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Sun Microsystems

The Faded Sun 481

jlowery writes "Robert X. Cringely seems to think so. Forget the hardware side: what does this mean to the future of Java? Will there be enough incentive to continue to develop the language for whoever acquires Sun? Or will Java developers have to swallow hard and submit to the whims of the dark overlord? Maybe I'll switch to Mac development, after all."
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The Faded Sun

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  • Sounds trollish (Score:5, Interesting)

    by r6144 ( 544027 ) <r6k.sohu@com> on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:14AM (#5308034) Homepage Journal
    I know Sun is losing money, but this article sounds subjective and trollish all the same. Anyone care to confirm the facts mentioned?
    • by Ulve ( 618797 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:41AM (#5308092)
      Yeah. And objectivity is what /. is all about =P
      • it is VERY trollish (Score:5, Informative)

        by CrudPuppy ( 33870 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:29AM (#5308399) Homepage
        let's start with the facts.

        He says the battle will be lost to cheap stations that use AMD and Intel hardware.

        No sane company at this point is going to put mission critical applications on Intel hardware unless it scales horizontally amazingly well. weblayers - yes. application servers - yes. big databases that are read-write? NO.

        And who is going to provide the 1-hour onsite response time that comes with Sun's Platinum service for those flocking to cheap hardware?

        Sun's legacy servers (4500, 6500, e10k) were pretty amazing, but had some faults (Ecache failures, lack of true power redundancy, etc). But Sun's new line of servers is truly amazing. The 4800, 6800, and e15k all support true partitioning, including FULL separation of power circuitry between partitions! as with the last line, they are very interchangeable with each other. now add solaris, an OS that is stable, and scales extremely well up to 106 processors and 512 GB of RAM in one machine (read again, that is 512 GIGS of RAM). did I mention hot-swappable CPUs? did I mention that Sun's partnership with Hitachi lead to Sun's offering of 75 Terabyte SAN-attached arrays?

        So, Mr. Cringely, who exactly is going to fill this gap for Enterprise servers for mission critical apps if Sun tanks?

        But yet he claims that Sun has "no real technical leadership". how about that. so they dont. most companies with "real technical leadership" sit on the sidelines and daydream about marketing products with this kind of quality.

        I guess if Sun tanked, people could still buy IBM or HP hardware and run (gasp) AIX or HPUX. I've been responsible for AIX in my life, and it's not really pretty. And IBM's linux offering on mainframes seems as absurd to me as spending the money for a twin-turbo porsche and then asking for vinyl seats because you don't like the feel of real leather.

        In a sense, I'm biased because I have built my career around being an expert in Sun hardware, Solaris, Veritas tools, and Perl. But then, this is exactly why I am able to know how big corporations think. CTO's aren't wandering from big UNIX machines for awhile when it comes to anything important...
        • by haus ( 129916 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:57AM (#5308471) Homepage Journal
          Well Oracle may opt to disagree with you. All you have to do is go to their home page [no link, if you can not find it you need help]. They are pushing running Oracle on Linux in a big way. When it comes to corporate databases there is Oracle and a bunch of companies that no one cares about.

          Or if you would like another example, how about the Enhanced Traffic Management System (ETMS). This is a Air Traffic Control (ATC) system used by the FAA to handle flow control, redirecting traffic around severe weather and other fun things along those lines. Currently the system is running mostly on HP-UX servers. But people have realized that they are paying far to much for what they get, so they have started replacing these HP Servers with cheap Intel boxes running Red Hat. No one seems to care about the fast response time for on-site maintenance, because HP NEVER meets their contracted maintenance time to begin with. [The FAA pays for 4 hour response time on the HP machines and I can not recall a single instance in the last two years that HP has made the time slot at any site in the nation, occasionally taking MULTIPLE DAYS]. With the cheaper boxes you can simple keep extra spares lying around and swap out as needed, still saving large amounts of money.

          Sure SUN can take the lion's share of the really big boxes, but there is not enough demand to justify a company anywhere near SUN's current size. And even that will not go uncontested, IBM wants their share of that market so does HP. But if that is all that is left for SUN, they will starve to death.

          Although I wish them the best, I do agree that they need to do something and do it quickly.
          • by CrudPuppy ( 33870 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @11:30AM (#5308565) Homepage
            Sure, oracle isn't dumb. They are pushing Oracle on Linux because they realize that Linux is a segment they cannot afford to ignore at this point.

            You are certainly correct that Sun needs to change, I wasn't even trying to argue that. Linux is undeniably poised to overtake much of the UNIX market share in the next 5 years.

            My point about big applications on cheap hardware may have been too vague.

            Any application that can be easily spread across lots of machines without the use of expensive options or 3rd party software (oracle parallel server, veritas cluster, etc) is a good candidate for linux on cheap hardware.

            The weblayer at my company is a perfect example. I can buy 10+ of my 2-way Intel machines for the price of one big Sun box. So we buy more than we need, and toss em into the spare parts bin when they fail. sit those puppies behind a load director and you're set.

            The database layer is another story entirely. They require a large amount of horsepower, and the whole operation dies if they go down. This means it *must* sit on big, reliable hardware with a support contract
            • by ADRA ( 37398 )
              "The database layer is another story entirely. They require a large amount of horsepower, and the whole operation dies if they go down. This means it *must* sit on big, reliable hardware with a support contract"

              Solution: Clustered Oracle RAC Enterprise with Redhat AS 2.1 and full support contracts from Redhat and Oracle.

              We are planning on this deployment simply because we can save hand over fist amounts of money. You can read all the fud about it from Oracle, but IMHO, it 'could' put a big hit on big iron.
          • Currently the system is running mostly on HP-UX servers. But people have realized that they are paying far to much for what they get, so they have started replacing these HP Servers with cheap Intel boxes running Red Hat. No one seems to care about the fast response time for on-site maintenance, because HP NEVER meets their contracted maintenance time to begin with. [The FAA pays for 4 hour response time on the HP machines and I can not recall a single instance in the last two years that HP has made the time slot at any site in the nation, occasionally taking MULTIPLE DAYS].

            That may be true but HP is not Sun. When I worked in a Sun shop if we had a hardware problem the techs were on-site WITH the parts they needed in under an hour. It was pretty much the same with the Cisco support contract we had.

            If you pay the big bucks, you CAN have good service. And there will always be companies that pay the big bucks to have a higher measure of reliability (and lower downtime). If the downtime costs you more than the support contract, it is a smart buy.

            Just because HP has crappy service doesn't mean everyone in the segment does as well.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15, 2003 @12:27PM (#5308761)
          And who is going to provide the 1-hour onsite response time that comes with Sun's Platinum service for those flocking to cheap hardware?


          Who cares?

          I believe that one of the causes of the dot-com implosion is that many companies discovered that their customers will actually put up with pretty crappy service. And therefore the market for co-location services and monster data centers never actually appeared and companies like Exodus were doomed. 24/7 uptime just isn't needed by that many companies.

          Why pay big bucks for hardware support on a box from Sun when you can buy 5 cheapo boxes for the same price and have your own in-house monkeys do the board swapping within one hour rather than waiting for board-swapping monkeys from Sun that might not actually show up within an hour anyway?
          • have your own in-house monkeys do the board swapping

            Ever since I was a little boy, I've wanted my ouwn troupe of in-house monkeys. Wearing those little red caps, and holding those little tin cups, like organ grinders' monkeys.

            Or midgets would do, too.
        • by rodgerd ( 402 )
          Sun's legacy servers (4500, 6500, e10k) were pretty amazing, but had some faults (Ecache failures, lack of true power redundancy, etc).


          So what you're saying is, "Don't trust mission critical apps to dodgy Intel hardware, trust it to buggy Sun hardware"; after all, it isn't like Sun tried to cover up the data corruption and halting problems afflicting those systems, is it?

          And who is going to provide the 1-hour onsite response time that comes with Sun's Platinum service for those flocking to cheap hardware?


          IBM. They've been doing it for years, you know. Given the cost of Sun's platinum support, there are any number of companies who would provide excellent support for you.

          So, Mr. Cringely, who exactly is going to fill this gap for Enterprise servers for mission critical apps if Sun tanks?


          People used to say the same about SGI and the high end graphics market. IBM and HP both have products that slot into exactly the same area - and IBMs top end gear is a fuckload more reliable than Sun's.
    • by LinuxXPHybrid ( 648686 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:48AM (#5308111) Journal
      >> Anyone care to confirm the facts mentioned?

      This is a troll like you said; there are too many things that I can disclaim, but I just list a couple as follows.

      > Sun has no real technical leadership. (from the article)

      Just to name a few... Billy Joy? James Gosling? John Gage? Aren't they three of greatest leaders in IT (and science in general) in our generation?

      > Sun did not invent the engineering workstation, but they certainly perfected it. (from the article)

      Sometimes, only perfection (or 90% complete) can claim invention. For example, Apple did not create GUI (Xerox should claim that right), but they perfected it; they have a right to say that Apple invented GUI. In that sense, Sun invented workstation.

      > At that rate, the company has at most five years to live. (from the article)

      No one can tell what's going to happen in this arena. You've got "only" five years, so you are dead. That sounds too premature. Anything can happen in five years in IT industry. As the author claims, Sun might be gone; on the other hand, Sun might be ruling the world by then.

