Sun's long revivalist saga is over. Soon to be ex-CEO Jonathan 'The Pony Tail' Schwartz will be remembered for what he didn't do and how he turned Sun into a corporate anorexic. He, chairman and co-founder Scott McNealy and Sun's board have sold Sun to Oracle so Larry Ellison can do what they couldn't or wouldn't do - gut the …
Two product strategies
You've made a lot of valid points in this article Chris, however I think you're being a bit harsh on the dupliction of product lines, especially the storage one.
Yes Sun have FC products and Open Storage ones, however many organisations in many sectors have duplicate product lines. Have you ever seen an EMC sales guy flip between low end Symmetrix and high end Clariion depending on the customer long term needs and budget? I know I have.
Lexus sell 100% petrol cars and hyrbrids and sell them on different feature / benefits - Coca Cola sell full fat Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero and anything else they can think of - the reason being that different sectors and different customers want different things from their drinks - same with storage.
I agree that there hasn't been a consistent single storage strategy from Sun pitched to the market, however that's something that happens during a transition. If the word of Open Storage was fully out there then you'd have a valid point but whilst it's in an early adopter phase then it makes sense to have multiple product lines.
"Scott McNealy and Jonathan Schwartz ... Business school students will be picking their grotesque mistakes apart for years to come."
Just remind me, how much did Schwartz and McNealy make when they sold their "grotesque mistakes" to Oracle?
I'm pretty sure I could happily retire on it.
The Sun Employees will Freak Out.
They believe all the internal Sun hype that Sun is the center of all technology. They think McNealy and Schwartz are the smartest men on the planet.
The poor little employees are going to be in shock when they read this commentary.
Death of J2ME == Android influx?
Now that Oracle have no interest in mobile Java, will J2ME die (Nokia and Sony Ericsson won't be too please having sunk lots of dosh into it - although I suppose Nokia has Symbian) and all the J2ME programmers move over to Android? So a win for Android or, somewhat unlikely, Symbian?
They may pretend everything is peachy
- "The poor little employees are going to be in shock when they read this commentary."
The poor little employees have known since My Little Pony took over that the company is screwed. We have smart people inventing new technology, but no skills in selling them or productising them.
However, as an external face to the company, of course they're going to put a positive spin.
Is it *so* bad to be inconsistent?
So Sun shouldn't have had Sparc and x86 servers? How about IBM with Power and x86? Somebody put me straight on why that's so different...
Some interesting blinkers...
I found it funny to read the bit where it mentions that Sun should decide between proprietary or open servers and then mentions IBM in the same breath. As an example of a proprietary vendor.
So I take it any IBM servers based on Intel chips are an illusion?
So what happens to MySQL now???
Surely Oracle do not want a competing SQL platform as part of their portfolio.
Re: Is it *so* bad to be inconsistent?
"So Sun shouldn't have had Sparc and x86 servers? How about IBM with Power and x86? Somebody put me straight on why that's so different..."
The Difference being AIX doesnt run on x86 whilst Solaris does.
I know a lot of people that were pissed off big time when Sun discontinued their entry Level Sparc Machines and basically told people to buy x86 instead. Apart from that some of those x86's they build are utter rubbish(2200 or 4140 just to name two).
Even when I worked at Sun, I knew this would never last.
I knew, back in 2004, that the future of Sun was going to be in software, not hardware. Sun's future IS in software, but its management is clearly not capable of making the mental leap required to realise this.
I wasn't the only one. One ex-Commodore staffer I worked with at Sun, whose name was well-known in the Amiga community, said "Sun is going to end up the same way Commodore did."
The biggest problem with Sun was that the management were not capable of seeing past their own egos, and this has ultimately cost the company a lot of money. At least Ellison will do what needs to be done - and if there is one guy on this Earth who knows how to make a profit, it's the guy who thinks nothing of paying a £25k charge for landing his private F-16 out of hours at his local airport. :)
Contrary to popular belief...
...Sun customers are not mindless halfwits hopelessly addicted to their annual frottage with the suited sales drones whispering sweet ONE'age in their ears. Sun has made, and continues to make, good kit. For the markets concerned, the value proposition has been there, even if it has been increasingly harder to make as commoditised hardware and OS combinations eat into their niche.
Sun's executive insanity does not change the fact that Sun has been staffed by top notch, bright and occasionally brilliant, people. The very same people who have, over the last few months (and, presumably, for some time to come) borne the brunt of the rationalisation that seems to be aimed at improving the company's bottom line by excising anything that is of value. A sort of twisted chemotherapy that eradicates the vital organs leaving only the cancer, its ponytail, and the - briefly billionaire - vestigial gonad that has been sustaining it for so long. Oh, and those cows they bought. You know the ones. The ones that give their milk away for free.
