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Sun's Scott McNealy's Days are Numbered? 104

alek writes "The Wall Street Journal writes 'Dusk could be near for Sun's McNealy' where they conjecture that the founder and and CEO of Sun Microsystems might be leaving soon. They suggest that the return of former CFO Michael Lehman and and a more active Board pressing for improved performance could result in COO Jonathan Schwartz taking over the top job. We've heard stories like this for years but Scott has hung in there for a long time - his response to the WSJ was 'That rumor is about 22 years old and still chuggin.'"
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Sun's Scott McNealy's Days are Numbered?

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  • One has to wonder if Sun is ripe for a takeover by the likes of Google. There is alot of speculation on this and it kinda makes sense. What's Sun's bread and butter these days? []
    • Are you nuts ? Except the fact that Dr Eric Schmidt worked for Sun, their is no synergy in both the companies merging.
      • Sure there is. Sun has been trying to break into Web services -- witness, various Java initiatives, grid farm, etc. Google has Web services down, since that's all they do, so such a merger would be beneficial to Sun.

        For Google, the benefits are more dubious. Sure, they get, but don't they have Sun talent working on an AJAX already? Plus, they have Writely, now. Plus, is LGPL, so Google can pretty much do what it wants. OTOH, the OpenOffice.or
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I think that speculation actually started on slashdot a few years back in this thread []. Kleiner Perkins companies have long been known to buy each other out to save each other -- even long after they went public (consider Netscape/AOL) - and Google's seed money did come from a Sun founder (Bechtolsheim).

      People always talk of Microsoft vs Google or MSFT vs Sun or MSFT vs Netscape for MSFT vs AOL - but they rarely realize that it's always been Microsoft vs Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers [] where all these c

    • Lets hope you don't work in Wall Street as an advisor!
    • One has to wonder if Sun is ripe for a takeover by the likes of Google. There is alot of speculation on this and it kinda makes sense. What's Sun's bread and butter these days?

      I would hope Google would complete their acquisition of Disney before we start speculating about Sun. One at a time folks, one at a time.

    • Sun's days are numbered? So start counting, with today as 1 and tomorrow #2.

      Scott McNealy's days at Sun are numbered 8001 with tomorrow being #8002.

    • well if Oracle is shopping, Sun makes a better choice then Ubuntu
  • You have to pick one if you are a developer.... who do you think knows where the industry is headed, and who thinks they ARE the industry? onna-bet-on.aspx []
    • Whay about Ray? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Serapth ( 643581 )
      Seriously, Ray Ozzie ( of Lotus fame ) has serious power at Microsoft. He is definatly a man of vision, the question is, do you agree with his vision. My understanding is the work he was doing at Groove was quite impressive, plus Microsoft basically bought groove to get this guy on board.

      Of all the people listed, I would rather have him running the show.
    • I'd pick Ellison. He's a psycho, but I think he know where things are moving.
  • Hey, then can just hire Darl McBride and sue BSD!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Too bad they can't seem to fully adopt/develop Linux/FOSS software on their hardware instead of flogging Solaris.

    Don't get me wrong, Sun has given a lot to OSS but they really need to stop sucking that dry Solaris tit while they slowly starve to death. It looks kinda funny when there is a full Linux teat right next to them and they wont fully embrace it.
    • by jadavis ( 473492 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:34PM (#15165776)
      I suggest you actually look at Solaris. There are some amazing capabilities in there way ahead of Linux.

      ZFS is a filesystem that can do raid5-like storage or mirrors. Filesystems can share a common storage pool. You can make snapshots instantly, and at any time you want you can roll back to that snapshot (transactions). Everything about it is very cool, check it out.

      DTrace is also amazing. You can observe almost anything about a running program with negligable performance impact. It will break the information down for you statistically so you can tell that, for example, 1% of the time a given function call takes 1000 times longer than average.

      It's also got containers and zones, and a service manager.

