Sun Microsystems

SUN redirects here, for other meanings see SUN (disambiguation).

Template:Infobox Company

Sun Microsystems is a computer, semiconductor and software manufacturer headquartered in Santa Clara, California, in Silicon Valley. Sun's manufacturing facilities are located in Hillsboro, Oregon and Linlithgow, Scotland.

Sun's products include computer servers and workstations based on its own SPARC and AMD's Opteron processors, the Solaris and Linux operating systems, the NFS network file system, and the Java platform. Its less successful ventures have included the NeWS window system and the OpenLook graphical user interface.

Sun Microsystem is headquartered on the west campus of Agnews Developmental Area in Santa Clara, California, which was formerly an insane asylum. The east branch is also owned by the company and is located in San Jose.


Brief history

The initial design for Sun's UNIX workstation was conceived when the founders were graduate students at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. The company name SUN originally stood for Stanford University Network (which is reflected in the company's stock symbol, SUNW, which now stands for Sun Worldwide). The company was incorporated in 1982 and went public in 1986. Its founders were Vinod Khosla, Scott McNealy, Bill Joy (a primary developer of BSD Unix), and Andy Bechtolsheim; McNealy and Bechtolsheim remain at Sun. Other Sun luminaries include early employees John Gilmore and James Gosling. Sun was an early advocate of Unix-based networked computing, promoting TCP/IP and especially NFS, as reflected in the company's motto "The Network Is The Computer". James Gosling led the team which developed the Java programming language. Most recently, Jon Bosak led the creation of the XML specification at W3C.

Sun's logo, which features four interleaved copies of the word sun, was designed by professor Vaughan Pratt, also of Stanford University. The initial version of the logo had the sides oriented horizontally and vertically, but it was subsequently redesigned so as to appear to stand on one corner.


Sun originally used the Motorola 68000 CPU family for the Sun 1 through Sun 3 computer series. Starting with the Sun 4 line (SPARCstation 1 onwards), the company used its own processor family, SPARC, which employs an IEEE standard RISC architecture. Sun has implemented multiple high-end generations of the Sparc architecture, including Sparc-1, SuperSparc, UltraSparc-I, UltraSparc-II, UltraSparc-III, and currently UltraSparc IV. Sun also has a second line of lower cost processors meant for low-end systems which included the MicroSparc-I, MicroSparc-II, UltraSparc-IIi, and UltraSparc-IIIi. Sun has had a difficult time keeping up with its competitors' processors' clock speed and computing power, but its customer base has been fairly loyal due to the popularity of its SunOS (and later Solaris) versions of Unix.

The console of a Sun workstation running the
The console of a Sun workstation running the X Window System

For the first decade of Sun's history, the company was predominately a vendor of technical workstations, competing successfully as a low-cost vendor during the Workstation Wars of the 1980s. In the late-1990s, as Sun's workstations were lagging in performance when compared to that of their competitors and especially to Wintel Personal Computers, the company successfully transformed itself to a vendor of large-scale Symmetric multiprocessing servers. This transition was enabled by technology that was acquired from Silicon Graphics and Cray Research. The Cray CS-6400 server line was transformed into the very successful Sun Enterprise 10000 and Sun Enterprise 450 mainframes.

For a short period in the late 1980s, they sold an Intel 80386–based machine, the Sun 386i. An x86 port of Solaris has been available since then. Currently, Sun is again selling x86 hardware and has introduced a version of Solaris for AMD64.

In the mid-1990s, Sun acquired Diba and Cobalt Networks with the aim of building network appliances (single function computers meant for consumers). Sun also marketed a network computer (diskless workstation, as popularized by Oracle Corporation CEO Larry Ellison). None of these business initiatives were particularly successful.

Starting in the late 1990s, Sun highlighted symmetric multiprocessing to compete with the capabilities of Intel-based servers. Driven by the increased prominence of web-serving database-searching applications, blade servers (high density rack-mounted systems) were also emphasized.

The Bubble and Its Aftermath

During the dot-com bubble, Sun experienced dramatic growth in revenue, profits, share price, and expenses. Some part of this was due to genuine expansion of demand for web-serving cycles, but another part was synthetic, fueled by venture capital-funded startups building out large, expensive Sun-centric server presences in the expectation of high traffic levels that never materialized. The share price in particular increased to a level that even the company's executives were hard-pressed to defend. In response to this business growth, Sun expanded aggressively in all areas: head-count, infrastructure, and office space.

The bursting of the bubble in 2001 was the start of a period of poor business performance for Sun, as the growth of online business failed to meet predictions. Multiple quarters of substantial losses and declining revenues have led to repeated rounds of layoffs, executive departures, and expense-reduction efforts. In 2002 the share price returned to the 1998 pre-bubble level, a pattern of escalation and decline comparable to other companies in the sector, and has hovered in the single digits since then. In mid-2004, Sun ceased manufacturing operations at their Newark, California facility and consolidated all of the company's US-based manufacturing operations to their Hillsboro, Oregon facility, as part of continued cost-reduction efforts.