In the end Oracle can do no worse - and at least maybe some of the good might survive. Meanwhile we, the customers, will continue to make the value judgments. The niche is smaller, and the uncertainty is worrying, but at least the wild eyed maniac has been wrested away from the controls. The new maniac seems to have a bit more clarity and focus. Kind of like Texas Chainsaw Massacre versus Saw.
This article had the making of an Andrew Orlowski article with the level of attacks against individuals and focus on failures whilst being a horribly weak attempt at character assassination.
You see, whilst Sun did a lot of things wrong, it also did a lot of things right. I see their endeavours with things like Open Office, and more important on Java, arguably the most prominent business development language on the planet right now have been totally overlooked?
You can whine about elements of their hardware business plan all you want but it was still only part of the business. It's like saying Apple as a company sucks and Steve Jobs is a complete idiot simply because their server solutions are utter wank whilst ignoring their vast success and popularity in the consumer space. It's like saying Microsoft is a failure because the Zune was a flop whilst ignoring their success with Windows and Office.
The fact is, Oracle have bought Sun because it has a lot of good products, products which were brought about by McNealy and Schwartz's leadership. Sun was still a perfectly solvent company and it's not as if it was on the brink of collapse anymore than MySQL was when Sun bought them. Take overs happen,and if McNealy and Schwartz had really done such a bad job then there wouldn't be anyone who'd even want to buy them out - take SCO as a prime example of that and what a badly run primarily Unix business really looks like.
Effectively, this article has chosen a stance (that of hating Sun's leadership) and then just cherry picked facts and moulded the truth to suit that stance. This is very much in contrast to good journalism which instead involves finding out the facts and then formulating a stance based on those facts.
The truth hurts
You forgot to mention how little Sun makes on software vs. hardware. IBM made the transition to software and services while Sun could only give software away for free.
It's up to Larry now....
Firstly to all those plonkers out there who think x86 is the answer, it isn't, there are lots of processing jobs, that just don't sit well on them. They are popular because they are cheap, Sparc, Power, and Z architectures solve other problems. x86 is just as proprietary as any other processor design, I don't think there's an IEEE or ANSI chip architecture out there, is there. Over the past few years I've bought, perhaps £5m, 75% of which is SUN. When I need x86, Sparc or Power, then that's what I buy, sorry, not needed a mainframe yet, but if I do, I will. The fact that SUN now make pretty good x86 servers is a major benefit to me, because I can deal with one supplier, it's good fun playing IBM off against SUN, but if Sparc goes, then my negotiating position is weakened, Fujitsu, isn't really in the UK market in the same way Sun is, but if Larry does can Sun & Sparc, the Fujitsu will either have to exit, or step up their game.
It would also be nice, El Reg, if you could find someone to comment who has a positive opinion on what could happen. If Larry keeps on SUN's product strategy, then yes he'll perpetuate some of the nonsense, in SUN's, and then let's face it Oracle's products aren't the picture of integrated heaven either. Being realistic Sparc is not going to die any time soon, Larry isn't stupid enough to piss off a lot of Enterprise customers, governments and telcos who use Sparc, if he doesn't want them, then he'll make sure they go to a good home, but probably not for a few years. The roadmap for the next couple of years hardware wise probably won't change that much. And don't expect many changes in the software offerings, either.
Most of the comment I've read focuses on the Server, Storage and Open Source parts of SUN's business, but there's a lot more going on in SUN that that. I wouldn't be too surprised to see SUNs product range actually increase with Open Application Server appliances based on T Series, and Database Appliances on the new Rock servers.
Ultimately Larry will decide, probably already has, where SUN will go, he will make hard headed commercial decisions about the products he wants. If Larry only wanted a bit of software, and an x86 server manufacturer, there are cheaper ways of doing it than buying SUN and then butchering it. I hope we'll see "SUN and Oracle company", and that they will continue to do the things they do well, which is engineer and innovate.
Duplication is the norm, not the exception
But marketing around such duplication is the real challenge.
