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General Dynamics Buys Sparc Notebook Specialist Tadpole Computer
Tadpole Computer, which has been making Sparc-based laptops for many years and which has dabbled a bit in the server market, said this week it has been acquired by military contractor General Dynamics for an undisclosed sum. Tadpole was one of the few remaining free agents in Sparc computing (aside from Fujitsu-Siemens) and has focused on the government and military markets in recent years since Unix and Solaris, in particular, are held in high regard by those types of organizations thanks to the robustness and security of Unix machines. In this regard, Tadpole is a good fit for General Dynamics.
Tadpole, which is based in Cupertino Calif., has a two-way laptop called the BullFrog that is based on the low-power UltraSparc-IIIi and supports 16 GB of main memory; this is an interesting machine, and it is dubbed a workstation and a "portable server." The company made some waves in early 2004 with the SparcLE general purpose notebook, which was the uniprocessor predecessor to the BullFrog. The company has also delivered Pentium and Opteron notebooks. All of Tadpole's products have one thing in common: they are built to run Sun Microsystems' Solaris Unix variant.
Tadpole will be folded into the aptly named C4 Systems business unit of General Dynamics, and its 60 employees will be added to the 10,000-strong employee base of that unit of the military contractor. While General Dynamics, which had sales of $19.2 billion last year and which has more than 70,800 employees worldwide, did not say what the terms of the deal were for the acquisition, it did say that it would be immediately accretive to its financials, which suggests that Tadpole, although small, was making money.
SCO Promotes Chief Techie, Adds New VP of Marketing
X86 Unix distributor SCO Group has promoted its lead software engineer, Sandy Gupta, and given him the title of chief technology officer, while at the same time bringing in a new vice president of marketing to help the company peddle its new OpenServer 6 and future "Fusion" Unix products. Gupta will continue in his role as vice president of engineering at SCO, and will oversee the development teams that SCO has in New Jersey, California, Utah, and India (Delhi). Gupta lead the development of the UnixWare products at the New Jersey office prior to being named top software engineer, and he specifically lead the development for UnixWare 7.1.4 and OpenServer 6, the current Unixes from SCO. Now Gupta will have control of all technical development at SCO, not just for Unix products.
SCO also announced it has hired Tim Negris to be vice president of marketing, He has been a marketing executive at IBM, Oracle, and other IT firms in a career that spans 25 years. He apparently coined the term "thin client" while working at Oracle. He was a product manager at Sybase as well.
HP Technology Forum Picks Up for Failed Interex
While we told you that the HP World show put on by the former Interex user group of Hewlett-Packard customers was canceled a few weeks as Interex apparently went into bankruptcy, the inaugural HP Technology Forum, which is produced by HP in conjunction with the Encompass and OpenView Forum user groups, is still on deck in New Orleans from September 12 through 15. Along with HP, BEA Systems, Cisco Systems, Citrix Systems, Intel, Microsoft, and Oracle are sponsoring the event. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the HP customer base was not big enough for two big shows, and once HP stopped backing Interex, the game was pretty much over.
Former Senator and astronaut John Glenn will deliver the closing keynote of HP Technology Forum, and his fellow Ohioan, Mark Hurd, the new president and CEO of HP who used to have those posts at NCR, will open up the show. The event also hosts 200 training labs, 400 breakout sessions covering more than 20 technology focus areas, and testing for various HP certifications. You can find out more at www.hptechnologyforum.com
Intel to Debut New Chip Architecture at Fall IDF
If the big event at the Spring Intel Developer Forum was Intel's embracement of the concept of putting multiple processor cores into a single computer socket to deliver performance increases, the upcoming IDF show next week will be about the unveiling of a new processor microarchitecture, apparently code-named "Nehalem," but then again, Intel won't confirm that. The company did say it would be talking about the new microarchitecture, which has nothing to do with the 10 GHz Pentium 4 that Intel had been talking about delivering in 2005 back in 2002 that was also code-named Nehalem. (Remember that? 10 GHz. Well, we'll never see that, and thank heavens.)
There is a lot of speculation out there that Nehalem will involve taking the Pentium M core from Intel's laptop and notebook line of chips and making the Nehalem architecture by tweaking the Pentium M pipeline so it can handle desktop, workstation, and server workloads. This may involve adding HyperThreading to the Pentium M core (which it does not have), as well as tweaks that allow the processor to scale from four to maybe as many as 16 cores per socket and deliver a reasonable performance benefit. The new architecture will probably also feature the so-called Common System Interface bus, which allows either Xeon or Itanium processors to be plugged into the same box (although not concurrently), as well as Intel's answer to AMD's HyperTransport interconnection scheme for its Opteron processors. New processors based on this new microarchitecture are expected to come to market in the second half of 2006.
OSDL Pushes Patent Commons Through New Initiative
While there has been some generosity on the part of some IT players to provide a set of patents to the open source community that developers can use without fear of recrimination, and while some vendors have said they will not pursue patent violators in the open source community (which seems like a violation of due diligence, if you ask me, but it is a nice gesture just the same), what the open source community really needs is a patent commons. This would be a place where all donated patents would be put under a central control point and owned by the community itself.
