Q&A: McNealy defends Sun reliability, personal privacy views
Computerworld - BURLINGTON, MASS. -- During a visit to his company's offices here today, Sun Microsystems Inc. Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy met with Computerworld's news editor for a candid discussion of issues ranging from how Sun dealt with a serious server reliability problem to the ire he has raised among privacy advocates over his stance on national ID cards. Excerpts from the interview follow:
Q: We reported last year about the problem with the external memory cache on UltraSPARC IIs that was causing a lot of Ultra Enterprise servers to crash. Is that something you're still grappling with, or is it history?
A: We're no longer buying IBM SRAM [static random-access memory]. They were the biggest source of the problem for us. They knew about it before, and they didn't tell us. I actually interviewed an employee [who formerly worked at IBM] -- I saw his resume. And I said, "You knew about this?" He said, "Oh yeah. A year ago IBM stopped using this SRAM because there are alpha particle problems, and the soft error rate is high." Imagine that; we didn't get told about it. But IBM sure made a big point of telling all of our customers about it a year and a half ago. But we don't have that issue anymore. We designed IBM out of that and put [error checking and correcting logic] across the entire cache architecture.
Q: Are you fully confident that your new Sun Fire 15K server is free of this whole memory cache problem?
CEO at Sun Microsystems
Q: So now that IBM is out, who supplies your SRAM?
A: Sony [Corp.] and a couple others. You just go find suppliers who treat you with integrity and provide a quality product and good price/performance. It was our fault. We didn't screen the SRAM for soft error rates.
Q: Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM have recently lowered their Unix server prices to compete more aggressively against Sun. Do you see a Unix server price war coming?
A: There [already] is one. No lie, it's a two-company short list situation right now -- only IBM and Sun. I cannot tell you the last time I ran into HP as a legitimate competitor. It's been a year and a half since I've run into Compaq [Computer
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