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back to article Ellison slams former Sun CEO for blogginess

Blogs are no substitute for smart business strategy, according to new Sun Microsystems owner Larry Ellison. Oracle's billionaire chief executive has laid into Sun's famously blog-tastic former chief executive Jonathan Schwartz, criticizing his management style and accusing him of a catalogue of poor decisions and business …

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Coat

OK, we get it;

Ellison doesn't like blogging.

There's always more than one side to a story though - be interesting to read what Jonathan eventually writes on the matter.

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Thumb Up

Well done!

Exactly what I and almost every Sun admin I have spoken to has said, "No bleedin' wonder the company is falling apart, pony-tailed plank should do more management and less blogging!".

Larry can be a complete nob sometimes, but once in a while he does say something worth hearing.

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@AC 21:40

"Larry can be a complete nob sometimes"

Sometimes? You've never met him, have you?

Still, a stopped clock is right twice a day. (Clocks used to have rotary, analog faces that were turned by clockwork run by springs (later electricity). When they stopped, the hands always pointed to the same time. As the clock face was cut up into 12 hour segments, the clock exhibited the correct time twice per day. I only point this out because the quantity of youngsters seems to have gone up recently here at ElReg ... Not that that's a bad thing!)

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Pint

Agree with this one

Having a CEO blog away means the CEO has too much time on his hands...

Either because the company is doing so well, or because he is ignoring the problems.

Plus, between the two, I think there is no doubt whatsoever who is the best CEO.

Plus, I don't like ponytails.

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Anonymous Coward

Spot on (except the ponytails)

Ponytails and/or sandals come with the territory in certain geographies. When I see a ponytail my first thoughts are "NIS+, NFS, bootparams and Solaris". The rest however is spot on.

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Happy

re: "...I don't like ponytails"

I'll bet that you're bald.

<--Happy face has no hair

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Stop

As a documented Sun-fanboi...

From the sun-fanboi-world i want to provide the opinion that i can't fault Ellison with anything quoted in this article. I use a number of sun/oricle products, and would rather them make money then lose it.

Engeering staff rocked, but sales was awe-inspiringly awful.

I once spent a month trying to get them to take my money.

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Unhappy

oooh yes....

... but that's the same for Oracle.

... waiting for months for an offer is not that abnormal, sadly

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Silver badge

i don't think that's quite as bad (from a busness perspective)

yes, but it was a try and buy... I had had the kit for a month prior to THAT and they had a CC# the whole time. Literally all they needed to to was charge me, and i had to badger them to get it done. -_-

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Grenade

Yeah, but....

It's Larry we're talking about, and if we take him seriously, why not just embrace CA as legitimate, as well?

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It may be Larry, but ...

... he's right on this one. Sun had terrific engineering but horrible productisation. No idea about bringing technical products to market. It's astonishing they stumbled along for so long at all, and the ponytailed one did little to improve matters. From Java to the SPARC - it almost always fell to others to make products built on the core engineering that enterprises actually bought (e.g. IBM, Oracle, BEA for Java. Cray and Fujitsu for the SPARC). The biggest squandered opportunity of all must surely be the Sun Ray end-user computing architecture, eclipsed by VMware and Citrix by sheer force of vastly better marketing.

The only glimmer was the 7000-series Unified Storage platform, which could've/should've been a NetApp killer. But it was too little, too late. Perhaps Oracle can still channel that potential better.

Maybe Schwartz saw himself as a Jobsian tech-visionary figure, only with enterprise rather than consumer products. But I think he lacked the charisma and his company certainly wanted for execution. Larry makes me nauseous but surely does both better.

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He played a fine game of iceberg football on the deck.

I think the blags were pretty irrelevant, unless, say, Schwartz was doing the translating himself. But all the stuff about shoddy business practices was pretty well-aimed--granted, in that case, Ellison was faced with the daunting task of not missing the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from two feet away with a shotgun.

With how deep Schwartz drove Sun into the ground, maybe he should've worked in the oil drilling business.

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Anonymous Coward

Oracle, CA and Sun...

Oracle and CA both have legitimate businesses, but Oracle's model is the opposite of CA's.

Larry builds and buys things that have business value and THEN extracts rent from them. Often the "buy" comes about when the business value has been incompetently undersold by current management and he spots the difference.

CA is only interested in buying things that need no further development but come with built in rents because the customers can't afford to leave. Strip out almost all costs and wait for the last software maintenance guy who knew the app to die off. They 'extract' without adding anything.

As for The Ponytail ? I don't know what the **** he was thinking, but it wasn't a legitimate business model for growing Sun. "Adoption precedes monetization" was his epic FAIL moment. No, it's customer acceptance of "barriers to exit" that precedes monetization, and there are several kinds of it of which can be costed and valued. Techies may rail at "software lock-in" of infinite duration; bean counters and buyers can only see ROI and NPV calculations over a fixed period of time. The ultimate problem for Sun was they neither built (nor bought) any real "barriers to exit" in terms of software and they certainly never sold in terms of value to a business. At the end the malaise went so far they expected you to buy because you liked them because they spent so much buying up software you could easily move away from. Huh? They apologized for charging for support and were surprised when people then looked to 3rd party maintainers to lower costs. They were perpetually dumbfounded when customers spent far more on technically inferior solutions that actually met critical business needs, like working with WIndows clients by design. D'oh! And then Sun reacted exactly like you would expect a mentally ill patient to: they went off with the fairies chasing big "HPC" and "Web 2.0" customers who were never going to buy Sun gear off them at a profit anyway.