When it comes to System x, System p, and System i, IBM does exactly what Chris says. But it keeps its separate messages isolated to the stovepiped decision maker. Some System p shops have never heard the "RISC/UNIX is expensive, you need IBM's scalable EXA x86 big iron with Linux!" IBM pitches to Solaris and HP-UX shops. IBM also goes into non IBM x86 shops and pitches Linux consolidation on System p, but would never do that to a loyal System x shop. IBM will go into a legacy HP MPE shop and pitch AIX, but would never pitch AIX to a loyal System i customer.
HP does the same thing. It goes into a SPARC shop and says "Move to Linux on Proliant", but never says that to an HP-UX on Itanic shop.
HP will go against an IBM DS-8000 or EMC DMX shop and claim they can save money with EVA, but never pitch it against their own HDS kit.
Sun has not been good at talking to non-Sun customers in a decade, so it could innovate all it wanted (Niagara, Open Storage), but it just kept eating its own installed base.
@so what happens to MySQL now???
You have to find the real mysql before you can answer that question.
"This article had the making of an Andrew Orlowski article with the level of attacks against individuals and focus on failures whilst being a horribly weak attempt at character assassination....." So, how do you describe a boss that takes a $200bn leading bizz and turns it into a $5.4bn cripple, in the space of less than a decade? Actually, less than $5.4bn on market cap, but what's an odd billion considering the massive loss in stature!
".....You see, whilst Sun did a lot of things wrong, it also did a lot of things right. I see their endeavours with things like Open Office, and more important on Java, arguably the most prominent business development language on the planet right now have been totally overlooked?...." Problem is Sun did a lot more wrong than right, hence the fall from grace whilst competitors flourished and overtook Sun. Or did you overlook that?
"....You can whine about elements of their hardware business plan all you want but it was still only part of the business. It's like saying Apple as a company sucks and Steve Jobs is a complete idiot simply because their server solutions are utter wank whilst ignoring their vast success and popularity in the consumer space. It's like saying Microsoft is a failure because the Zune was a flop whilst ignoring their success with Windows and Office...." The reality is MS and Apple have had more successes than failures. In the last few years Sun has had massively more failures than successes, the key one being a continual failure to make profits. The market will forgive just about any other failure, but consistently not making profits is guaranteed to kill your bizz in the long run.
"....The fact is, Oracle have bought Sun because it has a lot of good products, products which were brought about by McNealy and Schwartz's leadership. Sun was still a perfectly solvent company and it's not as if it was on the brink of collapse anymore than MySQL was when Sun bought them. Take overs happen,and if McNealy and Schwartz had really done such a bad job then there wouldn't be anyone who'd even want to buy them out - take SCO as a prime example of that and what a badly run primarily Unix business really looks like...." Lol, how long have you been praying at The Altar of Ponytail? Oracle originally wanted nothing but the software, they tried to get hp to buy the hardware bizz and hp backed out. Oracle have only confirmed a future for Java and Solaris (and they haven't even confirmed continuing development in the latter). All the hardware is awaiting the pruning that Ponytail's and McNeedy's egos wouldn't let them do. Face it - nobody wanted the whole albatross.
"....Effectively, this article has chosen a stance (that of hating Sun's leadership) and then just cherry picked facts and moulded the truth to suit that stance. This is very much in contrast to good journalism which instead involves finding out the facts and then formulating a stance based on those facts." That last paragraph seems to translate to "my blindfold is way to tight, it has completly cut off the bloodflow to my brain and I can't see the ginourmous pile of poo that Sun has become for what it is, so please write something that will help me ignore reality"! Don't blame Andrew for posting facts you find not to your liking, if you just want the Sunshine then go read Ponytail's blog and live in ignorance.
/gonna have to write a subroutine for this pointing-laughing process.....
SPARC, especially ROCK is dead, Exadata is now Oracle only
Expect that $1.5B of profit from the Sun business to come from increased prices and forced migrations to Solaris on x86. The movement of Solaris to x86 just kicked into high gear. The flow chart for decisions in Oracle is...will it generate more profit? will it generate more software sales? will it reduce costs? Is it cool technology is not in the decision tree.
Go Kat Go.....we need the Oracle share price to go up!
For gods sake Chris Meller and others
There must be something more than the "pony tail" to a man.
Too bad he is not a "n***er" too, or wait, did you forget something.
Oracle commentary......... where's the plan ????
I think it also significant the amount of (as in lack of) commentary coming out of Oracle around this aquisition. While HP, IBM and M$ are probably busy compiling their Sun customer hit lists Oracle remain very stum in regard to any "don't panic Mr Customer - you'll be alright with us - keep buying Sun product, business as usual" type press. The longer this lasts the more customers are going to have to start re-making strategic buying decisions that include a vendor who may be around in a couple of years !!!!
and if to indicate the rot has already set in I just received in my inbox an invitation for MySQL webinair and it's from "Sun Micirosystems / MySQL"...... they've forgotton who they are already !!!!!