      I have been using Linux and FreeBSD for a long time. I am just getting interested in Solaris, and I am very impressed.
      • []
        I thought I had read dtrace was on linux too, but what I had really read was Inotify replacing Dnotify on Linux. y/l-inotify.html?ca=dgr-lnxw51Inotify []

        How hard would it be to port these things to Linux?
        • Did you actually look at the search results of that Google link you gave us? None of it shows that ZFS (as the filesystem developed by Sun) has been ported to Linux.
        • There is a lot of work going on to make Solaris and Linux work well together. You can use zones to set up linux on a Solaris box, but I'm a little unclear on the details. I'll be checking that out soon though.

          I think the porting of ZFS would be reasonable to do, but I'm sure it would take some work.

          DTrace seems like it would require a LOT of work. All the work of DTrace was not the userspace application, but all of the hooks added into the OS at every level. So basically it would be repeating all the work o
        • moderation: -1,Bullshit

          Have you followed the links that you provided?

          Because if you did, you would have noticed that ZFS and Dtrace are actually NOT available for linux and it will probably take considerable time to port such complex mechanisms to it.

        • There are a number of pale imitations of dtrace available for Linux but none of them gets close to DTrace functionality, safety or performance. Part of the problem is that Dtrace uses a fully instrumented kernel which is one and the same as the production Solaris kernel. Almost all the other DTrace imitators on Linux rely on special Linux kernels and none of them have the safety of DTrace which you can turn on on a production kernel without worrying about performance or kernel panics.

          One reason why Linux
      • One thing that's interesting about zfs is that it handles mirroring at the logical level and not at the physical level. In traditional approaches the filesystem module in the kernel sees a raid metadevice which is handled exactly like a physical device, eg. using the /dev/dsk/... and /dev/rdsk/... devices. The folks behind zfs figured that since we are talking about software based raid, there is no reason why the filesystem shouldn't know a little more about what's lies beneath. So, the mirroring for examp
        • Especially for filesystems that have relatively low usage, this method is megafast because it actually mirrors only the contents of the filesystem

          Not only that, but due to zfs's design, if there is a power failure the raid does not need to be resync'd, nor does it need any kind of nvram. It really removes a lot of the headaches of raid.
        • > Especially for filesystems that have relatively low usage, this method is
          > megafast because it actually mirrors only the contents of the filesystem (a
          > conventional raid would go ahead and mirror the entire physical disk bit by
          > bit).

          Pardon? And that would matter how? You not got a volume manager? Not many low use filesystems if you got one.
      • Until ZFS is released for the real production version of Solaris (Not Solaris Express), then a lot of people will spend some real time with it.

        Otherwise. . . it is just a piece of software with lots of promises with no real release.
    • Sun are unlikely to drop Solaris, it is and for the most part always has been their crown jewels.

      It would be difficult to find a OS that on a capability by capability approaches Solaris as a server platform. dtrace, SMF, zones, fireengine, great scalability, good enough HCL.

      However I can understand a Linux advocate wanting Sun to drop Solaris, it is the closest and best competitor to Linux.

      A large number of big commercial companies that were early adopters of Linux are now looking long and hard a
      • Um - how is it cheaper than linux? Not trolling - just not sure what you meant?
        • Solaris 10 licenses are free for systems purchased from Sun and Sun authorized resellers view.xml []
          • People tend to think Linux is free like beer for the Enterprize market also, but in reality it is hardly feee []. Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS starts at $1499.

            But to play devils advocate for a bit, the free like beer "download editions" for most Linux distros have left a larger market of Linux admins to hire from. We are a mixed shop but most of the "new" guys into out Linux/UNIX deparment tend to prefer Linux becasue that is what they know. Everytime we lose an old Solaris guy, we get a new Linux guy. I don't

        • Solaris 10 is available for Sun for free download you can use it for anything the only stipulation is that you have to pay for support.

          This is actually more leniant than RedHat for example where you cannot use RedHat without a support contract and instead you have to rely on using Fedora.

          If you do require full support as you would if you ran RedHat Enterprise Linux then you obviously pay Sun and Sun charges less per system than RedHat for what they argue is better support.

          So if you are a large or
    • Sun makes great hardware

      Yes, their home-made opteron CPUs are a great example of how Sun does hardware....

      Sun has given a lot to OSS but they really need to stop sucking that dry Solaris tit while they slowly starve to death. It looks kinda funny when there is a full Linux teat right next to them and they wont fully embrace it.