      I can point out many more, but one of things that the author Robert X. Cringely seems to misunderstand is that Microsoft, IBM, and Sun are doing the same thing and competing in exactly the same market, which is not true. Also it is important to note that Sun is a technology company. Companies like Microsoft are becoming a technology company (and some never will be). Looking at PC sales and saying "Oh, Sun is doing horrible in this environment, they are going Sayonara" is premature and ... I'm sorry to say this, but Robert X. Cringely seems to lack the foundation of technical journalist. Who knows he's the one who'll be gone in five (or less than five years)?
      • by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:25AM (#5308393) Homepage
        Just to name a few... Billy Joy? James Gosling? John Gage? Aren't they three of greatest leaders in IT (and science in general) in our generation?

        What have they done for the company recently?

        Seriously, Gosling has been involved in a lot of visionary technology before Java, but none of it got anywhere. NeWs was squished by X-Windows. Gage did net day, but what has he done for the company recently? Come to that what does Whitt Diffie do for Sun beyond consume cafe latte?

        Unfortunately there is a major difference between technological firepower and technological leadership. The problem isn't with the technologists, it is with the management. They have simply failled to construct a business plan or environment that can utilise the firepower they have.

        In that sense, Sun invented workstation.

        My DEC Alpha was far superior to anything sun had to offer. Come to that SGI provided better firepower and a slicker integration package. Sun invented the cheap engineering workstation, mainly for the education market. Real engineers used VAXen. Now VMS didn't survive too well but it was the DEC/MIT X-Windows system that defined the workstation interface in the end.

        As the author claims, Sun might be gone; on the other hand, Sun might be ruling the world by then.

        I doubt it. IBM is rulling the commercial java space and OSS is rulling the freeware space. There is not much of a gap between the two.

        The apple/Sun issue is key here. Apple is very well positioned to take huge bites out of Sun's core server market. They simply don't need Sun technology at this point. All they need is a hot processor - which sun notably lacks.

        For Sun to survive it has to start focussing on its business, not Microsoft. Meetings with Sun engineers are painful, you get a 45 minute whinge about Microsoft. Which is pretty sad when they know you are one of Microsoft's closest allies in the industry. Even if Sun makes a billion in the lawsuit they will lose big, the suit is costing them far more than that in lost business and lost opportunities.

        The first step to save Sun is to sack McNealy. Unfortunately Sun does not have a Steve Jobs figure waiting in the wings.

      • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:53AM (#5308457)
        > At that rate, the company has at most five years to live. (from the article)

        No one can tell what's going to happen in this arena. You've got "only" five years, so you are dead. That sounds too premature. Anything can happen in five years in IT industry. As the author claims, Sun might be gone; on the other hand, Sun might be ruling the world by then.


        Amen. To put this in perspective, 5 years ago the dot-com boom was just getting off the ground. If you think you can predict *THIS* industry, I have some stock options I would like to sell you.

    • Re:Sounds trollish (Score:5, Informative)

      by stwrtpj ( 518864 ) <p.stewartNO@SPAMcomcast.net> on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:26AM (#5308394) Journal
      I know Sun is losing money, but this article sounds subjective and trollish all the same. Anyone care to confirm the facts mentioned?

      As a current employee of Sun Microsystems, I can at least clear up one little factoid in the article that every Sun pundit likes to mention for dramatic impact without either understanding or wanting the reader to understand.

      The so-called $ 2 billion loss was a one-time writeoff that had to do with the revaluation of various companies that Sun acquired. People who bother to research their facts rather than simply spit them back verbatim for shock value would see that this is something that many companies do, and is more a sign of the bad economy than necessarily bad management at Sun. Without that write-off, Sun would have made a small profit.

      I can't really comment on the other points in the article, since a lot of it is subjective, and anything I might say on it would be inherently biased by the fact that I work for Sun.

    • Re:Sounds trollish (Score:4, Insightful)

      by njdj ( 458173 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @12:20PM (#5308738)
      Anyone care to confirm the facts mentioned?

      The basic facts - and Sun's basic problem - are that Intel/AMD hardware is cheaper than SPARC hardware because of economies of scale; and that Linux is comparable with Solaris (behind in some areas, ahead in others). Do you really need confirmation of these facts?

      Right now, it would be impossible to replace all Sun servers by Intel hardware because Sun makes "big iron" - multiprocessors with 64 cpus. A big bank, for example, that has to process hundreds of millions of transactions at month-end needs that performance. But inevitably, Intel hardware will become available in this kind of configuration, and Linux will support it. It's not a question of "whether", it's a question of "how soon". This is clearly a threat to Sun's business model.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:16AM (#5308038)
    The Java specs are done by the Java comminity process, if Sun goes down (I really hope not and I will be one of the first to jump on their desktop machines) someobody else (possibly IBM) will take over Suns role in the JCP. There is too much investement especially on IBMs side to let it go.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:17AM (#5308040)
    This man is just asking for trouble.

    Remember last time around when he said Microsoft should adopt Linux?.. and the article had historical mistakes which would get any real journalist shot. Guess what? This is another one of his theories which I have a hard time believing. He should team up with Tom from Tomshardware.com and they can collaborate on innacurate stories.

    I'm no Sun fan, but I really doubt his wild ass theory. Companies adopt. Who knows what will happen in 1 year, let alone in 5. This guy doesn't understand computing and the IT business cycles.

    • I'm no Sun fan, but I really doubt his wild ass theory. Companies adopt. Who knows what will happen in 1 year, let alone in 5. This guy doesn't understand computing and the IT business cycles.

      When companies adopt the companies they acquire never love them as much as spinoffs of their own would.

      Companies must adopt and then adapt; maybe skip the adoption altogether.
    • acidential empires? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eshefer ( 12336 )
      Did you read the book he wrote?

      yes, I doubt you did..

      Basicly the only gripe I have with this perticular article is that it was bleeding obvious to anyone for the last two years, at least

      linux is murdering solaris, and Mac OsX is stabbining it too. IBM is moving linux to the high-end where it will kill what -ever market sun has now.

      sun is going down the SGI way.
  • Overpriced (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yuckf00 ( 644870 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:17AM (#5308041)
    The first thing they could do is lower the prices of their hardware. It is nowhere near being competitive with x86 servers. Sun boxes are slowly being phased out at the place I work in favor of Linux boxes because of the cost savings.

    I know it seems unlikely, but an Apple/Sun merger would be very stupid on Apple's part.
    • Re:Overpriced (Score:5, Informative)

      by mirko ( 198274 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:27AM (#5308065) Journal
      I work as sysadmin for a very big Swiss company.
      We pay the price for the Sun computers but here's what we get :
      • SERVICE! Should a server burn, its parts are replaced by Sun peopel within 4-5 hours after opening the goddam call.
      • Reliability : Most of my server have a 3-4 digit uptime. The NT admins reboot once or twice a month.
      • Solaris : It may not be as quick as other OS but, at least, we've got a complete control over the whole machien and it integrates more than perfectly with HP ITO management system.
      • Perfect Oracle support : Servers -> data : This just works.

      So my point is that : if you're in an ISO9k organisation and you need to know about whichever problem as soon as they occur, you've got to pay for it (and, BTW, the administrative costs related to the projects are quite higher than the hardware cost themselves so whining because of an E-450 server price won't drastically reduce the projectprice. It could even endanger the whole project's profitability because of the side-effects costs...

      Anyway, michael is right : Apple/OSX development is *very* pelasing and rewarding :-)
      • Re:Overpriced (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Metrol ( 147060 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:50AM (#5308115) Homepage
        I don't believe the article was critical of any of the points mentioned there. Yes, there's the service, reliability, and the Oracle support. Even with all that going for it, the costs just don't seem to be in line anymore. As with any product, computer or otherwise, there's a sweet spot between reliability and price that equates to perceived value. If reliability is too low, or the price too high, a company just isn't going to be able to move that product.

        Companies like IBM and HP are out there with their far less expensive hardware providing the support aspect to the picture. Oracle is even on a big Linux push. In the present day scenario, Sun simply isn't effectively competing. This is especially true when we're talking about actually gaining market share rather than just holding on to the folks they've got.

        The catch-22 here is that if Sun drops their pricing too far, they lose cash up front. If they don't drop far enough, they either lose market share or further their growth slowdown. Cringley's argument was simply that Sun isn't going to win on either approach at this point and they need to change their entire game plan in a hurry.

        In my mind, the article was a look at a market landscape that's changed, but Sun hasn't.... yet.
      • Re:Overpriced (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        To argue your points:

        * Service - Erm, wrong. You can get pretty damn good service plans from HP and Compaq on their servers, some of which are already x86 based AND has such fast replacement services.

        * Reliability - True. But the gap is closing, hard. I would also add in argreeing with you the concept of big iron where Sun still smacks x86 down on.

        That said, Crigley is talking 5 years ahead of now, giving about 2.5 years for the PC server market to really start eating into Sun's share. Frankly, I think he's right, although I would stop short of a complete Sun downfall.

        * Solaris - Please. That's a point against you, if for the simple fact that Solaris admins cost more, the exposure to Solaris is nonexistent, etc. etc.

        * Oracle - Eh, okay, but Oracle's got 2.5 years to improve.

        The basis of Crigley's argument is cash. No cash, all the strengths you like, which may be entirely valid, go kaput. Personally, his comments ring too similarly to "Apple is dying" crap which we heard throughout the 90s ad nauseum. Except that now, Apple is replaced by Sun--"Sun is dying."

        Sun could milk their niche market and then strenghten it, similar to what they did in the late 90s and what Apple did in the "true" personal computing, AV, and education markets. But Crigley is addressing this as well, pretty much calling Sun's exec misguided dumbasses.

        Sun can survive. They just need to get their house in order and show why someone should buy their products. Otherwise, no matter their strengths, business will migrate away hastily to avoid abandonment of investment and infrastructure caused by the mere potential Sun bankruptcy.
    • by Moderation abuser ( 184013 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:59AM (#5308138)
      Now, I don't particuarly like Sun hardware or software, but I can get a brand new Sun box for less than an equivalent Dell system.

