Finally, Sun seems to be building an interesting story...but where is HP?

A return to Sun's hardware roots might return some of its lost glory.
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

Since Andy Belchtolsheim, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, made his return to the company in early 2004, I've been dying to figure out his plan to turn around Sun's fortunes. Now I'm beginning to think Sun might be getting its mojo back.

In fact, if I were trying to build another Google, Google can provide Sun with the volumes to make up the lower margins on the low end.I would pay a visit to Sun, (just as Google CEO and former Sun CTO Eric Schmidt did in early October.) Because Sun looks like it has some of the best hardware and systems to build large computing clusters using PC components, in this case, high-speed versions of Advanced Micro Devices Opteron microprocessor.

And Sun also has the Big Iron expertise, with new types of Sparc microprocessors ahead to power massive servers. Put the two together; the very slim PC-like Opteron blades, with the Big Iron, and you have a way to build a newer, more energy efficient, and far less flammable Google.

Eric Schmidt told a funny story a couple of years ago when he was the lunchtime speaker at an investment conference in San Francisco. He said that Google's use of many thousands of PCs, had at times run into problems--the heat generated in confined spaces would cause some of them to burst into flames. A simple cork pad placed between stacked systems, managed to fix the problem.

But this also focuses attention on the subject of electric power consumption. Wayne Rosing, VP of engineering at Google told me two years ago that electric power consumption was a big topic of concern at Google.

Now, two-years further on, as the GOOG becomes the planet's largest computer system, we have to assume electric power costs are even more important.

And we know that Opteron chips use less power, are more powerful, and are cheaper than those of rivals.

And the Big Iron Niagra systems coming  from Sun, will also offer substantial savings in electrical power because large systems are nearly always more efficient and economical to run than many smaller systems.

And it's not just Google that needs to build out a Google-like computing architecture--it is also the way new systems are being built at other large corporations. Ebay recently ordered a ton of Sun's Opteron gear  because it needs a robust, low cost, industry standard computing platform to take on its competitors.

Google traditionally hates to reveal where it buys its hardware and software, it doesn't want to be used by the vendor as an endorsement. But Google can provide Sun with the volumes to make up the lower margins on the low end. Not to mention the demands for similar systems from others. Which should turn out to be a nice business for Sun.

It is interesting to see Andy Bechtolsheim designing computer systems that would appeal to Google--especially since he helped start Google with a $100,000 angel investment. That's the way of good karma :-)

But at rival Hewlett-Packard, where is the story? It seems a rather muddled story at best, one that its new leadership should mull over in the next few weeks, imho.



Editorial standards