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Re: GCC for SPARC Systems

I apologize in advance if this is a bit long or off-topic, but you might be 
interested to hear first-hand what some of current Sun customers have to say.

On Fri, 10 Mar 2006, Alexey Starovoytov wrote:
> On Fri, 10 Mar 2006, Steven Bosscher wrote:
> > On Friday 03 March 2006 02:46, Alexey Starovoytov wrote:
> > > We are pleased to announce the availability of GCC for SPARC (R)
> > > Systems (GCCfss) at
> >

This kind of attitude shows, once more, how much your company still has to 
learn to reach to free software users and understand what they mean by 
'community', 'free' and 'appealing'. (hint: 'free' is not free-beer and 
'community' is not a group listening to a coordinator)

> > Instead of pleased, I'd be ashamed for announcing this. 
Especially to this audience!

> Being in hardware org I'm ashamed that SPARC cpus are not performing
> well with GCC, so I'm pleased that we can do something about it with
> gcc4ss.
<slightly off-topic>
Well, these days one should be ashamed at SPARC performance, period.
GCC is the least of SPARC's problems.
Our lab is a large Genome center which used to be SPARC/Solaris-only, and 
remember  when I joined two years ago and argued with our scientists about 
why I personally ditched SPARCs for cpu-intensive tasks around 1995 (ah, the 
late Alpha chip, sob!) and couldn't come close to performance of GNU/Linux on 
Pentiums since 1999. Showing people that for some of our high-performance 
bioinformatics applications, I would crush a $30,000 2-CPU V880 UltraSparc 
1.2GHz with my $2,000 Dell PentiumIV laptop was, I would say, an eye opener.

I am glad Sun has seen the light in terms of hardware and has been selling AMD 
Opterons (very nice ones by the way) for the last couple of years, which is 
the only way they could stay in the server/workstation business with us (we 
bought a lot of their Opteron boxes here, all models). They haven't got it 
yet for laptops apparently, given the recently announced Ultra-3 SPARC-based 
line (which my Acer Ferrari will eat for breakfast in energy-saving mode).  
As for  niagara chips, I will consider it the day GNU/Linux and GCC run on 

I can tell you that what we call performance today in my field is called 
dual-core-Opterons, GNU/Linux and GCC. We let our SPARCs do legacy, 
file-serving and non-performance tasks, trying to get all our university 
students off them as well so that they don't get disgusted of Unix by 
exposure to Solaris, "java desktop" and X terminals (we give them 
KDE/GNU/Linux on Opteron workstations).

We will publish various performance metrics when time permits in the coming 
months on Single/Dual core Sun Opterons with GCC-4.1.0 on Fedora Core 5 and 
GCC-3.4.4 on Fedora Core 3.
</slightly off-topic>

> > it feels like you're announcing with pride how you ripped off gcc.
> We are proud to make SPARC cpus faster.
> The users care about performance and reliability of their apps.
> I don't think it's matter to them how compiler is called or that it's
> rip off of something else.

You are wrong, and in my case by a long shot.

First because, as an engineer I do not like inefficent processes consisting in 
making something slightly better if you are in a position to contribute to it 
and make it a lot better.

Second because having worked 15 years in the field of genomics and 
bioinfromatics, I can tell you that the sequencing of genomes and molecular 
understanding of biology that was produced over the last two decades owes 
pretty much everything to the power of open raw data access and free software 
to handle it, for which GCC can claim to be a cornerstone. I have witnessed 
this in academia, biotechs and large pharma companies.

We (creators and users of this information) have been _delayed_ by attitudes 
like yours. So you are not bringing performance, you are reaping short-term 
gains but preventing larger ones by not putting your energy where it would 
have the most impact.

So please start contributing to GCC, and then we will consider looking at what 
you are doing.
And thank you very much to all GCC developpers.

Best regards,

Philippe Rigault (GCC user since 1990).
Bioinformatics Director,
Centre de Génomique de Québec

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