      That's what's reducing their profits.

    • Sun's systems offer functionality that you won't find on Linux systems. As a developer of server applications, I find it useful to be able to debug a fork()ing process, and choose which fork to follow. Try doing that with GDB on Linux! Sun's DBX debugger does this flawlessly. I find that generally, Sun offer better development tools than I've found on Linux.
  • from the kesrith-shonjir-kutath dept.

    Either I am a blindly clueless newbie, or there is something wrong with that line. Can anyone please explain what the "kesrith-shonjir-kutath dept" is?
  • He's right, sorta. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by idiotnot ( 302133 ) <sean@757.org> on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:19AM (#5308046) Homepage Journal
    Sun's just been overtaken by events. If anything, they ought to be an attractive buyout target for somebody (IBM, Apple). Solaris is still a good OS, Java's still a good technology.

    I will say this, I think they're in better shape than SGI -- but that's not saying much.

    I remember awhile back when those $1000 Sun workstations were released. One of the most cogent responses I saw was something to the extent of, four years ago, I'd have one on order already, now I just don't care.

    You can have an amazing *nix workstation on PC hardware. If you want polish and flash, buy a Mac (he says as he types this on the iBook he just bought....)
    • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:43AM (#5308096) Journal
      Not to mention 6-7 years ago you had to buy expensive compilers and desktop environments with your sun. A good c compiler cost 3 grand!

      With Linux/FreeBSD you not only have a unix based operating system for a pc but you have a free intel otpimized c/c++, pascal, fortran, and java compilers as well as free desktop environments that are supperior to CDE that solaris workstations came with.

      How much would all those improvements in 1996 for a sun workstation plus a good quality X-server would cost? Several thousand at least. Linux/BSD distro come with so much software that it makes today's pc's supperior to the old sun's. Even at 1k they would be behind the lintel pc back then unless you had serious bucks.

      Today the sparc version of gcc has improved and is more optimized so the compiler problem is gone unless your in the scientific/engineering community and still need to purchase an expensive compiler. You can download all of the linux based software packages from the linux distro's for Solaris but several years ago these software packages were not their, sucked, and high speed internet connections and large disk space was a problem back then.

      This is how linux started. Its the software. I started Linux back in 98 just because I could not afford the enterpise edition of Visual C++ and the introductory edition was crippled. I only cared about gnu c/c++. c++ was not fully supported in dos/windows with mingwin.

      Being back ontopic what benefit does Solaris have besides the server room? All the innovatiness of old unix is taken place today on Linux and Windows. Sun has been gutted out from the bottum up like some predicted back in the mid to late nineties. However it was predicted NT would do this and not another unix. Since Linux has all the benefits of Unix then Sun is no longer needed.

  • by guacamole ( 24270 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:27AM (#5308064)
    They have just renewed a commitment to the Solaris operating system, which is no longer really viable from an economic standpoint. I know, I know, Solaris users love Solaris, but they don't love Solaris prices.

    This statement is wrong. The cost of Solaris is not an issue. Solaris licenses are either free or cheap depending on what kind of hardware you own and where you got it. The real problem is in the cost of Sun's hardware as well as relative performance of UltraSPARC processors compared to the 32-bit x86 processors and certain 64-bit processors. Sun executives are still living in an imaginary world thinking that Sun's future is in selling large mega-bucks systems to the data centers completely ignoring the low-profit high-volume low-end side of the market.

    • by Graelin ( 309958 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:45AM (#5308100)
      The real problem is in the cost of Sun's hardware as well as relative performance of UltraSPARC processors compared to the 32-bit x86 processors and certain 64-bit processors. Sun executives are still living in an imaginary world thinking that Sun's future is in selling large mega-bucks systems to the data centers completely ignoring the low-profit high-volume low-end side of the market.

      Sun Execs. live in this dilusion because their customers allow them to.

      I know that a year from now, when I need a 64-bit platform for my rapidly growing DB server, AMD and Intel will be there. And Linux will be there. And so will all the jagged edges you get with very young hardware and software.

      Then I will turn to Sun, who have been building the same 64-bit platform for over a decade. No jagged edges here. It's solid. It's reliable. Sun engineers have been there and seen it all.

      Do you actually own a Sun? You should probably open it up and compare it to your uber-clocked Althon-space-heater sometime. Their hardware is very high quality. Their support is as well.

      So, to my boss, the question becomes: Do I go with the guys who've been doing it since before I was born or do I go with this new stuff? I think the answer is clear.

      IMO, Sun needn't worry too much about AMD and Intel. If you look at who Sun is *really* in competition with, it's IBM. The Power4 and AIX or Linux combination is increadably powerful and worthy of attention.
      • by platypus ( 18156 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @08:35AM (#5308203) Homepage
        I know that a year from now, when I need a 64-bit platform for my rapidly growing DB server, AMD and Intel will be there. And Linux will be there. And so will all the jagged edges you get with very young hardware and software.

        But what is in 2 years, 3, 5?

        Look what happened with such a shitty consumer oriented spec like IDE (ATA). It improved, and ate the market for scsi devices from the low end. I own scsi equipment myself for my home pecee, but today I wouldn't even consider buying scsi.
        Today one even can consider ATA for smaller servers, because you can just buy twice the number of drives compared to SCSI and use RAID.

        The same can be said for memory architecture, multiproc architecture (look at the what AMD's EV6 stuff, and the EV7-alike with the opteron). Linux is also growing into a viable OS for bigger and bigger systems.

        Granted, this still quite a bit away from what sun is offering, but the point is that they _will_ steadily loose ground at the low end of their offerings, and that this low end will move higher and higher as the time goes by, shrinking their target market.

      • Do you actually own a Sun? You should probably open it up and compare it to your uber-clocked Althon-space-heater sometime. Their hardware is very high quality. Their support is as well.

        That is what we used to say about Digital.

        Digital stuff just worked (well apart from low end crap like the Multia they threw out in their death throws). I never had occasion to find out about their replacement service, the stuff just worked. We had hundreds of boxes from them and it all just worked. You might have a flaky disk from time to time but with disk shaddowing on you could hot swap them.

        VMS uptimes were measured in years. If you had a system crash you had a major post-mortem to find out the cause (usually power outage).

        Not only did DEC go bust but the company that bought it got bought itself by HP.

      • Do you actually own a Sun? You should probably open it up and compare it to your uber-clocked Althon-space-heater sometime. Their hardware is very high quality. Their support is as well.


        Well, you're making the common mistake of lumping all of "sun hardware" together, like it's the same. It's not. Sun has some real junk, designs that never would have gotten out the door at a low cost pc clone maker. (E.g., the Sun Ultra 10, where the drives weren't even on rails and one drive needed to be removed in order to get the other drive out.) Their high end stuff is generally better, but you can't compare that to some "uber-clocked Athlon-space-heater"; if you compare high end sun on one hand you have to compare high end pc on the other--and those are also pretty well designed. A high-end pc server has a lot of hot swap components, internal redundancy, etc. It doesn't have hot-swap processor boards and it doesn't scale past 16p or so, but that's a slim market for sun to live off--and sun isn't the only player there. You can get better scaling from SGI or HP, and you can get better reliability from IBM.

        Then there's support. You've made the other mistake of thinking that every one of the thousands of sun techs is equally good. Sometimes you get a good one. Sometimes you don't. I've got some real horror stories about the bad ones--examples where some jerk sent for a million dollar support contract replaces the wrong part on a multimillion dollar system. The point is that the support is only as good as the guy who shows up on your doorstep, and you don't get a lot of control over that. You've got the same problem for pc support, but the machines are so much cheaper that n+1 redundancy is more realistic. I'd much rather have a spare machine than trust that the support monkey will show up in a timely fashion and will manage to fix the problem. (Remember that your contract probably says something like "four hour response" rather than "four hour time to resolve"--that just means they answer the phone within four hours. If you have a time-to-resolve contract you almost certainly have spares on hand, and sun has no advantage there.) I'd really much rather have in-house staff replace the parts, because at least they're responsible to my management chain. With pc makers that isn't usually a problem. Sun really doesn't like unauthorized people working on their expensive hardware. You can get in house staff authorized, but that also costs quite a lot of money (and when they leave you just lost that investment.)
      • by pfdietz ( 33112 )
        Sun Execs. live in this [delusion] because their customers allow them to.
        This is just the kind of thing Christensen talks about in 'The Innovator's Dilemma' -- following what makes money from current customers often leads companies into a dead end when a disruptive technology comes along.

        Eventually the coyote looks down, realizes he's walked off a cliff, and falls, making a little Sun-logo-shaped hole in the ground at the bottom of the canyon.
      • Do you actually own a Sun? You should probably open it up and compare it to your uber-clocked Althon-space-heater sometime. Their hardware is very high quality. Their support is as well.

        Since I own both I feel I can field this one. Take the case off your workstation someday, you may be in for some surprises. First off, my Sunblade 100 has ecc pc133 sdram(4x512M) - my Athlon has ecc pc2100 ddr (4x512). The Sunblade shipped without a SCSI controller or drives - I don't know if the stock IDE was ATA/33, 66, 100, or 133 - but I'm willing to bet it was probably ATA/66. No matter -- added an Adaptec SCSI controller and ultra 160 drives. My Athlon shipped with on-board u/320 SCSI controllers with the same U160 drives. The Sun box has firewire, the Athlon Gigabit Ethernet - don't use or care about either. Don't know about your Sun box, but mine sure looked like a cheap-ass Dell on the inside. I suspect Sun is doing the same cost cutting on the 'premium' parts..... Both have been rock solid, and all the vendors give top notch support at this level.