It's really not that confusing...
If you're looking for a very attractively priced Network Attached Storage device the Sun S7000 (open storage) range should be considered - if you need fibre and a Storage Attached Network then the 2530 may be more appropriate?
@Chris Mellor - Comments on Article
Chris Mellor writes, "Sun exploded into a $200bn company in the dot com era. It said it was the dot in dot com, but this was hubris."
Reality does not support this conclusion. If this was hubris - then SUN would not have taken a dive when the dot-com bust happened.
Chris Mellor writes, "Just what kind of drive array storage vendor did it want to be? You can't carry on selling proprietary storage arrays whilst simultaneously developing and shipping Open Storage 7000 machines that are designed to undercut them."
Why not? When the Open Storage may not have all the features of the proprietary storage, there is a very good business reason to choose the proprietary storage. When people have invested in proprietary storage, they may choose to continue to use those products, as long as the features suit them.
Chis Mellor writes, "You can't have it both ways. Either SPARC is not industry-standard, in which case farm the closed base like IBM does with its proprietary chips, or industry-standard chips are the future, in which case join in or exit the show"
This is a very odd statement. Obviously, this writer does not have a clue about why SUN had made the decision regarding including x64 lineup. SUN had sent an email to each of their customers asking whether they would purchase SPARC, x64, or both systems from SUN. Customers told SUN both, so SUN sells both. SUN listened to their customers after inquring with them - and did not take a religious stand like Mr. Mellor suggested. I suspect Chris was never a customer of SUN and never received a survey - which is why he is ignorant of why SUN has it both ways.
Chris Mellor write, "Sun eviscerated its own value propositions and tried to become a Red Hat-like software supplier... whilst simultaneously selling SPARC hardware and getting Solaris to run on all of its competitors' servers? Excuse me, is Solaris a Linux competitor? Run that one past me again."
SUN has been feeding Linux open source contributions for a decade. Linux is not a competitor, Linux is not a company - Red Hat is a company and a competitor. At the same time, SUN earned money from selling Red Hat Linux, the same way SUN earned money from selling Microsoft Windows. It is possible for companies to partner and compete (i.e. IBM and HP supported Solaris, while they have other operating systems of their own.) Had Linux never grown to be a competitor in the market place, UNIX would be dead and Microsoft Windows with IIS would have taken over nearly all of the marketplace. Linux fed UNIX concepts to a younger generation - that was needed to keep Solaris (a SVR4 UNIX system) and other UNIX systems viable in the market.
Chris Mellor writes, "...they didn't have the amount of grip required to take hold of Sun's wildly disorganised set of products... and reduce them down to ones that it paid a dollar to produce and sold for $2, with realistic prospects of continuing to do so."
Organizations which fund basic research discover new & revolutionary technologies. NFS is everywhere (that is not MS Windows) because SUN created it. OpenFirmware is everywhere - including Apple and IBM machines. JAVA was one of these discoveries, forever transforming SUN, Oracle, IBM, and other businesses in the computer industry. Companies that do basic research provide invaluable contributions to the world, but sometimes those contributions are not immediately relevant. The UltraSPARC T2 processor with an embedded multi-threaded 10GigE directly on the CPU - SUN was years ahead of their time since 10GigE were not considered relevant when pricing competing systems. Had SUN pared down their products (and basic research which created them) - we would have a much different world.
I think this writer was far too hard on SUN.
SUN had always been a visionary company. SUN got the timing right occasionally (with the dot-com boom), but not in other cases (like when SUN shipped SPARC workstations with integrated ISDN.)
A balanced approach to writing is invaluable to draw in all readers. A knowledge of computing history is a necessity to appear somewhat credible.
RE: Oracle commentary......... where's the plan ????
Regarding your email invite to the MySQL webinar, to be fair that is not the sender being either schizo or forgetful. Until the deal actually closes (probably at least six months) Sun has to continue acting as an independent business. So all those Sun salesgrunts have to keep coming out to us customers and pretending like nothing has happened, whilst all the time there is the big shadow of Oracle following them around. Should be fun to watch!
Larry obviously wasn't watching Carly Fiorina. Say what you like about the ex-hp boss, but when it came to the purchase of Compaq she got it spot on in execution. Even before the close, hp had committed to roadmaps and made clear statements as to what was going to happen with the intent of keeping the existing Compaq customers onboard and happy. Where there was overlap the pruning was quick and decisive, and customers knew what was happening and saw the benefits.
