IT History Society Blog

CHM Event Commemorating the 25th anniversary of Sun Micro’s SPARC Microprocessor

November 21st, 2012 by Alan Weissberger

On November 1, 2012, a panel of Sun Micro luminaries discussed how the company “bet the ranch” on the SPARC microprocessor at an early and critical stage of the company’s development.   The panel was expertly moderated by my Northeastern University MSEE classmate Dave House. CHM CEO/Prez John Hollar did a great job introducing and closing the program.  

The motivation to design SPARC internally was that Sun Micro needed higher performance than was then available from off the shelf microprocessors (from Intel, Motorola, Zilog, others), inorder to develop their next gen workstations and compute servers.

SPARC was designed by Anant Agrawal as a higher performance RISC microprocessor using gate array technology, rather than a conventional stored program machine.  There was and still is a tight coupling between hardware & software, which Sun claimed provided a 4X performance over the Moto 68000. The C compiler and other software development tools from Sun proved to be another advantage over its engineering workstation competitors, e.g HP, SGI, Apollo, and others

Opening remarks by Oracle co-President Marc Hurd were extremely positive and BULLISH about his current company that acquired SUN in January 2010.  Mr. Hurd also spoke about the importance of SPARC in this day and age.  He said that this year, Oracle would take the microprocessor performance lead from IBM.  Sun putting software directly on the SPARC microprocessor, including compression, that delivers best of breed leadership in systems performance, according to Mr. Hurd.  This talk was followed by a video speech from Scott McNealy- Sun co-founder and former CEO.  Again, very positive remarks, e.g. “keep up the good stuff at Oracle.”

Event Description:  https://blogs.oracle.com/solaris/entry/sf_bay_area_event_november

Here is an oral history of Sun Micro’s SPARC:

http://www.computerhistory.org/collections/accession/102745979

You Tube Video of the event:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3ukXhEaYGI&list=UUHDr4RtxwA1KqKGwxgdK4Vg&index=1&feature=plcp

Sun Founders Panel Session (from January 2006 and posted on the CHM web site):

http://www.computerhistory.org/events/SunFoundersPanelEventSummary.pdf

One Response to “CHM Event Commemorating the 25th anniversary of Sun Micro’s SPARC Microprocessor”

  1. Shelby Szymczyk Says:

    Exceptional post however I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this subject? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit more on the strategic value of SPARC to Sun Micro. Cheers!|

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