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Sun Microsystems

Should Sun Just Fold Now? 683

KE1LR writes "The Silicon Insider at ABCnews.com is taking the position that Sun Microsystems, creator of the SPARC architecutre and, oh yeah, Java, should just give up and close shop instead of continuing to wither. I agree that Sun would have to have to do something dramatic to avoid what is looking more and more like an inevitability at this point, but what could stop this slide toward the same fate as DEC? Might they have anything in the works that could save them? What could it be?"
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Should Sun Just Fold Now?

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  • personnal opinion (Score:3, Interesting)

    by musikit ( 716987 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:32PM (#9009931)
    i personally think they are relying too much on gov contracts to fund them and they are losing there because of "cheap" windows computers.

    • by Moraelin ( 679338 )
      Sorry, it's not just that PCs are cheap. IMHO Sun has forgot how to design a CPU. Or a chipset. Sorry, 1.2 GHz just doesn't cut it, no matter what IPC you have. Doubly so when the best you can offer with that CPU consists of:

      - SDR RAM in an age when everyone's moved on to DDR

      - 32 bit memory bus, when even the original Pentium in the 90's had a 64 bit bus

      - crap outdated components and cards at ludicrious prices (E.g., is that an ancient ATI Rage that they're selling for almost $500? Well, gee, in the PC w
      • by buysse ( 5473 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @03:18PM (#9010721) Homepage
        Dude. Can your cheap 4-way Xeon dynamically remove a failed processor from the running system? Can it dynamically remove a memory bank from use if it fails? If you spend the money on Sun, you're not buying it for performance. You're buying it because you can hotswap a fucking system board or I/O card on the bigger models. You're buying it because you can push I/O through it. You can take a 4[89]10 with three system boards, dynamically remove one system board, bring it up as a second system to test something, then reconfigure the board back in to the main partition without missing a beat. If you only have two boards installed, but you start to hit a bottleneck that's not I/O, buy another board, configure it in -- without rebooting.

        It's not about speed. It's about reliability.

        • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @03:42PM (#9011055) Homepage
          Can your cheap 4-way Xeon dynamically remove a failed processor from the running system? Can it dynamically remove a memory bank from use if it fails?

          Of course not.

          However, how many customers actually need this? Can a Linux cluster do as well? Because with the cluster, you can swap out entire computers without taking the cluster down.

          So the question is not whether one Xeon PC can replace one Sun server, the question is whether cheap commodity hardware (probably clustered) can replace a Sun server. When you add up the hardware, the electricity, and especially the salaries of the IT guys to maintain it, is the cluster a better deal than the Sun server? (I don't know the answer for sure, but I'm guessing it probably is. Consider Google and their massive farm of cheap PC hardware.)

          And even if the Sun server is still slightly cheaper this year, will it still be next year?

          The 90's will never come again for Sun. Either they need to find a different way to make lots of money, or they are toast.

          steveha
        • by k98sven ( 324383 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @03:48PM (#9011152) Journal
          Yes.. and on that side of the board, they have IBM mainframes beating them. SUN's niche has been between these two extremes of cheap, unreliable commodity hardware, and expensive ultra-reliable mainframes.

          Unfortunately, this niche is disappearing as the PC's get better and more reliable, and the mainframes have gotten cheaper and started to move into the old UNIX-server market.
          (Linux/390, anyone?)
        • Can your cheap 4-way Xeon dynamically remove a failed processor from the running system? Can it dynamically remove a memory bank from use if it fails?

          Who fucking cares? For the cost of one of your "super-reliable" Suns, I can run a dozen PCs -- and if one, or even two fail, I can -- *gasp* -- simply replace them. Whole-unit replacement is a hell of a lot simpler and cheaper than fucking about inside a Sun.

          Have you ever read through Sun's FE Handbook? It's a nightmare. Ever tried to hot-swap hardwar

          • Re:personnal opinion (Score:4, Interesting)

            by nathanh ( 1214 ) on Friday April 30, 2004 @12:33AM (#9015897) Homepage
            Who fucking cares? For the cost of one of your "super-reliable" Suns, I can run a dozen PCs -- and if one, or even two fail, I can -- *gasp* -- simply replace them.

            I find that hard to believe. I can buy a fully equipped SunFire V240 for $10k Australian (about $7k US). That's multiple disks, multiple CPUs, multiple power supplies, multiple gigabit ethernet, etc. Any single component can release blue smoke and the system won't care. I can hotswap just about everything. This isn't white box territory btw. These are 15000RPM Ultra160 drives, quad gigabit Ethernet, and an industrial strength case you could parachute drop onto site.

            An equivalent x86 computer from a real vendor like IBM or HP runs around the same price (in fact sometimes IBM and HP are more expensive for the same performance). You could get slightly cheaper x86 systems (around $6k) by going to Dell but I wouldn't touch a Dell on a dare. You could go for whiteboxes - I could do an equivalent whitebox system for around $3k - but then you're definitely getting what you paid for.

            I certainly don't buy your argument that you could get *12* whiteboxes for the price of one decent Sun box. The price ratio isn't that bad. My impression is that you have only ever bought personal computers for home use from a local whitebox supplier because Sun gear is certainly priced competitively for the corporate server market.