At LinuxWorld last week, Open Source Development Labs, announced it was creating such a patent commons. Well, sort of. OSDL is the center of gravity of the commercial Linux community--by which we mean the vendors who are pushing Linux solutions and who are funding corporate development of the Linux platform--so having that organization establish the patent commons makes sense.
The patent commons is still in the planning stages, says OSDL. In some ways, a patent commons makes good sense; in other ways, it is counter to the spirit of the community it is trying to help. Someone has to think this through. Keeping a list of patent pledges by vendors, as the OSDL will be doing, is not the same thing as becoming the undisputed owner of a patent. Promises to not litigate are not the same thing as ownership of a software patent when it comes to a lawsuit. Just because Vendor A says it will not sue the parties in an open source project if they tread on (knowingly or not, actually or not) a particular patent, does not mean that Vendor B cannot sue the community members for the same violation. And the parties in an open source community do not have the resources to counter sue, and it seems unlikely that a vendor who promised a freebie on particular patents will pick up the tab for such a countersuit. What seems clear is that you can't do a patent commons half way. OSDL and the open source community who want to get a real patent commons off the ground have to make it more than just a list of promises. Ironically, the open source community tends to be against the granting of software patents--correctly believing that copyright and trade secret law is strong enough protection for code--but we live in a world where clever lawyers have argued for and stupid judges have allowed the patenting of software--as well as DNA and other silly things. It's already law, as we have to deal with what is.
Cray Names New CEO as It Posts Big Loss for Q2
Supercomputer maker Cray announced last week that its chairman and CEO, Jim Rottsolk, has stepped down from those positions as Cray continues to struggle with its big projects and with ramping up its three supercomputer product lines. Several months ago, there were rumors that the 41 teraflops "Red Storm" Linux-Opteron massively parallel supercomputer that Cray is building for Sandia National Laboratories had been hit by delays, but Cray said at the time that it had met its milestone on March 31 to demo the Sandia software workloads on Red Storm and had received payments for the project. But last week, Peter Ungaro, the former IBM supercomputer salesman who was brought in by Cray to sell its gear in August 2003, who was made president in March 2005, and who was tapped to be the new CEO last week, said that delays on some of its biggest projects had caused the company to report a net loss of $23.8 million in the second quarter of 2005 (which was 27 cents per share) on sales of $53.4 million. Cray's quarterly sales have been choppy every since the former Tera Computer bought Cray from Silicon Graphics and took its name back in March 2000, and it seems clear that Cray's board of directors and investors have ran out of patience. Hence, Rottsolk has retired. He will, however, remain on the board of directors through 2005. Cray said it had $58.8 million worth of computers sitting at customer sites, waiting for acceptance testing to be complete, an increase of $21 million since the end of the first quarter.
"While we had a solid revenue quarter, some of our largest and most complex installations have been delayed in getting into full production," Ungaro said in a statement accompanying the financial results. "We will not recognize the revenue on these systems until we receive customer acceptances, which should happen over the next several months. We have focused our development and customer support teams on accelerating these acceptances and continue to sharpen our business, product and marketing strategies to reduce costs and return to profitability." He also said Cray had to allocate an additional $7.8 million in costs to complete the Red Storm contract with Sandia, and because of this and other factors, Cray had to reduce its workforce by nearly 10 percent. Cray has appointed Stephen Kiely, a long-time board member, as its non-executive chairman. The company finished the second quarter with $8.5 million in cash, having burned down a big piece of its $43.1 million in reserves at the end of the first quarter. Cray has negotiated a credit facility with Wells Fargo and has not touched it.
Cray has been getting some traction on the commercialized version of the Red Storm machines, which is called the XT3, having just installed a 10 teraflops, 2,090-processor XT3 at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center dubbed, appropriately, "Big Ben." The company also announced that it has just sold a 2.5 teraflops XD1 Linux-Opteron supercomputer to the Naval Research Lab in the United States; the XD1 is the supercomputer designed by the former OctigaBay, a Canadian supercomputing startup that Cray acquired in March 2004 for $115 million. As we go to press, Cray's stock is trading at $1.20 per share and the entire company, including the XT3 and XD1 lines as well as the X1E vector machines, is only valued at $112 million. Cray said the best case scenario--which means all large machines currently at sites get accepted and it can recognize their revenue as well as some new orders for smaller machines come in--is for the company to have sales of about $220 million for all of 2005. This is about the revenue level that Wall Street expects. However, any one of its key deals, Cray warned, could shave revenue by $15 million. Cray says depending on the timing of the layoffs and acceptances, it could see a modest improvement in its cash position at the end of the third quarter.
AMD to Ship SimNow to Simulate Future Opterons for Software Developers
If you are a software developer and you want to figure out how to code your system or application software for future Athlon and Opteron technologies like the "Pacifica" virtualization extensions to these chips or see what effect moving from single- to dual-core processors will have, then AMD has a tool for you. It's called the SimNow Simulator, and it gives programmers a way to simulate these features on a box that doesn't actually have them. The Pacifica virtualization features are due in Opteron chips that are expected in the first half of 2006. The SimNow Simulator was used by Novell so it could tweak its SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 software to support these and other AMD chip features, and now AMD is offering it to the entire development community. You will be able to download it starting on August 22 at http://developer.amd.com/simnow.aspx.