        Here is where it counts - one I use for active code development, the other just sits there as a DB, LDAP, and whatever else I can sluff off to it. My dual 1.73ghz Athlon/Linux workstation spanks the 500mhz Sunblade/Solaris box. Similar specs (sans CPU), but god almighty, it is not even close at firing up Mozilla, building an EJB, using OpenOffice, or getting anything done.

        The rules are a bit different for what makes a solid server (I/O rather than CPU speed) - but stick a fork in it, it is done in the workstation market. Something where you need the 64-bit environment might give you an edge, but with the new 64-bit AMD and Intel chips working their way to market, even the new 1.05G UltraSparc III's seems a bit hollow.
    • by colaboy ( 227199 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:47AM (#5308104) Homepage
      You are right about your comments about Solaris, but are mistaken about Sun's stance regarding your other comments. Regarding the executives thinking that the future is in selling hardware alone, you're incorrect - Sun is trying to sell itself as a solutions vendor - not just hardware, but software and services as well. See http://www.sun.com/solutions/ for more info. Regarding your comment saying that Sun is ignoring high-volume low-end side of the market, again this is not correct - sun has introduced the LX50, and 1U rack mount system that runs linux or solaris (x86). See more about that at http://wwws.sun.com/servers/entry/lx50/

      Finally, a word about Robert Cringley - how many times does this guy need to be wrong before the industry starts ignoring him?
    • Click here [sun.com] for Solaris prices. It's free if you're a student, but the point of the Cringely comment was businesses. Example: 4-CPU Workgroup Server license $999.00
      • by guacamole ( 24270 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @08:07AM (#5308153)
        Let me explain..

        First, I didn't say Solaris is "free for all". I said Solaris is free or cheap. I really meant to say "Solaris is free or relatively cheap"

        Second, $999 is relatively not that much for a box that cost upwards of $20,000 when it was new. I bet $999 is even less than the cost of a yearly hardware support contract for such class of machine. A Win2k or other commercial Unix license for this class of server would cost a lot more.
        (e.g a 25-user Win2k server license is being quoted for around $3000 by Dell while the quad-processes Sun server could easily provide file/print/directory services to hundreds of machines for a flat license fee of $999)

        Finally, Solaris -is- free even for businesses for unlimited number of systems as long as they have one CPU and as long as were originally purchased for Sun or Sun's authorized reseller. Everyone else has to purchase a license. However, as I have already pointed out, Solaris licensing is relatively cheap.
    • ignoring the low-profit high-volume low-end side of the market.
      There is the problem. I have been trying to talk to IBM, HP and ,at a low-level, Sun. I have been working on home devices to be directly sold to home builders so as to bypass the channels that MS controls so tightly.
      The funny part is, that with this drought in the west AND the worsening economy, home builders need something to help sell and cities need something that will help save water.
      Right now, they have opportunities, but they are so worried about their own jobs that they will kill the companies first.
  • He is insane... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Graelin ( 309958 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:29AM (#5308067)
    Ok, his first points are very valid and I will agree. Sun is in serious trouble. They're betting the company on N1. Apple won't buy them. Java wasn't the smoking gun.

    But to say that a merger with Sony would be better than Apple is just plain dumb. What have the two in common? Absolutely nothing. Sony has no interest in the server market - if they had they'd be there already. Furthermore, the technology that Sun pioneers has absolutely NOTHING to do with ANY Sony market.

    He article further states that N1 puts Sun in direct competition with Microsoft and IBM. Uhh, hello, where you have been dude - they've been in competition for a long time now. If he is trying to draw comparison between N1 and a MS or IBM product then he should do so. From what I've read N1 has a LOT of potential. And while IBM is certainly a contender in the distributed-computing area, MS is definitely not.

    Although Cringley was clearly drunk when he wrote this, he makes good points. And I would agree that N1 is certain to fail. Not because it won't perform, or not because Sun is actually using sales people to sell it, but because the market is rather slim. N1 doesn't benefit a small or medium sized company very much. Not nearly as much as it does the enterprise.

    I don't know what Sun should be doing right now. But I, and I bet a lot of you /. folk, agree - they're not doing the right thing.
    • I gotta agree, I was largely agreeing until this Sony crap came along. I'm not sure what they could do to stave off their long-term demise.
    • Re:He is insane... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by halftrack ( 454203 ) <jonkje@@@gmail...com> on Saturday February 15, 2003 @08:18AM (#5308176) Homepage
      "But to say that a merger with Sony would be better than Apple is just plain dumb. What have the two in common? Absolutely nothing. Sony has no interest in the server market - if they had they'd be there already."

      Having something in common isn't the only reason for a company to aquire another company. Maybe Sony would like to get into the server market, but doesn't have the know-how. It seems like you think that for big-corp Sony to challenge IBM and Microsoft they just have to do it, but IMHO it's not that simple and that's why it would be smart of them to aquire SUN. SUN's got the infrastructure, competence and management in place and would only require tuning to get rapidly fitted into Sony Corp. Et voilá; Sony makes servers and - more - money.

      " .., the technology that Sun pioneers has absolutely NOTHING to do with ANY Sony market."

      That's EXCACTLY why Sony would wan't SUN. SUN's got something they haven't got and would therefor be a nice addition to the Sony family. You've got to remember that big corporations like Sony stop growing if they don't get into new markets, and for them growth is what it's all about.
    • Re:He is insane... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Surak ( 18578 ) <[surak] [at] [mailblocks.com]> on Saturday February 15, 2003 @08:43AM (#5308214) Homepage Journal
      But to say that a merger with Sony would be better than Apple is just plain dumb.

      I agree. I also think that a merger with Apple would be a good idea. They complement each other, really. Apple lacks solid credibility in the server market, and Sun lacks solid crediblity in the desktop market. But Apple clearly is a serious contender in the desktop Unix market, and Sun will continue to be a serious contender in the server market, at least until the transformation of Linux into a serious, competent enterprise platform is complete.

      Apple's stength in Sun's weakness and vice versa.
      • Re:He is insane... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by artemis67 ( 93453 )
        I agree. I also think that a merger with Apple would be a good idea. They complement each other, really. Apple lacks solid credibility in the server market, and Sun lacks solid crediblity in the desktop market. But Apple clearly is a serious contender in the desktop Unix market, and Sun will continue to be a serious contender in the server market, at least until the transformation of Linux into a serious, competent enterprise platform is complete.

        Apple's stength in Sun's weakness and vice versa.


        It's difficult to imagine how you could bring the two together, though. Apple's not going to offer Solaris boxes when they've got their own industrial-strength *nix OS. It might have been a good complement back in '97 when Apple lacked an OS for the enterprise back office; in fact, Apple *did* have a similar strategy back in the mid-90's when they shipped some serious server hardware running A/UX. With the purchase of NeXTStep/OpenStep, though, they now have one codebase for both server and workstation, so segmenting into two codebases wouldn't make much sense at this point.

        It's also difficult to imagine Apple getting much mileage out of the Sparc systems. Hardware is almost completely commoditized these days, and the mainstream processor market is just about to go 64-bit anyway, so Sun's hardware would not give Apple a strategic long-term position.

        Java is probably the only thing of any real value to Apple, since Apple has taken a real shine to it in the last few years. I'm not sure it's worth buying the company, though.

        As Cringely points out, a Sun acquisition makes a lot more sense for a larger PC company that currently doesn't have a path to server market penetration.
      • Re:He is insane... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bishop ( 4500 )
        On the surface an Apple merger with Sun would see like a good idea for the ideas you mention. Apple workstations coupled with Sun servers would seem to be a complete solution. There are some exciting implications from such a merger. More competition and innovation are always good. However artemis67 is correct that an Apple and Sun merger would not be a pretty fit.

        The marketing strategies of the two companies are very different. Apple seems to be trying to push into the homes and small offices ("switcher" ads) so as to leverage a way into the larger bussinesses. Sun is in the enterprise market and trying hard to convince large and medium sized bussinesses that the solutions used in the enterprise are good for them too. The new AppleSun would have to come up with a completely new marketing strategy which would not be an easy task. The current Apple and Sun market execs have different view of the market probably don't even speak the same language.

        The difficulties with marketing are nothing compared to the problems that would be faced by AppleSun when trying to integrate the two products. MacOS and Solaris have more differences then similarities. Neither product is Unix(tm), both are Unix derived. There is a big difference. Not that these products can't live and talk on the same network. That part is easy. The hard parts are a common development environment, and common system administration (or at least similar). A well integrated aproach to system administration is critical. An administrator wants to be able to easily create users on the AppleSun server running Solaris for the AppleSun workstations running MacOS. All the MacOS user extentions and all the Solaris user extentions have to work consistantly. There is much more to this then uid and gid. On Solaris there are policies and project groups and ACLs. All this has to be pushed down onto MacOS as these are impartant features in enterprise user management. Likewise there are MacOS file extentions that would have to be mapped into Solaris.

        On the development side AppleSun face similar problems. It is possible to develope on a SunBlade 150 workstation for a massive SunFire15k. The same would have to be possible on an AppleSun workstation running MacOS. The binaries do not have to be compatible (that would be foolish), but the code has to be mostly compatible. With a minimum ammount of change you have to be able to move code the compiles and runs on a workstation to a much larger server.