        • by guacamole ( 24270 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @03:50PM (#9011194)
          Of course, only with Sun processors, the ability to hot swap processor boards on a Quad CPU system seems to be so useful. After all, Sun processors seem to be failing so often. I have yet to see a Xeon or Pentium CPU fail. With Sun, sometimes they just don't work out of box as shipped by Sun. Sometimes they fail a few months after you buy a system.. and don't forget the embarasing story with failing Ultra Sparc II processors taking down eBay not so long ago and Sun taking more than a year to figure out what the problem was.

        • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @04:00PM (#9011414)
          Dude. Can your cheap 4-way Xeon dynamically remove a failed processor from the running system?

          WHO CARES? My load balancer automatically detects a dead server and routes requests to another one. Then I go find the dude hardware, pull it out of the rack, and throw it into the garbage. For $4k I can replace it.

          By the way, using a larger number of cheap boxes gives me on average better performance and better scalability. The age of Le Grand Box for most business uses is dead.

        • Re:personnal opinion (Score:3, Informative)

          by Audacious ( 611811 )
          I work at a government installation and want to pass on some of what is happening here.

          In one of the labs here they had a very large Sun system along with a cluster of suns happily working away. That was then. Now the sun systems are gone and in their place is a large Linux cluster of 20 PCs. One of them died recently. They shut the system down, turned off the power, pulled out the unit, took out the motherboard, put in the new motherboard, reconnected everything, and brought it all back up. Took a co
      • Re:personnal opinion (Score:5, Informative)

        by southpolesammy ( 150094 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @04:58PM (#9012333) Journal
        Sorry, Suns just don't cut it. You'd need somewhere between 8 and 16 of the latest UltraSparcs in a box, to even touch a cheap 4 way Xeon for a server. And you can check out for yourself what the Sun would cost in that configuration.

        Ok, so let's compare. Let's compare a Sun Fire V440 [sun.com] and a HP DL580 G2 [hp.com]. Let's assume each is equipped with 4 top end CPU's, 8GB memory, dual Gigabit NIC's, 2x36GB disks, and a DVD-ROM drive on each -- sounds like a fairly standard server configuration to me.

        Price
        • Sun Fire V440 --> $16,395
        • HP DL580 G2 --> $34,374

        The V440 is more than 50% less!!!!!!!!! Ok, let's go to performance. Going to use the SPEC CPU2000 [spec.org] info for the DL580 G2 3.0GHz Xeons and going to use the Sun Fire V250 config mutltiple by 1.8 (since Sun has not yet releaed info on the 4-way V440 with the same 1.28GHz US IIIi CPU's tha the V250 has). (Listing below represents Cint2000/Cfp2000/Cint2000 rate/Cfp2000 rate).

        Performance
        • Sun Fire V440 --> 702/1054/26.5/33.0
        • HP DL580 G2 --> 1491/1208/61.6/30.7

        Hmmmmm....two things jump out at me here -- the UltraSPARC IIIi is lousy at integer math, while the Xeon is lousy at floating point math. Either way, the 3.0GHz Xeon, which represents a clock speed difference of 234% greater than the US IIIi, only performs better than it by 28.7%. Increasing the CPU to 1.7GHz or going to US IV CPU's as Sun plans to do with the upcoming V490 will close the gap.

        So overall, for 109.6% of the price of a V440, you're only getting 28.7% of the performance. Umm....what was your original point?
    • by persaud ( 304710 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @04:28PM (#9011914)
      Sun may be presiding over a declining hardware empire, but it retains an advantage in the growing software market that is based on identity management. Specifically, Sun inherited the Netscape LDAP product line from AOL, which evangelized the commercial adoption of LDAP. Yes, Novell's directory server is a strong competitor, but Sun has the other end of the end-to-end solution: the identity client: Java smart cards and JVMs on mobile phones.

      Are there quality gaps in the Sun software stack? Yes. But there are two solid anchors in that stack: licensed JVMs on mobile identity tokens (cards, buttons, passports, phones) and licensed directory (LDAP) servers on the back end. Revenue generation from those two anchors will be sufficient for Sun to (gradually, painfully) upgrade the rest of their stack.

      Not to mention OSS Java application evolution, which occurs despite Sun, but which value does eventually accrue to Sun. The academic penetration of Java has seeded a generation of bright ideas to be delivered via OSS Java. Those ideas may yet migrate to C#, but for now, the incumbency advantage goes to Java. If Sun R&D can escape NIH, the best of the OSS ecosystem would find a JCP path into their products.
  • by Hanna's Goblin Toys ( 635700 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:32PM (#9009939) Homepage Journal
    They should acquire BSD, which will teach them how to continue dying... forever.
  • by maharg ( 182366 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:33PM (#9009955) Homepage Journal
    yeah fold NOW [yahoo.com]
    • by M.C. Hampster ( 541262 ) <M DOT C DOT TheHampster AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:44PM (#9010153) Journal

      Because we all know that market cap is truly the way to judge the health of a technology company.

      • by sczimme ( 603413 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @03:01PM (#9010465)

        These guys are not selling dog food over the interweb-thingie. They have been around for ~22 years, and have a rather long history of building extremely robust hardware in the server space. (I specified server space because the Ultra5/Ultra10 and the low-end Blades are not great.)

