactly is going on on a production system. Even dedicated application debug code can't give you this information.
          Mad Dan
        • Dude, you have

          no idea what you are talkig about.
  • Not what I'd call a KILLER yet

    In April '06, I took SUN Education's CLASS on DTrace. What a cool facility, just what we need to improve our services, we thought. BUT:


    Not only does it only work on SOLARIS 10, but it won't work anywhere but in a GLOBAL ZONE. No subordinate Zones. So it won't work where you WANT your application programmers/developers working.

    I learned these issues about halfway thru the SUN class.

    PLEASE PLEASE SOMEBODY from Sun tell me I'm misinformed or the problems I note above have been CORRECTED. Feel free to contact me with proof of the correction of these issues. We DESPERATELY want to use this tool that my employer paid somewhere like $2500 in travel expenses and wasted a class from a SUNPass to train me, but can't use it where we need it.

  • Only Morons would manage their network on machines other that OSX or SUN

    Benefits of managing your networks from OSX or Solaris. Small target. Stable.
    Rock solid.

    MSFT networking = switchblade
    OSX networking= Tomahawk Cruise Missle
    Solaris Networking= 100000 megaton nuke.

    Little benefit to try to attack Solaris or OSX machines why not manage networks
    with them and you can use BSD variants on the FIREWALL/DMZ.
  • Developers are the real audiance.

    D-Trace is a gawd send to many developers and attracting developers is what makes an OS popular over the long haul.
  • Laughing so hard

    I can't really type.

    Yup 90% of the world is wrong, only the vanishingly small percentage that use those 70s shows OSs are good.