Many companies (like E*Trade and Google) chose to build Web applications based on large numbers of cheap PC-class Intel-architecture servers running Linux, rather than a smaller number of high-end Sun servers. They reported benefits including substantially lower expenses (both acquisition and maintenance) and greater flexibility based on the use of open-source software.

Present focus

In 2004, Sun cancelled two major processor projects which were emphasizing high instruction level parallelism and high operating frequency. Instead, the company chose to concentrate on processor projects emphasizing multi-threading and multiprocessing. The company also announced a collaboration with Fujitsu to use the Japanese company's processor chips in some future Sun computers. Finally, it has a strategic alliance with AMD to produce market-leading x86/x64 servers based on AMD's Opteron processor. To this end, it acquired Kaelia, a startup founded by original Sun founder Andy Bechtolsheim, which had been focusing on high-performance AMD-based servers.

In February 2005, Sun announced the Sun Grid (, a grid computing deployment on which it offers utility computing services priced at $1 (US) per CPU/hour for processing and per GB/month for storage. This offering builds upon an existing 3,000-CPU server farm used for internal R&D for over 10 years, of which Sun claims to be able to achieve 97% utilization.

Sun's software initiatives are increasingly making use of Open Source, most notably including Solaris via the OpenSolaris community. Sun's positioning includes a commitment to indemnify users of some software from intellectual property disputes concerning that software. The announced business model is the sale of support services on a variety of bases including per-employee and per-socket.

Sun chooses not to carry some forms of insurance (such as earthquake insurance).

In January 2005, Sun reported a net profit of $19 million for fiscal 2005 second quarter, for the first time in three years. This was followed by net loss of $9 mln on GAAP basis for the third quarter 2005, as reported on April 14, 2005.

On June 2, 2005, Sun announced it would purchase Storage Technology Corporation ("Storagetek") for US$4.1 billion in cash, or $37.00 per share. If approved, the merger would create a company with approximately 39,000 employees.


Operating systems

Missing image
Solaris 8 with the Common Desktop Environment

The Sun 1 was shipped with Unisoft V7 UNIX. Later in 1982 Sun provided a customized 4.1BSD UNIX called SunOS as an operating system for its workstations. In 1992, along with AT&T, it integrated BSD UNIX and System V into Solaris, which as a result is based on UNIX SVR4.

Sun offered a secure variant of Solaris called Trusted Solaris for releases before the current Solaris 10, which includes the same capabilities as part of the basic offering.

Sun is also known for community-based and open-source licensing of its major technologies. Though a late adopter, it has included Linux as part of its strategy, following several years of difficult competition and loss of server market share to Linux-based systems. Recently, Sun has offered Linux-based desktop software called Java Desktop System (originally code-named "Madhatter") for use both on x86 hardware and on Sun's SunRay thin-client systems. It has also announced plans to supply its Java Enterprise System (a middleware stack) on Linux. It has already released its newest OS, Solaris 10, under the open-source Common Development and Distribution License.

Java platform

The Java platform, developed in the early 1990s was specifically developed with the objective of allowing programs to function regardless of the device they were used on, sparking the slogan "Write once, run everywhere". While this objective has not been achieved (prompting the riposte "Write once, debug everywhere"), Java is regarded as being largely hardware- and operating system-independent.

Java was initially promoted as a platform for client-side applets running inside the web browser. This positioning was never very successful and while browser-based applications have had considerable success in displacing compiled applications on the desktop, Java has never been an important part of the web-browser experience.

The platform consists of three major parts, the Java programming language, the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), and several Java Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). The design of the Java platform is controlled by the vendor and user community through the Java Community Process (JCP).

The Java programming language is an object-oriented programming language. Since its introduction in late 1995, it has become one of the world's most popular programming languages.

In order to allow programs written in the Java language to be run on (virtually) any device, Java programs are compiled to byte code, which can be executed by any JVM, regardless of the environment.

The Java APIs provide an extensive set of library routines. The Standard Edition (J2SE) of the API provides basic infrastructure and GUI functionality, while the Enterprise Edition (J2EE) is aimed at large software companies implementing enterprise-class application servers. The Micro Edition (J2ME) is used to build software for devices with limited resources, such as mobile devices.

Office suite

Sun acquired the German software company StarDivision and with it StarOffice, which it released as the office suite under both GNU LGPL and the SISSL (Sun Industry Standards Source License)., often compared with Microsoft Office (a Microsoft spokesman has stated it is comparable to Office 97), is available on many platforms and widely used in the open source community.

The current StarOffice product is a closed-source product based on The principal differences between StarOffice and are that Sun supports it and it comes nicely packaged with extensive documentation, a wider range of fonts and templates and what Sun claims to be an improved dictionary and thesaurus. Whilst new releases of are relatively frequent, StarOffice follows a more conservative release schedule supposedly more suited to enterprise deployments.


  • "Take it to the nth"
  • "We are the dot in the dot-com"
  • "We make the net work"
  • "The Network is the Computer"

The "dot in the dot-com" one caused an outcry from many who felt that they are the true "dot".

See also

External links

Official Sun Information

General Unofficial Sun Information

Sun 3 Unofficial Information

Sun 2 Workstation

Sun Stories

Liberty Alliance Project (Alternative to Microsoft's Passport technology)

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