        No, I am not a Sun fanboy; I like most of their hardware, and I like Solaris. I just believe that people shouldn't treat Sun like the flash-in-the-pan goofy "technology companies" that made the bubble possible.
        • a rather long history of building extremely robust hardware in the server space.

          The article actually mentions a specific moment when the author understood that Sun has no future. It was when listening to a story about a tour of Google facilites -- the Google CEO pointed to the rows and rows and rows of cheap and semi-obsolete hardware which is Google server farm and said that Google will never buy expensive servers again.

          The MRCH (Massively Redundant Cheap Hardware) approach is BOTH cheaper and more reli
          • by georgewilliamherbert ( 211790 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @03:59PM (#9011386)
            The MRCH (Massively Redundant Cheap Hardware) approach is BOTH cheaper and more reliable. Sun IS screwed.
            Until you try and actually run some real world business applications on your massive low-reliability distributed environment.

            Google spent... oh, roughly $100m in software development getting to the point that they were saving enough money by using the distributed low cost low reliability PCs. That is a huge barrier to entry on such largescale clusters.

            And Google is in a business where a little data loss in the searches is not going to seriously harm anyone. So they operate slightly lossy. They admit this pretty explicitly; one of their people, Anurag Acharya, was an invited speaker at the second Evaluating and Architecting System dependabilitY [uiuc.edu] symposium in 2002.

            Neither the software investment to make reliable distributed apps nor the lossy data model are acceptable to typical business software. Do you want your bank losing 1-2% of your deposits, or having a consistency check error balancing your account at the end of the month? How about Amazon randomly deleting or inserting a few things from your orders...

            And even where there is off the shelf distributed software like Oracle RAC, it's such a management and performance hit that people typically go back to buying larger single system image servers after testing it out... ask Oracle what percentage of their sales are RAC versus straight Oracle 9 some time.

            There are applications... web farms spring to mind... where the Google model is a natural fit for the problem set. Strangely, that particular answer was well known five years ago, because people are not stupid.

            Until every major business application is naturally and easily distributable larger servers will continue to sell. The software is just plain not there yet. Things are trending that direction; in ten years, the current model is in real serious trouble. Maybe sooner. But now? Don't believe dumb hype.

  • by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:34PM (#9009967)
    Apple is not what it once was marketshare wise, but it's still a cool company. Why does everyone want to kill these shrinking companies instead of letting them carve their own niche?

    TW
    • In business, if you aren't growing you are dieing. There have been exceptions throughout history but, the vast majority of shrinking businesses vaporize.

      I have no opinion either way on Sun, yet.
    • by JWW ( 79176 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:43PM (#9010128)
      The answer: because everyone loves the "zero sum game".

      You see it all over the place now. Someone must win, and the other guy loses. This is what so confounds all of the pundits when Apple comes out with things like the iPod and dominates that market. In their mind Apple was supposed to just give up since they couldn't "win" vs. PCs.

      Its this kind of simplistic thinking that even made Microsofts monopoly come about. Its why we have two political parties who sometimes do not differ one iota with respect to certain policies (DMCA, government spending, easy treatment of big business, ...), but are massively opposed to each other.

      Everyone's got to be right nowdays, and that requires that someone else must be wrong.

      Any pundit who makes his living predicting X will die, Y will go under, Z is now irrelevant, doesn't deserve to be listened to, they haven't thought hard enough to deserve it.
    • Because the company is public and that means a bunch of people's retirement rests on the money that is in it. As an investor, would you want to finance the shrinking of your dollar to 10 cents or would you rather have the company's assets sold for 30 cents? Sun doesn't exist to give us Java, they exist to make money for their stock owners. If they can't do that, they owe it to their stock owners to terminate in the way that returns the greatest portion of the money possible.
  • Oh come on (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <akaimbatman@ g m ail.com> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:36PM (#9010005) Homepage Journal
    Let's take a look at Sun history:

    First they built "low-end" workstations. They managed to make a killing at this. Eventually PCs started eating their lunch. So they "reinvented" themselves as a server provider. They did quite well at this until PCs started threatening that market. Then they "reinvented" themselves as a complete solutions company. They did quite well at this until PCs went 64bit.

    Now they are "reinventing" themselves as a Desktop provider. They are honestly working to produce one of the most competitive desktops on the market. My current testing of their desktop shows that they still have a little ways to go, but for a first release they've done pretty well. When you combine in the publicity their Looking Glass technology is bringing them with the technologies that Sun is obtaining from Microsoft (I've been told that the next version of StarOffice will have Access support), they are truly posed to begin doing to Microsoft what Microsoft did to them: Eat away from the bottom up.

    • Re:Oh come on (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nitehorse ( 58425 ) <clee@c133.org> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:40PM (#9010073)
      I'm sitting at the X Developers' Conference right now watching a presentation by some of Sun's guys on Project Looking Glass and I have to admit that this is some pretty cool shit.

      Also, they claim that they will be opening the source code when they finally release it.