      Solaris is opensource now, and the license is quite reasonable. There's many people playing with opensolaris now that it has been opensourced. Hell, if it wasn't because i'm on dialup
      • Yes, their home-made opteron CPUs are a great example of how Sun does hardware....

        Sun has some interesting technology in their UltraSPARC T1 processor. 32 threads of simultaneous execution and only 72 watts.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Sorry, but Solaris tit is full of yummy highly-optimized formula. And we've grown quite strong on that milk. And BTW, Solaris is now developing at a much faster rate than Linux.

      If you'd also like some of that milk superformula, you can find it at Especially where it says "putback logs" -- that's the milk glands.
  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Thursday April 20, 2006 @11:31AM (#15165190)
    Date Insider Shares Type Transaction Value*

    17-Feb-06 MCNEALY, SCOTT G.
    Chairman 2,400,000 Direct Option Exercise at $3.125 per share. $7,500,000
    17-Feb-06 MCNEALY, SCOTT G.
    Chairman 2,400,000 Direct Sale at $4.30 - $4.37 per share. $10,404,0002
    17-Feb-06 MCNEALY, SCOTT G.
    Chief Executive Officer 2,400,000 Direct Planned Sale $10,344,0001

    Get out while the gettin's good, take the money and run.

    Sun is trading at $5 a share, time to buy? or forgeddaboudit!?
    • Nothing looks shady to me about that. All he did was sell 2,400,000 shares and then rebuy that same amount at his option price. Happens all the time. Check out almost any company and you will see the same thing happening on a regular basis.
    • All it is saying is that he is exercising is option and getting a little extra cash....
      Time to buy I think -
      SUN have always had their critics - they did well in the dotcom boom, and everyone said that they chose the wrong model before it kicked off.
      They have new servers, new chips and an impressive roadmap - I think they have turned a corner.
    • by drix ( 4602 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @01:03PM (#15166081) Homepage
      Sun is trading at $5 a share, time to buy? or forgeddaboudit!?

      Now's the time to decide--earnings call is on Monday. There are some credible rumors floating around that this will be the first profitable quarter in years. Sun's really revamped their product line in the last 16 months (AMD, Niagara, etc.) and in their last 10-K they mentioned they were actually having a hard time meeting demand. (Apropos the original story, there's also speculation that this would be an ideal note for McNealy to end his career on.)

      If they do end up back in the black, every analyst and his brother will be on CNBC Tuesday morning shouting "Turned the corner!" and I think it would cause some major institutional buyers to jump back in. Unlike the run-up last month which got subsequently iced due to profit taking, the big guys would be in it for the long haul, creating a new support. $5.50 or maybe even $6? I haven't done the math.

      And I feel like this possiblity hasn't been fully capitalized in to the current price--I'm really surprised how little talk there is about SUNW on the boards, newswires, or the Street. A lot of people seem to have written it off as a sad relic of the dot-com era. I think they're missing out on two key points: 1) how revolutionary and unique these new UltraSparc T1s are, especially for those serving up huge amounts of online content (ie everyone) or who are worried about energy costs (ie everyone), and 2) how much brand equity "Sun Microsystems" carries among a whole generation of 25+ year old geeks who grew up worshipping that awesome UltraSparc workstation in the server room/lab/etc (like everyone at Google, for one.)

      To the extent that it's even possible nowadays, I feel like SUNW has been slipping under the radar for the last couple months.

      P.S. I am quite obviously long on this stock, so if course it's in my best interest to convince you of all this :-)
      • 'how much brand equity "Sun Microsystems" carries among a whole generation of 25+ year old geeks'

        Unfortunately, most of that brand equity has been eaten away by half a decade during which you'd rather be compiling on your desktop than on the server, and trying to answer embarrasing questions why the devs get better performance out of their java code on their laptop than on the expensive app server.

        You know, five years ago those 25+ yearers would form a queue when machines got decommissioned and handed out.
        • Yeah, I'm definitely not contending that Sun's big iron is how it's going to bail itself out. Quite the opposite--my whole point was they're migrating their whole business model away from big fancy app servers and towards cheapo Opteron / Niagara clustered solutions. Of course, that's cheapo in the Sun sense: their prices are still 50-200% higher than comparable anonymous white box hardware. And, as we all know, it was precisely the rise of the white box cluster that brought Sun to the point it's at now. So
          • You said:
            Of course, that's cheapo in the Sun sense: their prices are still 50-200% higher than comparable anonymous white box hardware.