Oracle need to get out there and make some very explicit statements quickly - not doing so makes it look like they are hunting around in the background for other parties to take on bits of the bizz they don't want to keep. It doesn't help that everyone knows that originally Oracle wanted hp to take the Sun hardware bizz, which casts doubts on Oracle's commitment to anything other than Slowaris, MySQL and Java. Doubt is bad, even bad news is better as it allows customers to plan and at least lets you help them with transitions. Not keeping the customers updated and comfortable leads to unease and opens the door for the other vendors.
Sun had a bad habit of treating customers like mushrooms - keeping them in the dark, feeding them Sunshine male bovine manure and then surprising them with continual startegy flip flops - Oracle need to kill that uncertainty and fast. Larry has always struck me as too smart not to now have a plan, but he needs to tell us what it is.
mostly agree but ...
... on the server side HP Have the Titanic range which although developed in partnership with Intel is as good as proprietary. IBM also have their own proprietary so having both doesn't mark Sun out as unique in that respect.
Matt Bryant can't spell, again.
I'll help you out, again
Good luck in grammar school!
@Matt Bryant ~~~ SUN treating customers
Matt Bryant ~~~ Sun had a bad habit of treating customers like mushrooms - keeping them in the dark
you always talk about how sun talks to customers about the future of processors like rock, and now you are saying that sun keeps customers in the dark
a little consistency from you would be nice
Mellor - you really gotta get out of the office sometimes and experience the real world man!!!
Again - as I have insinuated before but let me just say this - Chris you are an idiot.
IBM sells Intel and P-whatever in Mainframe, Linux or AIX flavours - try and sell that . In storage they have - Shark, DS, XIV etc. - the XIV and DS'es are direct competition. They have 100's of products which is competing internally and then they also have business units compeating internally for customer $.
HP sell Intel, Itanium with Windows, HP-UX, LINUX and some other OS'es which they still have not been able to kill. Storage they sell EVA, HDS-rebadged storage etc. They have the same problem with printers - Inkjet or Laser? Software - try OpenView for a confusing set of products.
EMC also had a blip - they bought VMWare - what a stroke of luck. They and HDS must be sleeping very badly if you look at the new storage comming from HP and Oracle-Sun. Everybody else will quickly pick up on those ideas and then they will be toast.
Ever been a buyer and had to talk to any sales an presales from SUN, IBM or HP? Oh I forgot - you are just a journalist and based on that article you are not a very good one. Having worked for two of the three mentioned companies and also having been on the buying side I am sorry to tell you - the little scenario you put forward can happen everyday in every sales opportunity with the mentioned companies. - IT IS NOTING NEW!!!
You really gotta get out of the office sometimes and experience the real world man!!!
With respect, the only difference on the mushroom scale between Oracle and Sun is that Oracle keeps its customers in the dark, feeds them bull-PR, and has them catheterized at the wallet. Every year they crank up the wallet pump 17.5 RPM. Sure, it is probably a better business model, but it isn't customer-love.
Larry will tell us when he knows what it is that he wants us to think. It will probably revolve around how an extra 20 RPM wont hurt very much now that Oracle has both our bollocks in its reliable, trustworthy, loving, and above all frighteningly firm, grip. We shall all move on, or sing our woes walking. In a nice piercing falsetto.
re: Matt B.
I would like to be the first to say that Solaris will be stronger two to three years after this purchase. I will not make as bold a statement about SPARC, but I will say that it will have at least a 5-8 year life span (better than you could say for Itanium).
These are my opinions. Not statements of fact. I would not deign to be as arrogant as Matt the Bratt by saying that I know everything.
I'll be a little more Matt (read Troll) like in this statement that this purchase officially kills HP-UX and Itanium. Why would Oracle continue to give laughable multipliers to Itanium now that they hold the keys to some of the fastest single socket CPU's on the planet? Once you put SPARC and Itanium on an even playing field, Itanium falls down very fast and with it HP-UX. Again, Mr Bryant, this is opinion, so don't get your panties in a bunch.
who writes this stuff?
David Yen is "one of the CEOs" at Juniper?
Juniper's just got the one. Yen is a VP there.
Seems Fair to Me(Not)
I think it is only fair that Oracle buys Sun. Oracle is the one that has been charging main-frame sized licensing fees for Oracle to run on large Unix SMP Servers.
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