      (You can join and watch the official conference IRC channel on irc.freenode.net, in #xdevconf)

      Also, there's an audio stream of the conference available; poke around on freedesktop.org as I don't have the URL handy.
      • Re:Oh come on (Score:5, Informative)

        by nitehorse ( 58425 ) <clee@c133.org> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:46PM (#9010181)
        Ok, more information now that the presentation is over.

        • Looking Glass uses the Damage and Composite extensions that Keith Packard's experimental X server utilizes
        • The "scene manager" (what Sun is calling their compositing manager) is written in Java, and Looking Glass very heavily utilizes the Java3D API
        • Most of the pieces of the platform are already X-licensed, and Sun's representatives claim that they will be "opening the source" to Looking Glass when they release the SDK in a few months
        • The presentation was mostly done by Hideya Kawahura, with some lower-level technical details provided by Deron Johnson
        • More info on the X Developers Conference is available at freedesktop.org [freedesktop.org]


        Now, I'm going to watch the presentation on Croquet.
    • Sure, they're still looking to finally validate the whole 'we can provide you with a SmartTerminal' concept they came up with years ago, and they're still pushing at the low end desktop, but I'm guessing that's not where the real money is --

      They own what's now JavaOne, which was SunOne, which was iPlanet, which was the Sun/Netscape Alliance products. iDS (iPlanet Directory Server) is a very good directory server. [okay, there's a few nice features in OpenLDAP that I wish they'd implement, such as being a
  • by zerocool^ ( 112121 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:36PM (#9010014) Homepage Journal
    Move over Apple, move over BSD! There's a new game in town, and its name is SUN!

    Come on, guys. Everyone's been talking about all these guy's deaths forever, but they're still here. There's a market for all of them.

    ~Will
  • Solaris is dead.

  • by SkunkPussy ( 85271 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:37PM (#9010027) Journal
    How does folding the company stand a chance of increasing shareholder value? Would the board legitimately be able to follow this course of action?
    Also do you think anybody would invite them to work at their company after that?
  • by drizst 'n drat ( 725458 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:38PM (#9010037)
    I've worked with Sun hardware for a long time now (from IPC/IPX up through the E10K) and their equipment (sans a few exceptions) is incredibly awesome. It might be on the pricey side but for some reason, they refuse to die! I'm running two sparc20's and a SS10 at home and just love them. Sun's OS (using Solaris 9) is solid and performs well even on this old hardware. I personally think it would bad for business if they went the way that DEC did (worked with DEC Alpha and talk about performance -- nice ...). It's too bad that Sun hasn't tried harder to make their OS competitive with Linux, but then hey, the intel architecture isn't their forte.
  • Article a bit OTT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcx101 ( 724235 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:38PM (#9010052)

    "Sun is not coming back. It is a giant company without a business."

    I think the article went a bit too far in predicting Sun's demise. Whilst it's true that the rating of their stock is poor and they have really failed in many areas where they would have liked to succeed, I'd say there are signs they may be coming back.

    Now they have a collaboration of some description with Micro$oft; it's hard to get an ally with more punch than them, regardless of what you might think (or indeed Sun and Scott McNealy might think!) of them.

    They finally seem to be realising that you can't have both the hardware and the software market. Look at IBM and Apple for precedents there. Sun has started a new price war [theregister.co.uk] on Linux and Windows on the x86 platform.

    • Yes they have some type of "arrangement" with Microsoft and no doubt about it Microsoft has punch. The problem in my mind though is that Microsoft tends to eat their allies in time.
    • by nate1138 ( 325593 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @03:11PM (#9010633)
      Now they have a collaboration of some description with Micro$oft; it's hard to get an ally with more punch than them, regardless of what you might think

      Partering with MS is one of the worst decisions a company can make. They siphon off all of your best and brightest, and you get very little in return. Reference the Cringely article from a few weeks back for a list of companies that thought "parterning" with MS was a good idea and what happened to them. Do you really think that after all the bad blood in the last decade between these two that they will just suddenly play nice?

      They finally seem to be realising that you can't have both the hardware and the software market. Look at IBM and Apple for precedents there.

      What do you mean, look at Apple and IBM? They both do their own hardware and software. Apple is pretty much the only company shipping PowerPC anything, and IBM has a HUGE business in Power/AIX. That IBM ships x86 is only a response to customer demand, not some recognition that they shouldn't be in the hardware market. They still sell a ton of iSeries (AS400) and AIX on Power architecture.

    • by krygny ( 473134 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @03:52PM (#9011242)
      Sun has been hammered relentlessly for the past 2 years by the tech media. I dare somebody point me to an article with a contrarian view: that Sun will emerge again. But notice they're all saying the same things over and over. In fact, they all seem to be repeating one another.

      When conventional wisdom is 100% in the same direction, it usually ends up wrong. It's like just when everybody thinks the stock market is going up forever and all the amatures hop aboard, ... CRASH!
  • Sun's stock (Score:5, Informative)

    by strictnein ( 318940 ) * <strictfoo-slashd ... m ['oo.' in gap]> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:39PM (#9010060) Homepage Journal
    Just a bit of info:
    Sun's stock (SUNW) is now hovering at about 4.00 (down slightly today).
    Here's SUNW over the past 5 years [cnn.com]
  • IBM will buy them (Score:5, Informative)

    by GCP ( 122438 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:39PM (#9010065)
    Sun insists that they won't sell Java to IBM. IBM is now quite dependant on Java and have all sorts of ideas for how they would like to change it if they didn't have to constantly butt heads with Sun.

