James Governor's Monkchips

Sun: putting the dot in web 2.0

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I am sure neither Sun nor the market at large particularly wants to be reminded of the dotcom boom and subsequent bust. And yet…
There do seem to be substantive changes going on in the market, that are worth noting.
I don’t want to push the “Google IPO as Netscape IPO, ten years later”, angle too hard. There are obvious differences-not least the fact Google, unlike Netscape in 1995, is generating scads of cash, which it can reinvest in purchasing lots of west coast startups, thus fueling more Web 2.0 style companies.
Web 2.0 in my opinion is not all hype, and Google can be seen as a harbinger of further change.
There is plenty of dark fibre out there to support, say, a world of millions of “TV stations”, vblogging on steroids. [I am sure the naysayers will argue that we can’t create compelling TV. But the mainstream media often seems to be a race to the bottom, and that’s somewhere that a smart guy can compete. If all big media companies can do is make reality TV shows and other crap then lightweight personal netcasting wave is set to wash over them.]
The bandwidth is there but more processing power will be required. Which is where Sun can come in.
I noticed an item from news.com today that made me think about Sun and its future. eBay to buy hundreds of Sun x86 servers. It turns out PayPal is also evaluating Sun’s new T1 Ultasparc line.
The eBay story follows news that Google is going to buy some of the new elegant Sun kit too… “I am your density“. You know Sun has got to be talking to MSN – and Sun is now a Windows poster child.
If Sun was just selling to a couple of huge internet players, the Web 2.0 buildout wouldn’t necessarily mean much in terms of server sales. But a Sun that is savvy to postgres, and is integrating its middleware stack with it, and offering NetBeans tutorials on eBay service development, well that’s a little more interesting.  Feedlounge, a feed-driven startup, is porting to Postgres from MySQL.
Sun’s latest market share numbers, according to IDC, are somewhat disappointing again – customers were maybe holding off from purchasing Sun’s “legacy” gear because they wanted to get hold of the new stuff.
But sooner or later new Sun wins are going to kick in. As I have said before, when they do, Sun will look undervalued in short order. Sun to benefit from a Web 2.0 halo? Stranger things have happened. And let’s understand this is a formal strategy based on volume economics, driven by Jonathan Schwartz, not an accident. He calls it the Participation Age.
If you’re an enterprise I would say check out the new Sun x86 boxes; you’ll likely be impressed. Sun didn’t go volume crazy in the 1990s because of a marketing slogan – it sold hot boxes too. It’s back in that game.
Maybe I should have called this post Sun: Putting the IP in Participation. Or maybe Jonathan can riff off that…

Just got dinged (probably deservedly) by ZDNet’s David Berlind for not communicating the fact Sun is a client. Sorry. As regular readers will know, Sun is indeed a client.


  1. I myself am waiting for the 6th of December to see what is coming out, before setting in some orders for 2 projects.

    Is the Web2.0 just hype or the new bubble? Well, definitely it has worked out for Flickr, and now even companies like Riya are mentioned in the press for buyouts before they even officially launch their service…

    Any clues for tommorrow? http://weblog.infoworld.com/techwatch/archives/004631.html

  2. I agree – Sun has come full circle and as Apple has demonstrated all too recently, innovation and creativity will ultimately be the real generators of value in the long term. Their new customer-centric focus is a refreshing change as well.

    Web 2.0 is the future, and it is imperative that firms recognize this and re-focus their business plans in this new era.

  3. It seems to me that Sun might be due for a slogan change thanks to Web 2.0. “The network is the computer” was fine for the 1990’s when Sun sold lots of hardware. Now with Web 2.0 their business is more “The network is the customer.” And rightly so. Even though they are up to their eyeballs in DTrace and ZFS, they are effectively morphing from a “computer company” to a “customer company.” Their new systems help companies create Web 2.0 customers. That’s a big market. The race is on to see who will become the customer platform of choice.

  4. Before Sun can really claim victory in the Participation Age they need to figure out how to work with other software vendors. Volume is important but they way you get real volume is to have other vendors participate and contribute.

  5. Brian: Couldn’t disagree more. Any sucessfull business is focused on customers, the ones that pay the bills. In the 90’s a supplier was expected to supply good hardware and leave the customer to work on it’s business. Now, a bigger involvment is required from suppliers. That, of course, forced changes but, the goal to be the glue and to supply the infrastructure that enables business is still there.
    Also, I don’t believe (or is it a hope?) that there will be a platform of choice for customers. I really hope that interoperability and choice are the basis for what will come next. Of course that if all the other major players retreat the infrastructure business because “it’s all a comodity with nothing to be invented” by all means, pay for their own foolishness and leave the path open for those who remain.
    Finally, Ian, have you watched the news? Sun has OpenSolaris, OpenSSO, an Opensource Application Server with a promise to more to follow. Also, Greg Papadopolous himself is involved in technical meetings between Sun and other suppliers, institutes, customers and Universities to define the needs of tomorrow and the path to get there. From your email address, your comment holds, Sun never did play much with eclipse’s folk but, you have to regard that as the exception, not the rule

  6. Jaime: Not sure where the disagreement is. Of course, Sun needs customers who pay the bills. My point was that Sun now operates in a different customer context than it did in the 1990’s, hence my suggestion for the slogan change. Five years ago, being a “traditional hardware vendor” almost landed Sun in the Innovator’s Dilemma penalty box. Against great odds they have transformed themselves from an infrastructure supplier to a cross-platform leader for Web 2.0 markets and beyond. They’ve managed to do this because they (now) provide a strategic customer vision (open/ecosystem/community) to go with their innovative technology. (This is where the Sun brand leverages Sun infrastructure.)

    Sun’s Solaris and other open source initiatives bode well here, too. Sun seems committed to a fair amount of platform choice and interoperability in this process.

    I wouldn’t consider Sun a “glue and infrastructure” company anymore. What’s unique about them is that they have tremendous technical smarts plus the vision to make markets. That can add up to a lot of customer bills being happily paid.

  7. hey ian – fair point. that was one of the drawbacks to the seebeyond acquisition – it made a partner part of the family. fwiw i received notification from Pervasive today its supporting dtrace and postgres with Sun. it has a ton of ISVs in its network. meanwhile IBM SWG supports Solaris 10. One point to note Ian is a difference in the model – if the new “application wave” consists of primarily hosted services rather than traditional packaged software companies, it does make some sense for Sun to focus attention there–hockey puck ice, you know the drill.

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