Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

By John Russell

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources, Oracle filed a notice with California Employment Development Department on September 1 of plans to lay off 983 employees, including 615 in hardware development, at its Santa Clara facility. This follows cuts of 415 from the SPARC and Solaris teams earlier this year.

The first revelation came on Saturday (Sept. 2), from Simon Phipps, development of Solaris at Sun from 2005 to 2010, in a Tweet: “For those unaware, Oracle laid off ~ all Solaris tech staff yesterday in a classic silent EOL of the product.”

IEEE Spectrum ran a brief piece yesterday – R.I.P. SPARC and Solaris –  in which its quoted comments from thelayoff.com, “SPARC people are out.” “The entire SPARC core team has been let go as of Friday. It’s gone. No more SPARC. You can’t have a SPARC w/o a team to develop the core.”

Oracle hasn’t officially commented. The SPARC chip, developed in the 1980s at Sun Microsystem, used a novel reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architecture. The IEEE Spectrum article noted, “The SPARC workstation, based on that processor, was a rogue project spearheaded by Andy Bechtolsheim; it came out in 1989 and became Sun’s best-selling product.”

Fujitsu M12 Servers

Oracle purchased Sun in 2009 and questions have swirled around SPARC’s future for some time as the technology landscape has changed. Fujitsu’s switch from SPARC to ARM for its post K computer added fuel to speculation of SPARC’s decline. Still, just this past April Fujitsu introduced two new servers – the M12-2 and M12-2S – featuring the new SPARC64 XII chip.

The new servers, said Fujitsu, would “achieve the world’s highest per CPU core performance in arithmetic processing, offering dramatic improvements for a wide range of database workloads, from mission-critical systems on premises to big data processing in the cloud.”

A big part of the intended message at the time was to demonstrate Fujitsu’s ongoing commitment to the SPARC ecosystem. “We feel this is a good empirical marker to show we are continuing to invest in the SPARC platform. This is not a softball product release. These are all significant advances and represent a lot of time and effort,” said Alex Lam, vice president and head of North America strategy. (See HPCwire article, Fujitsu Launches M12 Servers; Emphasizes Commitment to SPARC.)

The San Jose Mercury report (Oracle slashes at least 900 Santa Clara jobs, more worldwide) on the layoffs suggested Oracle’s pivot to the cloud was a driver of the cuts. Tim Bajarin, principal analyst with Campbell-based Creative Strategies was quoted, “When Oracle bought Sun Microsystems, Sun was primarily a workstation company. But the workstation demand faded as new technologies became dominant, including software on demand and software as a service offerings. The cloud is the future for technology companies.”

According to the IEEE report, “[Oracle] is cutting other hardware-related positions in the U.S. and around the world, for a total of 2,500 employees terminated. Just a week ago Oracle announced plans to hire 5,000 engineers, sales, and support people for its cloud computing business.”

The chart below on SPARC’s roadmap is from Jan 2017.

According to an anonymous commenter at thelayoff.com: “M8 will be announced september 19th…; M9 is officially cancelled.”

Link to IEEE Spectrum article: https://spectrum.ieee.org/view-from-the-valley/at-work/tech-careers/rip-sparc-and-solaris

Link to San Jose Mercury article: http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/09/05/oracle-slashes-more-than-900-santa-clara-jobs-more-worldwide/

Link to SiliconAngle article: https://siliconangle.com/blog/2017/09/05/oracle-layoffs-signal-end-life-sparc-solaris-products/

Link to thelayoff.com: https://www.thelayoff.com/oracle

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