And yet The Ponytail actually delivered some small profits from time to time. Larry will make his money out of this. Would be hard not to considering the magnitude of the incompetence of Sun management that still delivered some result rather than complete collapse to zero.

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WTF?

Larry must be off his meds again...

ROCK, a McNealy throw back, was dead long before Oracle bought Sun - they just waited to announce it. So nice try rewriting history Larry. Seems to me, other than eliminating all the redundant finance and legal functions, Oracle hasn't changed a single thing about Sun - except fired all the VARS and lost a ton of customers to HP and IBM. Not sure I see that as progress. Schwartz was a good egg, managing a tough transition away from SPARC and financial services customers. Larry should stop his yappin', and focus on getting his stock up, he's embarassing himself in front of the stock market.

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Flame

Dont forget the April fools day prank on youtube

Sun removed the video but showed how Pony tail spent the last days of the quarter in Palo Alto listening to someone pretending to have just been in a car accident.

Boring/Stupid/embarrasing

Oracle is about to not only dump AMD which they just announced but killing the x86 products for an OEM of Dell just like Teradata does.

Oracle is quick to do the math of developing x86 system vs. OEMing them and is getting out of x86

Netezza did the same thing and is using IBM x86 systems.

cheers Larry....Jonathans says thanks for the $25M which IBM would not pay him for killing Sun

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FAIL

pot, kettle, black?

So CEOs shouldn't be spending their time blogging - but spending all your time winning yacht races is OK?

He's right though, talking is no substitute for doing, and on that note i'll...

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Happy

Has anyone noticed

That if you strung Larry Ellisons press releases together they would almost resemble a .... one moment, let me think of the word.... oh that's it....they'd be a BLOG!

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We've all known this for abolutely ages.

Pretty much every Sun engineer (myself included) knew that the head of the company was simply not capable of the specifications required of it. I am so glad that Ellison has figured out the truth for himself, and realised how much the genius of thousands has been so casually squandered. Worse, many of the best engineers have already left the company (either of their own accord - or made redundant, in many of the staff cut-backs) - and have been scattered to the four winds.

Kudos to Ellison for realising this - but, especially, for confirming what we all knew, out loud.

Ex-Sun employee #141383

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Flame

just desserts

suck it up, Jonathan; lucky for you that you have that payoff to keep you warm ...

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fch

A rare case of "no honour between thieves" ...

... are statements like that from one CEO about another.

How hard do you need to screw up before someone from your own caste gives you a lashing like that ?

Can't help but admire Mr.Ellison for his frankness on the matter.

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Unhappy

Sun blogs are useful to customers, don't discourage the practice Larry FFS.

...very useful in places where Sunsolve's tech documents lack detail, or are too focused on break/fix.

Regardless of other mismanagement, here Schwartz lead by example helping to create the unruly wealth of knowledge that is blogs.sun.com.

It's fair enough that Ellison wants to put some clear blue water between him and the old boss but making blogging a casualty (which this damning of it will do) which is a bad thing.

Ex Sun exployee #101265

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Heart

I'm 50/50 on this.

Sun did an awsome job but yeah seems they lagged on the R&D dept.

Hopefuly Larry doubles down on the R&D.

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He is right!

What can I say Larry is right! And anyone who wants to see more of him can see him now doing a cameo in Iron Man 2 - much better management communication.

Doh!

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WTF?

Too bad he didn't mention specifics on the future of SPARC

How can customers contemplate a future with SPARC if Oracle has no specific, credible, public plans for its future? Sun botched US5 at the beginning of last decade and Rock at the end of the last decade - now what? If Fujitsu does not have something great up its sleeve, how can Oracle expect to produce a viable SPARC processor in less than 3-5 years?

As for the T series, from what I can see that is where customers relocate non-performance critical, legacy Solaris/SPARC apps until a transition to a new architecture is feasible. I'm sure there are new deployments of T series here and there, but for the most part that is where old apps go to die.

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FAIL

The problems started before Schwartz

Several years before McNealy stepped down, Sun management put the "Solaris on x86 processors" project on hold. No new development was done for a couple of years. IIRC this was around 2001-2003.

During that time, clock speeds on x86 processors hit a sharp growth knee and rose from about 1.0 GHz to 2.8 and even 3 GHz. Sparc cpus stayed around 1.2-1.6 GHz. The prices of x86 servers went lower, while Sparc servers stayed about the same. Ordinary bugetary economy forced the start-up segment of the market to buy x86 hardware rather than Sparc. The lack of Solaris availability on x86 forced them to install Linux. That began a shift in the market away from Solaris to Linux.

Sun management revived the Solaris x86 project around 2003 or 2004 and made big committments to x86 (both 32-bit and 64-bit). They've also tried hard to make Sparc competitive with x86, but they haven't turned back the tide. It will take many more years of effort to regain what was lost in that one bad decision.