    So, okay, fine, IBM can just wait a bit and buy Sun for a reasonable price. That way, Java won't have been released into the public domain and IBM won't have to argue (as much) when they want to change it.

    IBM has the most to gain from control over Java -- arguably Microsoft has more but for legal reasons they won't bother even trying to buy Sun -- so they'll be willing to pay the most, so they'll get 'em.

  • by SavedLinuXgeeK ( 769306 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:39PM (#9010067) Homepage
    Well on a side note, how much this holds for everyone else I do not know, but the College Board (AP) (they do highschool testing for college level courses in highschool) is switching their cirriculum to Java, instead of C++. From this effect a lot of colleges are now switching to Java to teach programming. At my collge the intro level courses are going to be phased over to java sooner or later (I think its next semester actually). If Sun is really going to die, then a large amount of people have put support into their dying product. I think that even if Sun struggles hardware wise, that its Java platform will continue on. Think of Sega, they went from hardware and game manufacturer to just game manufacturer. Why can't sun do the same?
    • compsci 1 and 2 are java here at oklahoma state, have been at least since 3.5 years ago. imo, java has a nice, shallow initial learning curve. no pointers, memory allocation is simple, no destructors, etc. not that these are difficult ideas, but they are just more things on top of basics you learn in cs1 & 2. ive dont quite a bit of c++ and java (with java first) and i think i learned them in the correct order.
  • Cash is king (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Frennzy ( 730093 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:40PM (#9010078) Homepage
    Sun has something like $6billion in their coffers. At their current burn rate, they will be around for a long time. Their new JDE push (and associated service revenues) could be the thing they have needed to appease stockholders and get back in the game.

    Of course, they could just take that cash, distribute it to their employees, lay them all off, then sell their receivables, contracts, and customer base to some other company *cough*IBM*cough*, then split that money amongst the 'execs'. There would be a lot of retired ex-Sun folks lounging around the pool.
  • Merge with Apple (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spyffe ( 32976 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:40PM (#9010085) Homepage
    Think about it... Apple has a decent position in the desktop space, and Sun could provide the expertise to make really good backend servers, perhaps based on UltraSPARC early in the game but shifting to Power5 later.

    One would need to see a lot more client/server integration, but I think if Sun/Apple (one of my labmates suggested Snapple) marketed enterprise solutions consisting of high-end multiprocessor servers serving Java apps to Apple workstations, they might really get somewhere.

    It's a gamble, but Apple could only profit from it and Sun needs new ideas fast.

    • by Coryoth ( 254751 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:56PM (#9010331) Homepage Journal
      What exactly does Sun have to offer in such a merger? Sun's big attributes are UltraSPARC, Java, Solaris, and some knowledge about big server engineering.

      Apple has no need of UltaSPARC, it's already made its deals with IBM for the PowerPC line, which is looking like a pretty good bet these days. Apple has as much Java as they need right now, I don't think Sun's Java expertise is going to bring much to the table. Solaris is of no use to Apple whatsoever really. Big servers - well that is something that Apple lacks, but they re beginning to make some slow but steady server progress on their own with the Xserve line - I don't think they are that desperate for a huge shot in the arm in the server market (let alone the conflicting chip architectures and OSs involved in expanding that way!).

      No, it's Apple that has value to offer Sun, because right now Sun is making a bid for the desktop, and that is Apple's true strength right now.

      That means there will be no merger. Sun might try buying Apple, but I think that would be rather too expensive for them right now.

      Jedidiah.
      • Dumb Idea (Score:3, Insightful)

        Why do all of Microsoft's former competitors need to merge???

        Apple has moved into a post-Microsoft era with succesful consumer media products. There is absolutely no reason for these firms to merge.

    • but back in the day (the mid/late 1990s) Sun was the outfit that was supposed to "save" Apple. As others have pointed out, the calculus has shifted. Apple already makes good hardware; they don't need Sun for that.

      I'd rather see Sun completely re-assess their position and find out how they can leverage their core strengths (technology innovation, experience at the server side of computing, understanding of how to use the network as a computing machine, etc.) and implement a new strategy based on those stre

  • by glassware ( 195317 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:40PM (#9010091) Homepage Journal
    ... creator of the SPARC architecutre and, oh yeah, Java, ...

    One out of two ain't bad.

  • by nocomment ( 239368 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:40PM (#9010092) Homepage Journal
    Sun took a little bit of a beating because of cheap servers and cheap clusters. The ultrasparc is still a pretty bad-ass CPU though. Sun has figure out that they need to keep entry level server at around the $999 level and have done so for over a year now. With the new Opteron's and a metric ass-load of cash, Sun is most certainly not going to be another DEC. There are still DEC systems being made (just under the HP flag now), and you can still buy new Tru64, OpenVMS stations, etc...

    If my company needs anything beyond the $600 and $700 range, I would recomend Sun any day of the week.
  • Stupid Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by theLOUDroom ( 556455 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:42PM (#9010115)
    It's not as if a company with a market cap of of 13 BILLION dollars can just cash out and walk away from the table with 13 billion dollars.

