James Governor's Monkchips

What Should Sun Do?

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Stephen wrote an awesome long form post on the subject, so I don’t need do. He was responding to Tim. Here is what I would do.

At best go private at worst go back to SUNW as a stock ticker.

Focus absolutely all of innovation efforts on a new core value proposition – The Storage Is The Computer. The Network used to be the computer, but now its the storage. Everything runs on everything. What matters is how fast you get to the bits and how flexibly you can work with them. That is why FOX and wikimedia have recently made major purchases of Sun gear. Data is like wine, Apps are like fish. I was very impressed to see this new Sun data erasure service – I can imagine some financial services companies are desperate to remove any data they aren’t legally obliged to hold at this point… 😉

Put Marten Mickos in charge of the new app platform group, with Anil Gadre as consigliere. Sun acquired MySQL for a reason- and Mickos was a big part of it. Anil’s background for the last many years has been marketing. But APM needs to be about sales execution and hardcore operational rigour.

Go balls out for WebSphere, WebSphere and Oracle database offload. Budgets are getting slashed next year. Currently the enterprise really doesn’t have many options in that regard. Glassfish works. MySQL is a great bucket of bits. Partner closely with GreenPlum and Terracotta here. Does MySQL compete with Oracle as an OLTP engine? No. Are thousands of Oracle sticking data in Oracle as a matter of course when they could just be using a bucket of bits. Absolutely. And don’t even get me started on companies thinking the only possible app platform is a JEE server from IBM or Oracle. If its not EJB run it somewhere else. Use Tomcat or whatever- or maybe Glassfish

Don’t worry about pissing off Oracle- it leads with Linux and has done for years.

If you love something, set it free. I wll just quote Tim here:

As for Sun’s role as Steward of Java, and in particular the Java Community Process, let it go already. Java has mostly won and is mostly the establishment, and the community is smart and conservative enough to keep anyone from doing what Microsoft tried last millennium, or in any other way to subvert Java’s interoperability. In 2008, the JCP is costing Sun opportunities and friends and gaining us very little that I can see.

So I’d like Sun to set the JCP free, turn it over to the community, and when we develop some cool Java-based technology in-house, take it to market, try to make some money with it, and after it’s caught on and the bugs are shaken out, consider whether or not it ought to be taken to the JCP.

I disagree somewhat with Tim about the sales force. It should be selling more effectively than it is. Then again it could be the sales force is addicted to the margins of the old legacy products (the very problem which led StorageTek into Sun’s arms).

Get behind Sun Ray. Market the hell out of it. It works. Not as a Microsoft replacement, but as part of a secure enterprise infrastructure, delivering Microsoft Office as a managed service. The pull through there is with Identity, another Sun software bright spot.

Bill Joy was wrong. Innovation doesn’t happen elsewhere. It happens at Sun. The portfolio is in better shape than ever. The retooling of a tired mess into a clean and solid portfolio is complete. I was therefore surprised at this story by Dawn Kawamoto on CNET last week. Quoting an unnamed investment bank source that Sun’s “lack of product innovation is hurting them”. Then quoting an unnamed private equity player… Let me just say – it is really not such a journalistic challenge to get on the record negative comments about Sun right now.

Say what you like about Jonathan – the portfolio overhaul has been a success. There is the small matter of being able to collaborate effectively with Intel and Microsoft. But it all comes down to making money and selling stuff, not building slick products.

[update: I forgot to say. Get behind Hudson is a big way. Developers really like it. It just works. It makes managing your builds a relatively painless experience. It is even, dare I say it, “pretty” – at least that was the adjective Dan McWeeney from Adobe used for it when he demoed it to me]. Oh yeah – and the server tweets too, with a check box, which just has to be a good thing…]

disclosure: IBM is a client. Sun is a client. Terracotta is a client. GreenPlum has been a client and will be again. Jonathan Schwartz is a friend of mine.


  1. It might help if they knew how to deliver servers to cloud providers the same way Dell does.

  2. “Go balls out for WebSphere, WebSphere and Oracle database offload”

    To go after websphere and oracle -You need more than technology and talk about free. You need to have a different kind of lock-in. in terms of “One Stop Shop” , “Relationship Mgmt” and Yealy deals. There is a reason Oracle buys a company each month. To cover the full IT Shop.

    on opensource: A key thing for success in Complementary business models is Lock in. You give something free to enable a sale elsewhere.The lockin will make sure that the elsewhere is somewhere in your world and not anywhere else. Sun micro did not monetize on java to the extent that it could have – as the elsewhere was anywhere(IBM ,BEA etc).

  3. I think there’s a piece and opportunity missing in the mix here James. Back in 2004 at JavaOne we had a remarkable event that was a “Canadian get-together” which had a number of the top dogs back then in the Sun sphere. I made a comment then that they were the only vendor in existence that had the entire platform in house. Hardware, Operating system, VM and even on top of that management software, Identity management and more. That was then. Now add DTrace, a pile of storage (that wasn’t there then) and I think the marketing of products on that entire platform is started, and it started from grassroots internal to Sun with the Fishworks team.

    I wouldn’t concentrate only on storage, but I’d be looking internally for other broad-thinkers like the Fishworks crew that sees how they can bring the combination of internal expertise, IP and capability into unique, capable and innovative integrated products. Sun’s always had all the pieces, and has even put them together with their consultants often enough, but turning those efforts into product I think is where it can be truly unique and go far beyond what we’ve seen.

    Unleashing Java into an independent body wouldn’t hurt either, as they still have the bulk of influence and expertise, but I don’t know that is nearly as critical any more. it’s open enough for anyone that serious about doing things with it.

    It’s the next gen of appliance. System appliances that take on whole segments of the IT stack. Lego bricks to build both small infrastructures and Lego blocks to build pieces of clouds if you want to.

    IBM is the only other one that comes close, and they need to protect all that Global Services revenue, not commoditize it.

  4. […] Java. I’m part of the Java ecosystem so it’s important to me. Basically, do what James says: …, at worst go back to SUNW as a stock […]

  5. Yes, a lot of innovation happens at Sun, but I think Stephen pointed out that perhaps TOO much innovation happens at Sun, leading to wheel-reinvention and the NIH syndrome.

    I feel this acutely as an advocate for OSGi, which is still under attack from parts of Sun even though other parts (i.e. Glassfish) have embraced it. But this is not the only example.

  6. I think a lot of this makes sense. But I would not recommend putting Marten in charge of a larger organization than what he’s managing today.

    He has an inability to manage large projects and organizations, just take a look at the problems we’re having with 5.1. His organization is fraught with politics (Drizzl had to happen *outside* our group, and Marten plays favorite by promoting his friends like Zack, even though he was a terrible engineering leader).

    Sun needs to focus in on making its existing product sets run well, hold the MySQL team accountable to execution. That’s where we need to start, not by giving people fancy new titles to cover up the chaos.

  7. […] I’m piling on too, with a somewhat different take than Tim Bray, Stephen O’Grady, James Governor, and Rich Sharples who’ve all contributed their excellent insights into this […]

  8. check “Get behind Sun Ray. ” initiative from sun

  9. […] What Should Sun Do? James Governor, RedMonk […]

  10. Yeah, Hudson is absolutely awesome, we use it for all of our projects at Nuxeo.

    S. Fermigier.

  11. […] Stefane Fermigier, CEO di Nuxeo, afferma di usare Hudson. […]

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