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McNealys big mistake

Yes, one of the big mistakes Scott did was giving up Solaris on x86. That gave Linux the space it never deserved.

Ex Sun emplyee #23307

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Go

Future of SPARC: Come Quickly

Gavin Clarke writes, "Looking ahead, Ellison's promised that in September, at the company's annual OpenWorld conference in San Francisco, California, Oracle would deliver two new Exadata appliances running Sun hardware and Oracle software."

The T processors are really amazing little power houses - running 13 Solaris containers on first generation single socket boxes, without breaking a sweat, is not unusual.

I hope the UltraSPARC T3 appears before or around then - I have two serious business needs, but that time frame is cutting it too close to immovable deadlines...

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Go

Rock

Oracle has acquired a successful Niagara line of SPARC chips developed independently from the shambles that was Rock. The whole (mis)management chain responsible for that - including the head of CAD have been sacked liberating good engineering resource. Then it's a case of if you think the Iphone/Ipad strategy works for database servers. If the product execution is there, Oracle can exploit it in their business as has IBM for many years.

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WTF?

commentising

"productisation"

Hey making up shyte wurds is fun!

Here's mine for today: penisation - it means writing with a pen

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Schwartz just nailed the coffin.

Many of the management decisions at Sun were idiotic well before Jonny came along (Outsourcing their internal network AND internal Server admin), and the decision to hire Schwartz was one of them. His not understanding (or ignoring) the realities at Sun finished the job. I think Schwartz reminded the Big Chipmunk of his past, and that made Schwartz appealing. There were some really good brains at Sun, but too few of them were well used. One of the biggest problems was that server 'S' (SPARC) cost 20K, while server 'I' (Intel) cost half as much and was twice the performance. Customers will notice this. Hardware has become a commodity. It's the software, communications, and STANDARDS that will tell a buyer that 'this' is the server he wants. PLUS the support (IBM Global Services anyone ?). Sun had the wrong emphasis on just about everything. Their (internal) brains, the hardware, the software, services & support, and ALSO how they spent (threw away?) money. Sun could be an asset to Oracle. It depends on how Larry handles it, and how MODERN his approach will be. There is MUCH that Larry doesn't know about HARDWARE, and running a hardware company.

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It's Hard to Sell The Wrong Engineering

It doesn't matter how great the engineering is if it's the wrong product for the market. I've known a fair number of (now ex) Sun people over the years, and what they all had in common was a focus on products that were really cool and not what the business world needed. One of them once said to me "You know, these business guys drive me crazy. You lose a server in the middle of the day, and they act like it's the end of the world when they have to re-boot".

He didn't understand why I burst out laughing. Given that the Sparcs have no inherent advantages over other Unix capable hardware, there was no way to justify the premium prices Sun demanded. When money got tight, business was cured of that Sun-buying reflex action.

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Anonymous Coward

blogginess? or just plain ineptitude...

Let another ex-employee chime in here (#25709). Every engineer let out a collective groan when Schwartz announced we were a "software" company while at the time 90% of the profit was derived from the sale of hardware and services. It is amazing to think how just one individual could destroy an entire company. And yet he managed to do it while still walking away with a huge payday...I never had the luxury of sitting around blogging all day and getting paid for it. I worked for a living. (I worked on / debugged / developed test screens for every microprocessor from microSPARC-II all the way through UltraSPARC T2+).

A few notes on some of the comments I've read here. Some of you are rather clueless, especially if you have never been involved in microprocessor development or taken a microprocessor all the way through to EOL. Oliver Jones stated it well - "Worse, many of the best engineers have already left the company (either of their own accord - or made redundant, in many of the staff cut-backs) - and have been scattered to the four winds." I'll add to this somewhat, Larry Ellison needs to go through the ranks of those that are left and clear out the remaining deadwood...Because there are plenty still there.

As for Mr. Ellison racing yachts...I admire him more for doing that (and winning!) than a person that sported a pony-tail and blogged.

There was only one thing surprising here, and that is how long it took Mr. Ellison to come to his conclusions.

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Megaphone

Jonathan 'Soapbox' Schwartz...

...was a loudmouthed "Listen To The World According To Me And Up-To-Date With Technology I Think I Am" prat from the day he joined Sun. Every day on the internal sites there'd be yet another of his pathetic spoutings of claptrap. Never understood why Scott McNealy (himself no stranger to verbosity) humoured him so much.

Funny how those with nothing to say always seem to say it the most, eh?

(megaphone icon 'cos......oh come on, do I really need to go there?)

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FAIL

REAL Problem with Sun

The real problem with Sun is how much time the engineers and managers spend reading news sites and spewing comments.

Oracle is a lean, efficient, high quality organisation, we're focused on results. From what I've seen, Sun is lazy, pig headed and delivers very low quality output.

We do just fine with our CEO on a racing yacht - but you blame everything on your managers and their haircuts. Just leave the company, and let us inject some real innovation and discipline, and stop complaining all the time. That seems to be the biggest emblem of your corporate culture, whinge whinge whinge.

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