            So what gives? Well, it turns out TCO for Sun hardware is actually lower [] even factoring in the higher hardware cost.

            The article you cited says:
            For purposes of our analysis, let's assume all servers are of equal cost: Server price: $3,000.00

            whitebox AMD + Solaris: $3,000 + (3 * $120) + (36 * $65.00) = $5,700.00

            Sun AMD + Solaris: $3,000 + (3 * $120) + (36 * $39.00)
  • Oh my. (Score:5, Funny)

    by SteeldrivingJon ( 842919 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @11:32AM (#15165197) Homepage Journal

    Replacing McNealy with Schwartz would be like performing a brain transplant in which a poorly functioning brain is replaced with a kidney.
    • I'm not sure why this got modded as funny, at least, not if you would like to see Sun survive as a company. I've met very few people in the industry, and almost none at Sun, that impressed me less than Jonathan Schwartz. Scott screwed up by drinking the koolaid the SPARC guys were selling, but he is a very sharp guy. There isn't much wrong with Sun that making a total sommitment to Solaris and Linux on x86_64 (an dasjusting the cost structure to match) wouldn't solve. The first step would be to actually shi
    • Welcome to Vogon Microsystems! May I take your order?
    • Are you still looking for Cocoa wannabes? I work in Cambridge where it appears you are located.
  • I know he isnt popular with the /. crowd, but Schwartz -IS- popular with the Fortune500 CEO crowd... I've seen the guy work a room, he comes across very charismatically (way WAY more than McNealy ever has) and the dumb PHB/CxO types seem to really take an interest in what he's saying.
    Now, I'm no fanboy of either one, but McNealy is probably better suited to chair thier R&D or something than he is to being CEO these days. Schwartz at least would put a more energetic face on the company and (one could h
    • "thier 4000% margin policy"

      Quite. I wanted to use Solaris for my small company and looked
      into buying some ultrasparcs. Yeah , right. HOW much just
      for the CPU box WITHOUT monitor, keyboard or mouse and with
      some 5 year out of date graphics card?? Suns marketing dept are still living on Planet 1980s when Unix hardware really could command a serious premium over PCs.
      Not now though , at least not in the low end of the market
      (high end servers are another matter).
      • Ive talked with Schwartz about this semi-directly (in a webchat of about 15 people), and explained that all the sun (specifically, all the sparc) hardware me and my company own is -all- purchased second hand off of ebay. Servers and desktops. The prices are simply too high. He seemed to understand, and pointed out that from his desk the big challenge was developing a sub-$1000 sparc system to the economy-of-scale where they could make cash from it enough to justify the investment. I can understand this, but
        • I dont know... I was able to play with a brand new 1500 a couple of weeks ago, and let me just tell you how much happier I am now with my old blade 1000 (dual 750sparcIII). My 80 pound sb1k is worth every penny and built like a tank (course I bought it used on ebay for 700 dollars). I am glad that the 1500 is or almost eol, and the new ultra's are cheaper and really nice. I think they are doing the right thing, keep em high quality. Keep em fantastically designed, and I will just ignore they ever built
    • I've seen McNealy talk, but never Schwartz. I was utterly impressed with McNealy's ability to sell out-of-the-box ideas and put together a cohesive picture. Schwartz ... based on his blog, all I've seen is an ability to hype Sun without actually producing deliverables. Schwartz has been running the company for the past few years - anything interesting come out? Oh yeah, Solaris 10 and Opteron servers, both projects started via McNealy before Schwartz took over.

      To an engineer, McNealy is the real deal,

    • "I know he isnt popular with the /. crowd, but Schwartz -IS- popular with the Fortune500 CEO crowd... I've seen the guy work a room, he comes across very charismatically (way WAY more than McNealy ever has) and the dumb PHB/CxO types seem to really take an interest in what he's saying. "

      No surprise - Schwartz spent some time working for one of the big management consulting firms.