    Like is or not SUN, has to keep playing the game. It would loose even MORE money by trying to close up shop quickly.

    A company has value for lots of reasons, besides pure, resellable assets: market position, reputation, etc.

    What SUN needs is leadership like that which has helped Apple so much in recent years. If you look back far enough, you'll see a time when Apple was in quite a similar postion as SUN is today.

    I'm not saying that SUN should start building sPods and sBooks. I think SUN needs to find its place in the market (hint: not the same place as Apple or Dell).
  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:43PM (#9010133) Journal
    A company can survive without growing. Wall Street may not like it, but look at Apple, as an example.

    Sun has a pretty cool niche - They produce some of the best server-class machines in the world. And I say this as a fairly vocal proponent of using commodity PC hardware whenever possible... I've had the opportunity to use a few decked-out UltraSparc boxen, and quite simply, they rock. A cluster of PCs can do the same task 90% of the time, but when you need high performance in a single box, you just can't do better (I also say that having used some of IBMs high-end offerings, and they just don't compare IMO).

    So should Sun fold? No. They need to reprioritize, from growth to maintaining market share and quality. Not cutting costs, not appealing to more of shrinking market, but just doing what they do well.

    As for the whole Java debacle... Well, if they can find a way to make money from it, okay. But if not, they need to stop flogging a dead horse, and just bury it.
    • by Frennzy ( 730093 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:54PM (#9010304) Homepage
      The reason companies exist is to make money. They make money for their employees (employee puts time in, and gets compensated for that at a rate that the employee *should* deem greater than the effort they put into it), they make money for their investors (investor puts money in, and gets more money back than they put in...ideally), and they make money for the government (company makes money, and pays taxes on it).

      The grow or perish mentality is related to the fact that capitalism requires an entity, be it a person or a corporation, to perform better than its peers/competitors. When an employee decides to work for a company, they will choose the best return on investment (i.e. most money/benefits/quality of life) that they can get for the investment of their labor. When an investor chooses to invest money, they are looking for the company that will give them the best return on their investment...in order to outpace their peers/competitors when it comes to acquiring wealth. This is what drives the fundamental economic engine.

      An employee who also invests cash in their own company has even more at stake (which is typical of most large companies and their employees today). It behooves the leadership of said companies to provide the best return on investment for all parties concerned.

      The unfortunate drawback is that productivity increases in personnel tends to have diminishing returns, so they tend to be expected to do more for less, while cash investors tend to scream the loudest for increasing returns, and they are paid more attention by the corporate leaders. In fact, many folks who both work for and invest in the same company tend to overlook this fact. They bitch about stock performance, then they bitch when they don't get a big raise or bonus, so they bitch even louder about stock performance, so the executives have to cut costs. I've seen it in action. The very same employee/owners who were griping the most about stock performance were amongst those who got laid off in order to cut costs.

      Neat how that works, isn't it?
      • > The reason companies exist is to make money.

        I'm not disagreeing with you, but I think you missed what people are looking for.

        Wall Street is looking for ROI. That's it. You're in niche market which is static? Good - maximize profits and spin off dividends, lots and lots of bug fat dividends. Or provide ROI by an increasing stock price.

        Micro$oft, when growing, didn't pay dividends - but was well beloved because its stock price kept increasing. Now that its stock price is no longer ballistic i

  • Bollocks say I (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MythMoth ( 73648 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:43PM (#9010136) Homepage
    Sure, Sun are in the doldrums.

    Companies do not commit suicide - and the article acknowledges that. Nor should they; an investment in a company is just that, an investment. The job of the directors (unless instructed otherwise by the shareholders) is to run the company in as profitable way as possible.

    There is no way that Sun is worth more as cash than as a going concern. Just not going to happen. The very closest you could get to a corporate suicide of the type that this article advocates is a friendly buyout of some sort.

    Personally my money's on Sun making a comeback; they invest in brains and research to an extent that to me inspires confidence in their future.

    That sort of pollyanna-ism brings in the readers though, so I suppose it's a good tactic.

    D.
  • by myowntrueself ( 607117 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:46PM (#9010177)
    and stopped wasting time developing and maintaining, for example, their own version of tar or find.

    The versions of these utilities that come with proprietary Unices are, frankly, CRAP.

    openssh is another one; think back to last year... and the flurry of ssh patches. Linux easy! Solaris hard! Go figure.
    • There is a reason for including these utilities. Sun prides itself on maintaining backward compatability with pretty much everything written for its OS back to say Solaris 2.6. If they kept changing the utilities, scripts that leverege these utilities would break. This is a HUGE deal for companies that run legacy apps.

      Yeah, the Solaris tar does suck, but on my JumpStart server, I ALWAYS include the GNU versions of tar, gzip etc.

      If you want the latest-greatest, load the GNU utilities from the Solaris Suppl
    • That's precisely why the last two versions of Solaris (and possibly farther back) have included the GNU utilities -- so people who prefer them can install them easily. However, if you have apps you need to support that were made to work with the Solaris versions of these utilities (perhaps because they pre-date the GNU software), you can use the stock stuff and your apps won't break.