        There are other issues that would face a merged AppleSun. Microsoft would not be happy. Apple is currently "mostly harmless." A merged AppleSun would be a serious threat to Microsoft's plans to dominate the office market from server room to desktop. Apple currently relies on Microsoft for Office and IE. These applications are replaceable, but their loss would hurt. Much more dangerous would be a Microsoft that started throwing its weight around, cutting sweatheart deals with 3rd parties to develop primarily or exclusively for Windows. AppleSun could very quickly find that the much needed desktop applications were no longer available. Do not believe for a minute that Adobe would turn down some of Microsofts 40billion(??) in cash.

        None of the above problems faced by AppleSun would be impossible to overcome. However it would mean a difficult merger. It would result in an AppleSun very different from the Apple of today. It is debatable if the current Apple management could even pull such a merger off as they do not understand the medium to enterprise market. Nor does the Sun management understand the home or small office market. Even if AppleSun had solutions to all of the above, if there were any slips then AppleSun would probably fail. Neither Apple nor Sun are in a particulary strong market position to begin with.
      • Re:He is insane... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sean23007 ( 143364 )
        But Apple is trying hard to increase its credibility in the server market, with its Xserve and Xraid products. These are very impressive machines, and OS X Server is a very impressive server OS. Apple would not want to sacrifice all of their own engineering just to go with someone else's offering.

        Apple wants more credibility in that market. Some people think that the only way to gain such credibility is to buy someone who is already credible, as if there were only a certain amount of credibility to go around in each market segment. Apple understands that credibility can be gained by selling excellent products and supporting them well in case they fail. That is exactly what they are doing, and I would not expect them to want to do the same for someone else's product.
    • by King Babar ( 19862 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:58AM (#5308478) Homepage
      Ok, his first points are very valid and I will agree. Sun is in serious trouble. They're betting the company on N1. Apple won't buy them. Java wasn't the smoking gun.
      But to say that a merger with Sony would be better than Apple is just plain dumb. What have the two in common? Absolutely nothing. Sony has no interest in the server market - if they had they'd be there already. Furthermore, the technology that Sun pioneers has absolutely NOTHING to do with ANY Sony market.

      You are absolutely correct, but you miss the really big reason why Sun will not merge with Sony. The company that needs to merge with Sony is Apple. When you get right down to it, both are essentially consumer electronics companies right now with some distractions tacked on. (For Sony, it's the entertainment division; for Apple, it's the endless fight for survival.) If you merge Sony and Apple, though, you get something very interesting:

      1. A Sony that can pitch its entertainment division and become "your digital hub company".
      2. An Apple that can spread its OS to every kind of consumer device.
      3. A Sony that can offer state-of-the-art consumer software with all of its digital cameras/camcorders/stereos/etc.
      4. A company big enough to matter to Microsoft in a very serious way (still).
      5. An Apple that doesn't have to suck up to consumer electronics firms to get support.
      6. A Sony that can offer what I guess I'd call "boutique IT" solutions.

      I think the big weakness after the merger is that Sony really doesn't have a printer line, but that's okay; they'll be able to pick up the dried up remains of HP for almost nothing in, say, 2 years.

  • Market morphology? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Oluseyi ( 570657 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:36AM (#5308080)
    Perhaps the problem is that the distinctions in the computer market have altered and Sun has no place for its hardware? It used to be that there were servers/mainframes, workstations and then puny PCs. PCs have grown in capability, however, essentially absorbing the workstation definition and market, leaving Sun with little room in that segment. IBM chose to make servers the core of its business, while Microsoft and Intel dominate the PC market.

    For quite a while I've been wondering exactly what Sun is up to. They calmly sat back while people kept repeating the mantra that Java is slow (even though it isn't; JIT-ted code and better GUI techniques improve performance markedly), allowing it to lose mindshare to competing products. Now Microsoft has shipped .NET and the hype machine is in full force - and still Sun has failed, to my knowledge, to respond.

    Even if Cringley's article is wildly inaccurate, it does reflect the concerns and questions of a number of people, particularly those who do not use Java as part of their job. What the hell is Sun doing?
    • by thejk ( 575418 )
      Yesterday's news [globeandmail.com] about Dell seems relevant to your point.

      An excerpt from the above link:

      In particular, Dell appears to be part of the explanation for the recent poor performance by Sun, the leading provider of network servers. For years, the company's systems -- running a proprietary version of Unix -- have been the market leader, but lately servers from Dell and others running Windows or open-source Linux have been eating into Sun's market. Dell said its server shipments rose by 28 per cent, more than five times the growth experienced by the server market overall.

      Although it's true that Dell had an exceptional quarter and most of its growth came from non-server related services, the continuoous erosion of the Sun's hold on the server market is indicated by Dell's (and others') stronger performance in the same sector. But, hey, if Cringley is right, Sun still has five more years to recapture their market share and introduce technological innovations other than Java.
  • A shame (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BenjyD ( 316700 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:39AM (#5308088)

    It is a shame what's happening to Sun, because it's indicative of what is happening to computing in general. Sun's old machines were solid, powerful machines that just worked. I used a sparcstation 5 up until a year ago at work, and while it was dog slow, it still worked all the time, because it was built at a time and for a market that expected that computers *worked*.

    Now, thanks to the whole IBM PC/Windows thing, when a computer crashes, people say "oh, that's ok, that's what computers do" and hit reset. I'm not saying I'd rather have a blade100 on my desk than a wintel box, but I wish that my winel box had some of the engineering quality from Sun.

    • Re:A shame (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @08:02AM (#5308143) Journal
      I used a sparcstation 5 up until a year ago at work, and while it was dog slow, it still worked all the time, because it was built at a time and for a market that expected that computers *worked*.
      At the Swansea University Computer Society [sucs.org] we still use a handful of Sparcstation 2s as dumb X terminals. We're gradually phasing them out, and replacing them with duron based machines, but I've noticed that these 10 year old (older?) machines usually have more uptime than the new x86 workstations. To us it doesn't matter greatly (if we have to reboot a machine every fwe months then so what) but if I were looking for an enterprise solution I wouldn't trust an x86 solution as far as I could throw it. You really do get what you pay for. People should remember this when comparing Sun and Apple hardware toa $300 walmart PC. As my flying instructor once remarked 'If you're trying to decide whether to do an emergency landing or eject, then remember one thing. Your parachute was supplied by the lowest bidder.'
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:42AM (#5308094)


    With so much of Oracle's software related to Java and their excellent JDeveloper Java development suite, it would be wise for Oracle to acquire Sun if they can.
    Imagine, Linux/Java/Oracle Vs Windows/.NET/SQL Server and either combination could run on similar hardware....

    Did you miss out this post and all the replies? [slashdot.org]

  • IBM (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rbeattie ( 43187 ) <russ@russellbeattie.com> on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:43AM (#5308098) Homepage

    IBM has a lot invested in Java. It's become their common development platform for their various OS's they run from Linux on up. Native code for the heavy-duty stuff, Java for everything else. Probably saves them billions a year.

    I think if Sun burns up (and with numbers like $2 billion in losses, it could happen overnight, look at Enron/WorldCom... who knows what sort of tricks are being played with the books) IBM would be the first in line to grab Java.

    Just my best guess.

    -Russ

    • Re:IBM (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Graelin ( 309958 )
      Not a bad guess either. Java is the premier language for business application development right now. It probably will be for quite some time to come. From IBM's standpoint Java is, or at least should be, a valuable asset to IBM. Afterall, they are now the largest consulting firm in the world. Wasn't something like over half their annual income from consulting services?

      Another side, probably less important, is the hardware end. IBM and Sun have been going at it in the enterprise computing arena for a while. IBM is big on IP and Sun probably has a lot of it.
  • Sun setting... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:50AM (#5308118)
    I must agree that Sun is really in trouble. Solaris is not the blame but the hardware price and performance is.

    I work in a semiconductors startup. Two years ago when the company was founded Sun hardware was the default when it came to choosing CAD servers. Sun even had a nice discount program for startups.

    These days we can get a fast Pentium4 or Athlon (running Linux) to do the same work for a lot less $$$. Maintenance is also much cheaper.

    All the big CAD software vendors now support i386 Linux and the platform is stable and FAST!

    In fact, the only reason Sun hardware is still worth keeping around is because it supports large (>4GB) memory. When somebody finds a way around that (AMD Hammer comes to mind) Sun will loose its last asset.

    It's a pitty, cause Sun is a good enigneering company. They invest heavily in research and are a major source of innovation.

    They just can't keep up with the falling prices of that huge i386 market. No one can (not even Intel's own Itanic!)

  • by SoupIsGood Food ( 1179 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:52AM (#5308123)
    Utter horseshit. Everyone lost sales last year: IBM, HP/DECompaq, SGI, Fujitsu-Siemens, Bull, NEC... everyone. Sun lost fewer sales than the other major players, so they picked up marketshare. They hemmorhaged money because of spotty buisiness practices from the dot-com era comming up to catch them, but as Cringley says, they've got another five years to get that sorted out.

    Sun's transformation from a king of the workstation vendor into a server powerhouse that only IBM has any real hope of competing with is nothing short of phenomenal. If it looks like Linux is going to kill the proprietary Unix market, then Sun will go Linux... they've made similar moves in the past. Sun switched their entire installed base from the BSD-derived SunOS to the SVR4 flavored Solaris, no small feat at the time. A switch to Linux will be a snap, and yes, Sun will still charge you as much for your Sun-branded Linux as they do for Solaris, and get it from satisfied CIOs, along with fat service contracts.

    Sun is never the first to market. Sun is never the ideal solution. Sun never offers the highest performance. Sun is never the cheapest option. Sun doesn't offer the best service in the industry. But they come "close enough" on so many fronts, they're an unbeatable market force. Add in Java, which rules enterprise computing like no technology since COBOL, and Sun ain't going nowhere.

