With every sunrise, brightness pervades our planet, bringing light and clarity after the darkness and shadows of night. Similarly, Sun Microsystems brings light to business intelligence for organizations throughout the world with a variety of products and technologies. Business intelligence is very serious business at Sun, and the company is committed to providing global organizations with the all-important single view of the enterprise required today. With this one comprehensive view of all aspects of an organization, a company's executive management team can confidently make decisions and take actions that will positively impact profitability, regulatory compliance, customer acquisition and retention, and system and application performance. From the data in a data warehouse to the entire enterprise, Sun's customers can see clearly, thanks to the single view of their enterprise enabled by Sun Java Enterprise System.
The technological innovation at Sun is not the result of good luck or accidental discovery. Mark Tolliver, chief strategy officer of Sun Microsystems, explains, "For 21 years Sun has been focused on one thing and one thing only network computing. In other words," he elaborates, "we have always focused on bringing global-scale, industrial-strength network computing to our customers. We are the specialists in big, scalable network computer solutions."
An eight-year Sun veteran, Tolliver has more than 25 years of experience in the high-tech industry and is also executive vice president of marketing and strategy at Sun. Prior to his current role, Tolliver was general manager of a strategic alliance between Sun and AOL Time Warner. "My challenge was to run an organization that was a combination of Sun employees and Netscape employees. We created an organization that was virtually one and revenue exceeded $1 billion. At the end of the project, we delivered to Sun a software portfolio that was world class in terms of its Internet infrastructure capability," remarks Tolliver.
The industrial-strength network computing capability that Sun provides is precisely what business intelligence/data warehousing implementations require. Sun rises to the challenge by providing an ecosystem for rapidly building and deploying successful enterprise business intelligence and data warehousing solutions. "The world of data warehousing is about taking the massive amounts of data that are being generated from a variety of sources and turning it into increasingly valid information," notes Tolliver. "It's not just manipulating huge quantities of data, but rather creating information from that data whether it's fraud detection or database marketing or another mission-critical area." The ecosystem includes a rich portfolio of iForce business intelligence/data warehousing (BIDW) ISV partners (Informatica, SAS, Oracle, SPSS, Business Objects, Sybase, Hyperion, Cognos, Actuate and many more), the iForce Business Intelligence Network, iForce Ready Center Services, Reference Architectures and the iForce BIDW Competency Centers. Sun's BIDW ecosystem mitigates risks and enables rapid deployment of successful solutions. Additionally, Sun network computing BIDW infrastructure products and technologies reduce the complexity of business intelligence/data warehousing projects and enable rapid deployment.
Sun's Competency Centers assist customers in reducing risk when planning an upgrade or new business intelligence/data warehousing implementation. The most commonly used service is server sizing and configuration, typically leading to architectural discussions and software recommendations. Customers can take advantage of the experience of the teams at Sun's various Competency Centers experience that spans a wide range of solutions. Sun's customers attest that the greatest monetary value is obtained through the proof of concept (POC) or scalability test. A typical POC is conducted over a period of two or three weeks at the BIDW Competency Center lab in Menlo Park, California. Tolliver explains, "We put together custom hardware configurations and provide engineering support for specific customer solutions. This yields important configuration and compatibility data that is often taken directly into customer production environments. These risk and cost reduction services are available free of charge and are booked through a Sun representative. One of our POCs was a data warehouse of 48TB of raw data, one of the largest data warehouses in the world although most configurations are not quite that large. We have 30 to 50 customer BIDW projects per month," he notes.
Sun has a solid track record that includes more than 2,000 successful BIDW implementations worldwide with companies such as Boise Cascade, Merrill Lynch, Schneider Logistics and Nielsen Media. In fact, the January 2003 issue of DM Review features an article detailing Nielsen Media's successful audience data warehouse project.
Today's large data warehouses require massive processing, storage resources and large amounts of memory for data aggregation, joins and sorting. Sun's large memory space and symmetric multiprocessing-based servers are key to the performance of these data warehouses. Sun Solaris allows access to large memory spaces with 64-bit addressing and allows databases to perform more operations simultaneously such as I/O, sorting and calculations with thread-enabled recourse management. Additionally, Sun leads in four of the top ten TPC-H BIDW price/performance benchmark categories for 100GB, 300GB, 1TB and 3TB (per Transaction Processing Performance Council, June 24, 2003) something no other systems vendor can claim.
As business intelligence and data warehousing mature, most organizations soon reach two conclusions: there are more opportunities to use these strategic resources and there are the concomitant needs for massive storage and processing capability, integration of enterprise applications, real- time performance and enterprise performance management.
Again, Sun is poised to meet these needs. To Sun, real-time business intelligence means real-time loading, access, processing, backup and recovery of many terabytes of data stored in large data warehouses, and Sun's BIDW infrastructure provides the availability and security for real-time business intelligence. Tape-less backups are most easily enabled with Sun's SE9900 class storage. Sun's Shadow Image software can be used to seamlessly create a second copy of a database. For example, if the primary database has been incorrectly loaded, the database can be restarted on the secondary copy. "We have restored an 8TB database in 36 seconds using this technique," asserts Tolliver.