      Sun's SSH on Solaris 9 is also a Sun-maintained version of OpenSSH. Last year, Solaris 9 was the current version, and patchi
  • it is true (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KingRamsis ( 595828 ) <kingramsis.gmail@com> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:48PM (#9010204)
    Unfortunately this is true, there seem to be an internal struggle between geeks and suits, as much as I admire the idealism of Sun they still don't get what the market wants, try to develop a database application with the latest JDK and you will be frustrated, the retarded complexity of Swing and sloppy sluggish end result, recently I regained a little faith of Java after giving up on it long ago, but still the productivity is much lower than comparable tools, the learning curve alone is a major demotivator and don't get me started on the J2EE platform, recently this struggle became visible when top notch suites and geeks walked out of Sun, it is a typical case of lack of vision, Sun is sending mixed messages some times the planning is good but the execution is shoddy at best and vice versa.
  • Long time in going (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flaming-opus ( 8186 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:50PM (#9010242)
    Silicon Graphics, another early bay-area unix workstation success, was in a much smaller niche, even at its peak. SGI has been circling the bowl now since the late 90's and still hasn't gone away. They barely even lost any money last quarter.

    Sun has a much more stable market of business buyers. They have to be selective to get back to profitability, but it's definitely possible, even without a radical change in market. People still pay big money for mid-range and high-end servers. People still pay big money for solid enterprise software. Business customers are willing to pay real money for real solutions. A company like sun just needs to make sure that it solves today's hard problems, and does it at a price that's similar to the competition.

    A slump doesn't mean a fall. A re-org doesn't mean a death knell. Sun has lots of chances left to redefine itself, and figure out how to be profitable. They just might have to lose market share and girth in the process.
  • Car crash (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @02:59PM (#9010424)

    When I was learning to drive, a thing my driving instructor said to me has always stuck with me. He said the thing that causes most driving accidents is indecision.

    I think companies like Sun (and Corel and others) start to fail when they become indecisive. They need to decide on their path and stick to it, rather than dressing up in a penguin suit one day and mocking linux the next.
  • by CatGrep ( 707480 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @03:02PM (#9010493)
    What about these possible scenarios:

    Apple is definately making moves into the workstation/server space and OSX _can_ play there. Perhaps Apple could buy what's left of Sun in a year ot two (when there's much less than there is now) for firesale prices. This would mostly be to gain acess to Sun's sales channels and some engineering resources.

    Or, more likely: IBM buys Sun and then takes Java in the direction it wants to take it. Of course, they also would probably want to wait for a lower price, so don't look for this to happen right away.

  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @03:04PM (#9010527)
    I like Sun's massively parallel Niagra architecture. Each chip runs 32 threads in parallel with an impressive 80% efficiency in pipeline usage.

    If they can get this off the ground, it'll be great for servers.

    Unfortunately, it's lousy for single-threaded compute-intensive processes like chip synthesis and simulation tools which are what I need.

    It's interesting that they are kinda going back to the mainframe mentality where I/O and over-all throughput are more important than single-threaded performance, but with the way servers are going, this, I think, is really what is needed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2004 @03:14PM (#9010676)
    So I read the article, and was puzzled why a Forbes editor would ask a company with 13 billion in market capitalization to just fold up shop. So I googled on the author, Malone [google.com], and found some interesting gossip. He evidently went to elementary school with Steven Jobs. When Apple was on the outs (remember when Malone suggested Apple should just fold up shop?) Malone wrote a slanderously nasty book about Woz, Jobs, and apple. Here's a sample of from a web page that corrected some of Malone's numerous mistakes:

    Malone, the editor of Forbes ASAP, reserves his most caustic remarks for Jobs, with whom he attended elementary school. He asserts that by the age of 19, Jobs had been ''involved in numerous felonies'' and was a drug user, bulimic, liar and cheat -- and went downhill from there. As the head of Apple, Malone says, Jobs was ''a lunatic megalomaniac,'' ''an executive horror and spoiled brat'' who was ''smelly,'' ''paranoid,'' ''vicious and belittling.''
    http://www.xent.com/FoRK-archive/apr99/0054.html [xent.com]

    Wow. The guy is a total tool. It's not like he wrote just one bad column in his life. Just going on what google kicks up, it seems like every week we puts his foot in his mouth. But I guess it's like Rush Limbaugh or Howard Stern. People don't necessarily like or agree with them, but tune in to listen to them make a complete train wreck out of journalism. It must be the same thing with Malone.

    I guess it's one way to make a living. It probably pays better than other media-stunt professions like hosting Fead Factor, denying the moon landing, or mongering JFK conspiracy theories (or more recently, 9-11 conspiracy theories).
  • Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zandermander ( 563602 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @03:19PM (#9010741)
    I was at Sun back in Feb. of 2003 and pointedly asked the speaker these questions - where were they going, what new products did they have and how were they going to deal with the rise of cheap servers/Linux.

    After hearing the speaker waffle on about MadHatter, thin clients, new opportunities and that most-hated MBA word (and I'm an MBA) "monetizing" for about 10 minutes, I realized I already knew the answers to my questions.

    At the short and informal reception following the speaker, an engineer who had sat on the panel (but didn't say anything during it) button-holed me to tell me that I had hit the nail right on the head - he said virtually all of Sun was trying to figure out the answers to my questions and as yet they did not have any answers.