    Apple bled billions in the '90s, but they rebounded. McNealy's at least as smart as Jobs, and his marketing instincts are almost as honed. Sun has replaced IBM, and even Windows, in the hearts and minds of every serious CIO and VAR. Give it a year for either the economy to have rebounded, or for Sun to have staunched the bleeding on its own with austerity measures and something innovative. This is the company who managed to launch a line of workstations at the height of the NT onslaught in the Workstation market, and managed to make a mint with them. (The Ultra5 and Ultra10.) They aren't out of tricks yet.

    Tho it would be nice if they put the screws to Fujitsu-Siemens to get access to their SPARC design... call it "SuperhyperultraSPARC" or "BadAssSPARC" or "TotallyAwesomeSPARC" or somesuch, and use it to hold the Itanium/POWER dogs at bay while they ready the UltraV.

    SoupIsGood Food
    • Ditto that. This Chicken Little theory ("the sky is falling") is way outside the mainstream. Sun is still hitting their earnings targets, and that's what is important, not that you don't see their TV commercials on CNN anymore.

      I think what we've seen is that Sun had a couple of fantastic years, fueled and fanned by the dot-com boom. Remember the "we're the dot in dot-com" campaign?" That is just one example of Sun's high caliber marketing folks capitalizing on the times. If you've met with any Sun sales reps lately, you'll know that the new party line is "let us show you how we can save you some money" -- exactly what they should be saying in a down economy. Their marketing tactics are still as sharp as ever.

      Believe it or not, much of IT management still subscribes to the belief that "you get what you pay for." If you work in the field and have ever suggested MySQL to an Oracle shop, PHP to an ASP or JSP shop, or Linux to a Windows/Solaris/HP-UX/AIX/SGI shop, you've heard that statement. The exceptions are software like Apache, which is nearly ubiquitous, however if you look at BEA's marketing and their broad marketshare, you might even say that they're making in-roads convincing IT management that web & app servers follow the same rule: you get what you pay for. Why is JBoss still only a developer's choice and not the enterprise's? (http://news.com.com/2100-1001-984476.html?tag=fd_ lede1_hed)

      McNealy is in no danger of being replaced; he'll adapt and overcome. Sun is not resting on their laurels, and have never forgotten their base -- enterprise datacenters -- as evidenced with new product lines like N1.

      I don't argue that you're very unlikely to run a Sun workstation at home on your DSL connection. Linux is just too damned good (price performance) for the Unix-oriented home user, and getting better. But for enterprises, you get what you pay for.

    • I think to understand what is happening to Sun one has to look at the market.

      Just recently the Java vendors have noticed that Open Source has taken their share of sales. And this makes them nervous. Sun, which has fought with Open Source is falling into the same problem.

      Open Source is making inroads into the market. And the problem with Open Source is that it kills, nullifies the traditional software market. By traditional I mean give money get software. Open Source opens different markets and some people are coping, eg IBM or RedHat, etc.

      When I see this I truly do see the end of days of MS. That is IF MS goes this route. If MS decides to accept Open Source, then things will probably change. But I see MS going the same route as Wang. Wang a now dead company that had truly interesting technology and products. But a company that failed to adapt to changing times. But before that happens it is going to get TRULY messy with IP (in America thought).
  • by Nemus ( 639101 ) <astarchman@hotmail.com> on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:59AM (#5308139) Journal
    For those of you who actually read the article =), Cringely makes an intersting point about a possible Sony acquisition of Sun. And, even if you feel the whole idea is as likely as MS starting to liscence products under the GPL, it does at least raise some interesting discussion points.

    A couple of people have made the point that Sony and Sun have virtually nothing in common. I beg to differ. They have alot in common, i.e. a strong desire to get rich. But, for a non-flipant answer, heres a serious one.

    Japan does not have the same anti-trustor trade laws we have in the US, therefore massive organizations of businesses, called kiretsu(sic?) exist. For an American equivalent, think Microsoft owning/merging with GM, McDonalds, and Disney. Essentially, the companies inside the organization are spread out over a very diverse area. This is to insure that when one industry, say automobiles, has a slump, others industries undergoing a boom, like consumer electronics or a theme park, can help support the ailing businesses with capital. Basically, all of these companies work together for a singular goal: the almighty dollar (or yen).

    Sony, being a member, and a leading member no doubt, of their organization, would have some very good reasons to buy Sun, above and beyond the diversification reason listed above.

    Firstly, the server side of the business. Tech geeks know and respect Sun's servers, even if they aren't always their first choice. Also, Sony has immense brand name recognition. This can be useful when management is trying to decide what hardware to buy, and since the atypical pointy-haired bosses may know jack about linux, NT, UNIX, they will recognize Sony.

    Secondly is the consumer electronics side of the business, specifically handheld devices, like PDAs, MP3 players, etc. Remember when Java first got noticed in the mainstream, there was tons of talk about how soon we'd be driving cars with a Java OS inside, dialing phones run by Java, flushing toilets run by Java, etc., etc., etc. Sony may be looking at the possibility of aquiring a company with at least some experience, and a lot of potential, in writing and implementing embedded software for Cell phones, PDAs and whatnot. Microsoft does it, Linux sure as hell does it, Apple does it, so why not Sun? Sony might be thinking.

    Finally, Sun is cheaper than hell right now. Like the article says, $3.00 bucks a share is an incredibly attractive buyout price for a company Sony's size, and at that cheap a price, a risk could be taken with the company, and a posible failure, while bad, would barely be a blip on the corporate accounting tables.

    So, no matter what your stance, you have to admit that, when the facts are reviewed, the idea is, at the very least, interesting.

    • For those of you who actually read the article
      Offtopic -1 Don't you know this is /.?
    • It would be interesting, except for the fact that the two companies, as has been stated, have little in common. Sony is consumer and Sun is all business. I've been in meetings with Sun staff, just the last week (in Asia...not in Japan), and no one is looking that direction. Any talk like that is just conjecture.

      Sun may be nervous, but they aren't running scared just yet. They are already more active now than they were this time last year, and they know what they are facing in the market.

      If the marketing wonks can lay off, Sun will be around for a while, and that doesn't mean as part of another company.
    • Sony makes home electronic and other consumer oriented multimedia products.

      Sun makes bussiness services like hardware/software contracts.

      They have nothing in common and are incompatible.

      Sony is only selling pc's so they can get more consumers to buy their camcorders and dvd players. The software for the VIO's have some nice digital editing. They are targeted for consumers so they can sell more electronics. They know nothing about software engineering or bussiness needs. They are in a different market. Sony does not want java for cell phones and pda's because that would enable competition in the electronics market. They do not want this for obvious reasons. Also this would make competitors warry of java if Sony bought it since they would be supporting the competition. ( cough os/2 cough)

      The only thing they have in common is they hate Microsoft. Not a valid reason to buy them.

      • What are you talking about? Have you ever opened up the average high end PC? Sony chip here, Sony drive there, Sony CRT - Sony and Matshita (panasonic) are in close to 70% of ALL computers sold in some fashion. Don't tell me that competition doesn't want to support others. Apple DIRECTLY competes with Sony (Steve even says so in the keynotes) - that said, Steve uses t68i phones on stage and they happen to be the MOST used phone by Mac USers now. Apple used to use Sony floppy drives and Sony CRTs. Several chips on the motherboards for Apple computers are Sony. Some drives are Sony, some are Matshita, some Toshiba.

        Your assertion is that the way to succeed is to "use inhouse". The R&D at your company must be phenomenal! Motorola thinks that way, I hope they make it!

    • One of the VERY reasons the Japanese economy has struggled is the very "diverse conglomeration" you pointed out. Only the small divisions of Sony innovate anymore. You know, it's ironic, but a company can be most innovative by using standards. Sony, feels just the opposite. They beleive in proprietary technology making the money and standards to help get brand name recognition. Sony, ALWAYS without fail, gets behind the proprietary side of things, and pours cash on top of it. Very few Sony proprietary technologies have ever become a standard. Very few items they have produced are mega successful. (The walkman sold a lot, but OTHER companies tape players are what made that market) WHY? They can't focus, because if it has even one wire inside, they make it.

      The segway; Sun is all about proprietary (13W3, sbus, solaris) - this is why they may make a great pairing with Sony. Sun could be to Sony, what the Xserve market is to Apple. It could be Sony's opportunity to be recognized in the corporate world. Apple and Sony share the exact same "creative market" - those don't buy Apple in the market, tend to want Sony A) brand, B )it's the same brand as their other equipment, C) Looks, D) Integration & Media nature of their product

      Conversely, I have always thought Sun would be a good merge with Apple. I think Sun would be best getting away from almost TOTAL proprietary, allow Apple's genius to help with development of Java and further integrate it in to Unix/BSD, and give Apple some of the best blade technology in the industry, and possibly a stronger development partner for RISC processors.

      I had even come up with a good slogan for a Steve Jobs Keynote; "Every Apple Needs a Little Sun To Grow!"

  • Tell me Where (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15, 2003 @08:19AM (#5308180)
    To get a 100 disk fiber Disk array, connected to a 8 way box. One that doesn't throw a drive or a controller or a cpu every other week. Sun Solaris sucks ass, Debian GNU/Linux is the One True OS, but the hardware works. We have tons of linux boxes, but they all suffer from running on x86 hardware. Whether we buy it part by part and build it ourselves, buy it from Dell or HP/compaq they just fall apart.

    We've got several Dells with RAID drives, 4 CPUs, never a linux crash (ala BSOD), but we get on average 1 major hardware crash every year on EACH machine due to hardware going south.