One of the most interesting projects currently underway at Sun pertains to information mobility. Tolliver elaborates, "As an industry, high-tech has had a couple of very visible, very tactical and very beneficial goal lines over the past years. One of those was Y2K, followed by the Internet/dot-com phenomenon. Those were very tangible goal lines for most organizations. Now we have an IT industry that is thinking about the next goal line. What is the next point that we're trying to achieve? I believe that Sun's sense of information mobility via network computing particularly exemplified by our Sun Ray secure access is a stunning example of what may be the next goal line for businesses and organizations and, therefore, for the IT industry."
Executive Vice President, Marketing & Strategy and Chief Strategy Officer
According to Tolliver, information mobility is the key to success for business intelligence and data warehousing; however, information mobility technology will also become a necessity in many other areas at leading-edge organizations. For example, Sun is in the early stages of implementing their own information mobility through a project named iWork. "Organizations that win are the ones that deliver information mobility. All of the information created from the disparate data is useless or certainly of limited value if it isn't in the hands of decision-makers at the point in time and in the location where the decisions are being made. Both the information and the mobility are critically important for an organization to be agile, cost-effective and competitive today. Sun enables the valuable intersection of big, scalable systems for data warehousing with the broad, ubiquitous delivery of the information over the Web in ways that put that information to use more effectively and in a more timely fashion."
Through iWork, Sun's goal is to have 1.8 Sun employees per Sun office. "This implies," notes Tolliver, "that most people aren't going to have an assigned office. Most people will be in some kind of flexible arrangement, and we've been working toward that goal for almost three years. It only works if you can walk into an office and be productive in a matter of two or three seconds. It's not about plugging in a laptop and typing in special codes or organizing some kind of unique arrangement. It's about going in, plugging in a card and having your full range of information assets at your fingertips immediately. I think it's a stunning transformation that IT can enable with this completely graceful access, either through a card, a browser, a wireless network or a cell-phone device. For example, with flex offices in San Francisco, rather than pounding their way up and down 101 to get to work, our San Francisco-based employees can take a short walk or public transit to the San Francisco flex office. Through the use of our access card, they can be completely productive on an ad hoc basis in that fashion. It's a big change, but I think it represents a goal line that we'll see lots of organizations move toward."
In addition to the luxury of being connected to the network regardless of location, security is embedded in the Sun iWork cards. Says Tolliver, "Each card uniquely identifies its user. Unlike logging onto a PC, the cards have always-on, two-factor authentication. When I use my card, it has to be my card. That is the first factor. The second factor involves passwords. Thus, I am uniquely identified at all times, and the security level of our network is dramatically improved over single-factor authentication."
In addition to flexible work locations and security, Sun is realizing infrastructure savings through iWork. "We are taking approximately $50 million a year out of Sun's real estate costs in these early stages of iWork," emphasizes Tolliver.
Innovation of this type is one of the hallmarks of Sun. "Sun is very much a network computing R&D shop. If we're not delivering innovation and new products into the world of network computing, then we're not doing our job. Thus, we spend close to $1.9 million each year in research and development. Our plan is to keep focused on innovation through investment in R&D and keep focused as a company on network computing. We plan to deliver on this with a sense of information mobility through network computing, presenting a clear vision of how things will evolve."
As the technology evolution progresses, the high-tech industry's acronyms evolve too. Tolliver recounts how Sun has witnessed the evolution of the meaning of TCO to more accurately reflect customer requirements. "Sun's singular focus on network computing differentiates us. We have managed to stay tightly focused on one thing big, scalable hardware/software infrastructure for network computing, and our job is to take that to the next level. The common understanding of TCO is total cost of ownership. Today, we see it in a more tactical sense take cost out! As people strive to meet their computing needs in a very cost-effective way, they need to see a lower cost of acquisition and a lower cost of ongoing operations. When I say 'take that to the next level', that's what I am talking about showing our customers how they can be dramatically more effective in the costs of acquisition and of operation. Because we only do one thing, we can apply all of our resources to make that happen," says Tolliver.
Publicly Traded: NASDAQ: SUNW
Founded: February 1982
Number of Employees: More than 35,700 worldwide
Revenues: $12.5 billion in fiscal 2002
Products and Services: Network servers, data storage systems, engineering workstations, desktop appliances, microelectronics, software systems, service-delivery applications, cross-platform technologies, consulting and support services
"We firmly believe that as a result of our continued investment in development work, we are able to provide very cost-effective products that are designed to take complexity and cost out of ongoing operations. For example, not only do we deliver low-cost SPARC Solaris servers, which run on our microprocessor operating system, but we also deliver very low-cost Intel-based servers that run either Linux or Solaris. Couple that with our low-cost storage which we also introduced this year, and we actually delivered products with comparable functionality that are lower in cost than Dell's products. We're also the only company that puts our mission-critical operating environment across both X86 Intel type servers and our mainstream mission-critical servers. We also have our N1 initiative, our overall data platform initiative for taking the cost out of management, divisioning and mirroring. These are very heavy product- level investments that 'take cost out' for our customers," emphasizes Tolliver.
Sun is shining, and the future is indeed bright. Tolliver elaborates, "We all have the same sense of excitement and confidence that we had as a young company many years ago. We believe we are in a great spot network computing and the demand and the potential for that just continues to grow. There's an acute sense of confidence and conviction about what we're doing, and you can look forward to years and years of innovation and value from Sun."
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