    Not much is sadder than the rusting hulk of a once great company in total denial.
  • by bugnuts ( 94678 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @03:37PM (#9010991) Journal
    After getting hammered by the PC market, the comparison of Sun to DEC is a good one. They both were competing with Intel. DEC ended up selling the alpha to intel and having them produce it, ending the competition and settling a lawsuit over IP. The alpha was a great chip, too, but it's dead now.

    Sun is also competing with intel and it's hurting them just like it hurt Apple. Businesses realize that they can buy 5 PC's for the price of one Sun, so even the awesome support sun offers pales when compared to the bottom line (provided you're saavy enough to swap a DIMM).

    There is one hardware product that they will continue selling, IMHO. Sunrays. [sun.com] These machines rock. I'm using one right now. The footprint and lack of fans are awesome... my office is so quiet I can hear the fans in the machines across the hall and I barely even notice the space it takes up (about 12" x 6"). But this is not going to be enough to keep their thousands of employees.
  • by rumblin'rabbit ( 711865 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @03:44PM (#9011074) Journal
    I work for a processing firm that has about 100 Sun workstations, and I've often had questions for Sun concerning their operating system, compilers, and so on. I've come to view their customer support on these issues not so much like a sun, but more like a massive black hole, into which questions fall in never to reappear as answers.

    Their customer support sucks. I say let Sun evaporite in a wave of Hawking radiation.

  • by hndrcks ( 39873 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @03:45PM (#9011094) Homepage
    He spelled McNealy's name 'McNeely'. Like ten times. If the author couldn't even get the name of a corporate CEO who has been prominent in technology for the last two decades right, why should I give one whit what he has to say about anything?

    Maybe it's time for a certain broadcast news organization to 'just fold now.'

  • by crovira ( 10242 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @03:54PM (#9011273) Homepage
    (and I suspect, soon, Motorola)? Motorola? Motor-ola?

    They are leaders in embedded tech. What does the idiot think? That because Motorola is going to go broke because Apple is shifting a small volume over to IBM (lets face it, its a small volume, they're great but 5 million CPUs/year is a drop in Motorolla's bucket.)
  • by NerveGas ( 168686 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @04:17PM (#9011718)
    Now, I'm one of the first to say that Sun is losing a very large share of its market - the lower end. They just can't offer price-competitive counterings to Xeons and Opterons.

    However, they've still got the most lucrative part of their market, the ultra-high end. With their big models starting out at about a million bucks (and that's FAR from fully equipped), they've still got plenty to keep them going.

    There are still lots of apps that don't cluster well, so a room full of PC's just doesn't cut it. and there are still companies willing to shell out for the hardware they need. Sun will have to scale back on the low end, there's no doubt, but that's not a problem for them. They've always preferred to make a large profit margin on smaller volume.

    steve
  • by ninejaguar ( 517729 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @04:30PM (#9011940)

    I don't know if Java is a relevant source of income to Sun. I would think rather that it's a drain. It may be that the only value Sun gets from Java is brand name recognition. That in itself is worth a great deal, as it helps you sell other things that aren't a drain. However, that is only true if a competitor doesn't come along to duplicate and improve the Java technology with a catchy, if familiar, name to developers. Also, it wouldn't help if they do you one better and actually establish the clone as an official standard. If the clone should become a standard, it's entirely plausible that Open Source implementations would arise, giving developers Java without the name.

    What would be even worse is that if those Open Source guys happen to decide to use the same bullet-proofing that allows the Linux juggernaut to currently cause havoc with Sun's UNIX businesses. You know that killer app that isn't an app, but a license called the GPL. We know the GPL eats competing proprietary licenses for appetizers, and the products attached to them as entrées. I think Sun's main competitor (now bosom-buddy) called it a virus, and are clearly afraid of it as they're the next course on the menu.

    No, as long as those things don't happen, Sun should be able to continue on as it has for the past several years without worrying about their product being usurped from under them, and under a different name. No point heading off the disaster as long as such clearly ridiculous fantasies don't come to pass. Even if it would really cost them nothing (just save them a bunch on development and administration cost), and they would still be able to retain the brand name (the only value Java adds to Sun) while Open Sourcing Java.

    If they GPL/LGPL'd it, their fears of permanent forking and the product being locked into proprietary platforms would all vanish. And, similar to Linus, they retain brand name, copyright,trademarks and control over the name. The JCP process would remain the defacto standard.

    = 9J =

  • by Performer Guy ( 69820 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @05:02PM (#9012389)
    Look, if you don't like SUN sell your stock in the company. Sun has owners/investors, it's up to them whether or not they still want to invest in Sun and they can decide on an individual basis. It's called the stock market.

    Calls for a company to fold are FUD, pure and simple, usually this FUD comes from someone who doesn't have a cent invested in the company and therefore no direct meaningful interest or someone shilling for the competition.

    They said the same thing about Apple just before Steve Jobs brought them back from the dead.

    If you want Sun to fold sell your stock and go away quietly, if you don't own stock then what is your real motivation in wanting them to fold? It certainly isn't the financial interest as an investor which is the only legitimate cause for the call.

Almost anything derogatory you could say about today's software design would be accurate. -- K.E. Iverson

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