    We also have similarly equipt sun servers (that suffer from an even higher load). We're talking about 17 SUN 4500's, the ONLY failure over the last four years was due to a fiber controller failing, it was a dual controller, but a firmware mismatch caused the 2nd controller to not come on line properly. 1 outage and it was our fault anyway, if we had upgraded the firmware like we're supposed to it would have never happened.

    Sun might need to get out of the cheapo 1U, $2000 "server" market and clean house Concentrate on selling expensive, quality hardware to people who can afford them. If whatever your sever is doing generates real money buy sun you won't regret it.
  • Over at Parrot Code [parrotcode.org]. Well, not just java, but python, perl5, perl6, tcl, etc. Parrot is a new VM from the guys that brought you perl, with their ultimate goals to have multiple languages compile to the VM, and to have the VM compile on as many platforms as Perl5 does now. From the Parrot faq:


    Perl 5 runs on eighty platforms; Parrot must run on Unix, Windows, Mac OS (X and Classic), VMS, Crays, Windows CE, and Palm OS, just to name a few. Among its processor architectures will be x86, SPARC, Alpha, IA-64, ARM, and 68x00 (Palms and old Macs). If something doesn't work on all of these, we can't use it in Parrot.


    Looking at Java, let's see. For me to use it, it takes a whole number of patches, that I have to agree to the terms to download, then it takes sun's linux version or source version or whatever, that I have to agree to, then I have to let it compile and all that crap. And it still runs slow, and blackdown's crashes instantly. No, I'm not on Linux, why do you ask? I'm on FreeBSD, which sun could care less about. Where-as Parrot plans on support just because it's written in C.

    Just my 2c, trying to get some more coders or interest for a project that could certainly use it. =) Thanks for reading.
    • I am also reminded of dotgnu. [gnu.org]


      I have never used it but I heard its more object oriented and better then Microsoft's CLR so its not a total copycat of .net but this makes languages like smalltalk and eifel more easily ported. It has several million lines of code already completed and is advancing quite far for an early product. Mono might be ahead in regards to the actual c# compiler but the dotGNU is ahead with the CLR equilivant. Go check it out.

  • Java will Stay! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jay_k_architect ( 650673 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @08:46AM (#5308217)
    Sun do have serious trouble in the troubled economy. They definitely need money to survive. And they need more to safeguard Java (licences) because what they get from Java is less than what they invest.

    Java has future and will stay. Big companies like IBM, Oracle invested a lot in Java because they did see that Java has future and will stay for long time.

    I don't thing Apple or Sony will merge with Sun, because IBM and Oracle will not stay calm as they want Java, a conclusion arrived by looking at what they invested in Java softwares.

    Five years is not far off and at the same time it is not as short that Sun cannot do anything. Sun do have a chance if it wants to change. Sun should look for the growing markets ( Desktops, Notebooks, Low end Servers ). Does Sun have money to start on a new market? Hope so.

    The conclusion, if the same situation continues, Java will stay, Java will change hands, Sun will merge or will be bought. And also, Sun still has time to revive.

    - Jay
    architectslobby.org [architectslobby.org]
    An exclusive community for Enterprise Architects
  • To all those Java programmers, don't worry it is all fine, Sun maybe gthe past but there are big market with Java and IBM has put quite a lot of eggs in the Java basket.... so does BEA, HP, etc. It is being though in university as the programming language of choice, so you have all those up coming Computer Eng/Sci grad who is fluent in Java. Now beat that C#....

    Java is a nice lovely language. Bar all the silly Swing/AWT APIs it is still very structured and quick to knock up a prototype, and easily to get things going. The VM implmentation may be bad at the moment but I am sure once Sun has loosen the control of Java (maybe get bought out or something), couple with a decent VM implementation C# may not be as attractive as it seems!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15, 2003 @09:17AM (#5308278)
    Sun is already trying to move into a different market: Desktop computing. They still have this powerful card called "OpenOffice", they are big GNOME fans. They have an excelent guide for porting software from Solaris to Linux.

    Looks like they're trying to make it really easy to push for a move from SPARC/Solaris/CDE to ix86/Linux/GNOME.
  • by Biolo ( 25082 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @09:18AM (#5308285)
    Sun lost $2 billion last year and will probably lose another $2 billion this year

    What a load of nonescense! On paper yes Sun did come out $2 billion down last year. Want to know why? Four(?) companies it had previously bought which it had to write down its valuations of. Take a look at its accounts, it took a charge of $2.125 billion for "Impairment of goodwill and other intangable assets". Read this to mean "some accountancy stuff that doesn't mean diddly to the companies operations". Thats it, period. It was a brave, forthright financial disclosure it could have put off for a couple of years, or dripped out, but it wanted to do a clear-out, get all the bad news out in a one-er and be able to post figures uncontaminated by that stuff from now on. The actual operations made money, I think it was around $10 million. Granted for a company of its size this isn't much, but this is the figure to look at. They increased cash reserves, its only the companies paper valuation that dropped $2 billion, they didn't actually loose any money. According to the basis of Cringely prediction, Sun continuing on exactly the same path, the market doesn't get any better, etc, etc, in 5 years time it will only have $50 million more in the bank than today. Does someone want to explain to me how this means its going to fold? IANAFA (I am not a financial analyst) but that sounds like bullshit.

    Sun has a huge cash reserve, $1.5 billion, another $1 billion in stocks and short term securities, and other bits and pieces. Add all the assets together, excluding plant, 'intangables' and the like and its got $8.3 billion it could pull together if necessary. Oh, and it has no debt at all, period.

    Cringley strikes me as a very poor journalist, he didn't even take the time to look into the basic details of the recent accounts, or if he did he was incapable of understanding them. Why does anyone bother reading this cretins opinions, he does seem to have a track record of being unnecessarily sensationalist and outstandingly wrong.

    Disclaimer - I work for Sun as an engineer. Whilst I can't say too much on this topic I would say this year is looking pretty good thank you very much. The views expressed here are my personal opinions.

    • "some accountancy stuff that mean diddly to the companies operations" ?

      Losing $2 Billion in asset or "paper" value is a huge deal for where it counts. Banks, investors, fund advisors, et. al. will never loan money to a monster company like this that loses value so rapidly. It's the equivalent of your house going down in value from $500,000 to $50,000 -- sure you still have the house and will get a lot of use from it, but you couldn't even get a Kia car loan with that. And if you think that Sun needs to make some drastic changes quick, they just lost alot of flexibility to do so.

      No, $1.5 billion in cash and "cash equivalents" may not be enough to turn this once great company around. What that does is let it keep doing what its doing for the next x years as they slowly wither away (think SGI).

      Unless somebody bets the farm, which is what I hope this thread will spur McNealy and crew to do. N1 isn't it and ironically IBM has taken the "king of Java" crown away.
    • Take a look at its accounts, it took a charge of $2.125 billion for "Impairment of goodwill and other intangable assets". Read this to mean "some accountancy stuff that doesn't mean diddly to the companies operations".

      Now please finish this sentence by telling us of your profitable investments in Enron, Worldcom, Global Crossing and Adelphia.

      WRITEDOWNS MATTER. If you don't think so, don't invest, because you will be gutted by people smarter than you every time. Writedowns tell you that the company cannot handle capital investment. Writedowns tell you that the company is a potential debt bomb (even is Sun has none now). Writedowns tell you that management of the company is unable to make sound decisions that are central to the organization.

  • Sony? Apple? HP! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by axxackall ( 579006 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @09:25AM (#5308295) Homepage Journal
    I don't believe in a merge of Sun with either Sony or Apple.

    Sun products are not any *special* improvement of Sony products and vice versa. Sony products usually do not need any servers, but when they do - other cheaper and still good servers around (read: Linux). And of course, who needs any Sony products in the server room?

    Apple has already been bound to IBM and Motorlla through PowerPC. Typical Mac applications (graphics) doesn't require big database and internet servers, where Sun is still strong. In fact, typical Mac users are geeks (it was so hard to avoid typing "jerks") and not corporate users. But if otherwise would be - IBM servers are not far away.

    Both Sony and Apple has no traditins of picking up failing former giants and digesting their dead meat.

    But there is other company, which has very long tradition of squizing the last juice from the dying things: HP. They just bought Compaq who bought DEC. Why do they do that? Because their business model is based on support, specifically on supporting customers with legacy system, who doesn't have (almost) any other choice to get that support of their already dead platforms. But that business model requires new victims every few years.

    Besides dying expensive hardware, Sun and HP has another in common: system management. Both have good ideas, both did not implement it well, at least as good as IBM did. So, by combining system management platforms from both, Sun and HP can make them a stronger competitor to IBM on that market segment.

    As for Java... Sun will let HP to suck the last possible money from IBM on Java licensing. Of course untill IBM will drop Java finally and move to Python (I would love to see Eclipse for Python!). And I won't be surpised to hear that HP or Sun or merged HP-Sun, will buy Borland together with Together :)

    Personally, I can bet that if in coming year we won't hear about upcoming plans of HP-Sun aquisition, then we shall hear about HP planning to acquire SGI. But any speculation about that merge would be a kind of offtopic here.

  • Java Won! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gholmer ( 563554 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @09:35AM (#5308317) Homepage
    Even Java is becoming superfluous. Java is the Dan Marino of software. Just as the former Dolphins quarterback, Java affected the world so much that history cannot be written without its mention. But nonetheless, neither Java nor Dan ever won the big one.

    Blasphemy! I saw Mr. McNealy speak at JavaOne last year, and as he remarked that Java had now become the most widely used programming language, he put up a slide saying "Java Won!". It's everywhere! How can this fool say that it never "won the big one"? Since 1.4 was released, all the objections to its use have been made irrelevant: speed (thank you, HotSpot), user interface (Swing now really does look and feel the same on all platforms)... well, I can't really think of any other objections, anyway. Bottom line: be as negative as you want about Sun, but Java is not in trouble, it rules the world, from cell phones to mainframes!
  • by kraksmoka ( 561333 ) <grant@gra n t s t e r n.com> on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:25AM (#5308392) Homepage Journal
    us long suffering dolphins fans have heard it enough, and this year was truly depressing. the dolphins just make us cry :(

    as an aside. i think everyone out there who has contact with sun somehow sees this one in the works. i have a cobalt server, and the guy who was the engineer in charge of the list got canned. i'm sure they're aware of the implications of keeping managers and canning engineers, but you can only get away with so much of it before your company goes, POOF, and becomes a Geek Story. "There used to be this company that made . . . .. " We'll miss em, hope that maybe IBM buys em out or somethin.

  • All Is Not Lost (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:31AM (#5308402) Homepage Journal
    ``submit to the whims of the dark overlord? Maybe I'll switch to Mac development, after all."''
    Why is everybody so upset about Java dying? OK, on paper it was quite a good language, but in practice everything that could go wrong did go wrong: horrible performance, incompatibilities between versions (think AWT), bloat, you name it. Obviously Java doesn't live up to the compile once, run everywhere paradigm, its main selling point. If you need different code on different platforms anyway, you can as well go for native binaries, which will perform better and possibly look better, too. However, it's hard to go that way with Java, because of lack of native compilers. That means that Java is pretty much doomed (although it seems to be getting a second chance on handhelds these days - makes me wonder if they weren't slow and low on memory enough yet without running a JVM).

    However, this doesn't mean we have to surrender and capitulate to the Great Satan. Ever hear of Pyton? It is very similar to Java in that it is an object-oriented language with garbage collection, and can be compiled into platform-independent bytecode, which can then be interpreted on any platform. However, there are some important differences. One is that the Python interpreter is open source and has been ported to a wide range of platforms, providing identical functionality (save for some platform-specific extensions) on each of them. Most of the functionality is provided by high-level, native binary modules, making both coding and execution fast. With few modifications, Python programs can be compiled to native binaries, should the need arise.

    I am not a Python expert, so there may be inaccuracies in the above, but I do know Pyton is Here and Now. I see no need to give up the fight if we have such a good weapon left. Python needs work, but so does the competiton. So instead of whining, get going!

  • Quotes from the Cringely column:

    "Scott McNealy will have to stumble on a new business just as he stumbled on servers and Java. This means getting new and energetic technical leadership for the company, which desperately needs another Bill Joy."

    "McNealy has to ... take enormous risks and do it with élan. Only then will Sun return to greatness."

    I've been studying issues of this nature for more than 30 years. What has happened to Sun has happened to Microsoft and Intel and other companies. The leaders become tired. The human brain cannot do essentially the same thing for many years without a serious rest. The human brain cannot operate in a healthy fashion if it is always being told what to do; the brain needs plenty of time to connect everything with everything else.

    Cringely is not a deep thinker. He once set a goal for himself to design and build a new kind of aircraft in a month. He wasn't successful, or course.

    Basically Cringely says that Scott McNealy should put a huge amount of new brainpower into Sun. On the surface this is a good idea. But it is an idea that is always true, like saying that if starving people have more money, they will eat. It is always true that a company can use more brainpower.

    Effectively, all Cringely is saying is "If the problem goes away, the problem won't be there." Or, "If Sun has more brainpower, Sun won't have problems with lack of brainpower."

    The real problem is that Scott McNealy and other executives don't understand the limits of the human brain. They believe they can do more with their brains than is actually possible.

    The brain is subject to the limits described by Gestalt psychology. If a person stares at something long enough, it disappears from consciousness. Basically, Scott McNealy cannot hold the issues of growing a computer company in his consciousness for many years without periodic serious rest.

    Gestalt is a German word for the phenomenon of how events or ideas connect in the human brain. Since wisdom is connectedness in the brain, the phenomenon is extremely important.

    The phenomenon of perception is described in the book, Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality [amazon.com],
    by Frederick S. (Fritz) Perls [amazon.com], Ralph Hefferline [amazon.com] and, Paul Goodman [amazon.com]. This is the only book of which I am aware that describes the ideas of Gestalt psychology clearly.

    There is apparently some sense inside Intel that Andy Grove got cancer because he overworked himself; at least Intel employees readily accept this idea. Intel has serious problems now with marketing. The lack of good marketing is limiting the company's understanding of how to find the necessary new technical directions. There is no one at Intel now with the brainpower to see the problems or resolve them.

    Microsoft has the same problem. Microsoft executives are slowly destroying the company by being adversarial toward their customers. But Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer are tired. They have been doing the same thing day and night since they were young adults. They simply don't have the brainpower to recognize the problems and fix them, particularly since fixing the problems in this case would require that they resolve inner conflict that they've had since childhood. (I wrote an article that discusses some of Microsoft's adversarial behavior: Windows XP Shows the Direction Microsoft is Going. [hevanet.com])

    The problems at Sun are very common. Fairchild Semiconductor and Novell, for example, destroyed themselves in the same way. The executives reached a point where no amount of pressuring themselves could result in more useful brain activity.
  • WAG (Wild @$$ Guess) (Score:3, Interesting)

    by krygny ( 473134 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:46AM (#5308437)

    I read Bob Cringely's columns each week on both PBS and InfoWorld [infoworld.com] because I like his fanciful take on the things he writes about. But when he comes up with these pie-in-the-sky scenarios, he's almost never right. Just as he suggested Apple would/should port OS X to X86 and Microsoft should replace the Windows kernel with the Linux kernel. Just plain nuts. It also looks as though he compared notes with Charles Cooper at CNet [com.com]/ZDNet [com.com]

    I think Sun only has to lose their emotional attachment to the Sparc processor. They have too much else going for them.

  • GNU Solaris (Score:3, Interesting)

    by supabeast! ( 84658 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @11:06AM (#5308498)
    I have been looking at Sun's slow burnout for a while now, and realized that one of the biggest things hold ing Sun back is the cost of Solaris. Sure the OS is free on smaller Sun systems, but administration costs are getting insane. Solaris is a heinous kludge of BSD and System V. The OS has multiple versions of important programs running out of /usr/bin, /usr/sbin/, and /usr/local/bin. Documentation is a mess, because many of the Solaris man pages are just too complicated to comprehend in a hurry, especially for junior admins. Sun's native administrative tool, admin tool, has been wacked in favor of the Sun Management Console; an beastly java version of admintool that runs slowly and has a heinous interface. Learning to work with all of this stuff takes a very long time, and a lot of employer-financed education. Salaries for Solaris admins are always rising, and unappreciated/undercompensated sysadmins are a favorite target of headhunters. Running a Solaris shop is terribly expensive, and that has been hurting Sun for a while.

    But Sun has an easy way around this problem- free software. Solaris 10 needs to abandon all of the old stuff, and rework Solaris around the GNU/Free Software tools that many Solaris admins and plenty of Linux geeks already use to run their systems. Dump Sun's X for XFree86- configuration is easier. Dump old versions of vi and grep for vim and GNU grep. Kick out SMC and bring in Webmin. With some serious work, Solaris could come out as easy to administer as OS X or Mandrake Linux - drastically reducing the TCO of Solaris systems. Combining the lower cost of Sun's x86 workstations with the lower cost of a Solaris designed for sysadmins would do wonders for Sun, and be a great start in turning things around.
  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @11:51AM (#5308639) Homepage Journal
    How could Sun be suffering so much when it was a (if not the) leading importer of H-1B visa holders?

    From

    By [16]Joe Guzzardi

    Break the bad news to your children gently.

    Tell them the way 60 Minutes sees things:

    Abandon all hope of working in Silicon Valley. Those jobs are reserved for the best and the brightest; the graduates of the Indian Institute of Technology.

    That's the gospel according to Lesley Stahl's [17]January 12^th piece "Imported from India". According to Stahl, I.I.T. is the most demanding university on the planet and its graduates the most talented, hardest working people on the face of the earth.

    "What do we import from India?" asks Stahl. "Really smart people!" "Imagine," gushed Stahl, "Harvard, Princeton and M.I.T. all rolled into one."

    "American companies," Stahl continued, "love I.I.T. graduates."

    No one from Harvard, Princeton or M.I.T. was interviewed. But "60 Minutes" assured viewers that the curriculum from I.I.T. is the most rigorous in the world.

    Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and I.I.T. graduate made this observation: "If you are a WASP walking in for a job, you wouldn't have as much pre-assigned credibility as you do if you're an engineer from I.I.T."

    And, stop the presses! We are blessed that so many of those doors are right here in the U.S! More than two-thirds of I.I.T. graduates migrate to America - most of them on H-1B visas.

    The 60 Minutes segment represents the first cannon shot in what looms as bitter battle over H-1B visa legislation set for October.

    Consider this salvo from Khosla: "...the American consumer and the American business in the end is the beneficiary...".

    The industry is lobbying for an increase in the 195,000 level established in 2000; weary, displaced American software workers who want their jobs back want to total to revert to its original 65,000---or less.

    Seasoned immigration observers recall that originally H-1B visas were intended to "temporarily" satisfy a supposed "shortage" of qualified American software engineers.

    But, as always, temporary became permanent. Soon after the original H-1B legislation was enacted, fully qualified American workers found themselves on the outside looking in.

    ...

    ... Joined now by companies who employed the most H-1Bs.

Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for economists. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

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