      He probably learned how to sell crap to CEOs while he was there. It's what the management consulting firms *do*.
  • Money men (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FishandChips ( 695645 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @11:56AM (#15165413) Journal
    This article is from Wall Street, nb. What it seems to be saying is that a lot of Wall Street brokers would do very nicely out of a share price rise if Mr McNealy stepped down. Well, they would say that wouldn't they? What the article does not mention at all is a credible strategy to secure Sun's future prosperity, if one can be found. Without that, it doesn't matter whether McNealy, Schwartz or for that matter Donald Duck is at the helm.

    Just my 2 cents, but whatever you think of him Scott McNealy is a colourful and entertaining character in an industry of direly grey men. I'd be sorry to see him go, at least until he'd found a new home for Sun as it is hard to see how it can continue on its own for that much longer.
    • My take on the Wall Street crowd is that they have a poor understanding of what makes the industry tick and what may be good for Wall Street on the short term is not necessarily good for the customers. Sun's stock performance since the bottom of the market (post bubble) has been better than the blue chips. The stock price is still w-a-y below the peak, but the peak stock was pure bubble.

  • ... everybody's days are numbered... It would be very cool to have them in alphabetical order...
  • I mean the man's mortal, like everyone else...

    I mean, he is, right? Can we get confirmation on this?
  • If this is true it would seem the board would like to put Sun up for sale.

  • "May the Schwartz be with you." God knows Sun needs a helping hand. Maybe they should let Steve Jobs take over the company? Or sell everything to IBM?
  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @01:11PM (#15166173)
    They've been so obsessed with Microsoft that they failed to see that their biggest threat was IBM. Sun could have easily come in and preempted IBM by making the transition to OpenSolaris sooner, heavily supporting Linux in a real way earlier and making a name for itself in open source sooner. Imagine if they'd started 7-8 years ago with supporting PostgreSQL on their systems and actively developing it into something that was a quality part of their software stack (not saying it's a bad DB). How about if they'd done the official port of Java to Linux, instead of making Blackdown do work on it until Linux became too strong to ignore?

    Their leaders are arrogant and resistant to change. That's a bad combination when you're in a competitive field where swallowing your pride and accomodating your users is the most important way of making money.
    • As an ex Sun employee I can assure you that Sun has always been well aware of the threat that IBM posed. Having being partly responsible for disposing of DEC Sun was always rubbing directly up against IBM after that.

      I agree that Sun could have OpenSourced Solaris earlier, but there where practical difficulties in doing this such as who owned the rights to all the Solaris components etc which meant that it was always going to take a long time.

      Sun clearly misjudged the OpenSource communities obsession
  • by wsanders ( 114993 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @01:21PM (#15166267) Homepage
    Sun is a shadow of its former self and it doesn't have to do with McNealy, except to the extent that he could make the rounds and "moticate" people. Personally:

    - Tried to call Sun 4 times to get quotes for hardware and support contracts. Did not get hold of a human, phone system made me leave messages each time. No one ever returned my calls.

    - All Sun's patches, and their treasure trove of support information, SunSolve, is behind a paid firewall now, and you need to buy a support contract to get access. See item above. Why not just a support subscription I can charge to my credit card. Zillions of people would probably pay $500 per year for that. I would, gladly.

    - We bought several of the new X4100 boxes. Nicely designed, but serial console management did not work in Solaris 10 (or else required a fistful of undocumented hacks), and the LOM remote console was buggy and crashed a couple of times, requiring a system power cycle. We sent the servers back.

    - It takes me twice as long to build any OSS on Solaris - no one is really developing on it consistently. Ever tried building Firefox on Solaris?

    Basically, this is all execution. It's just easier to buy something other than a Sun. If need a Web server, I can have a Linux host installed and up from CDROM in 15 min, 45 min if I care about building the absolute latest version of Apache or an obscure Apache module.
    • I am about to evaluate a X4100. Could you please point out how you found the LOM problems so that I can test out my system to make sure it works?

      Also, I am interested in any other issues you had with the X4100.

      • The LOM just randomly hung. I would suggest just pounding it I guess. Try connecting from different marginally compatible browsers like older Mozillas. Use the virtual console applet heavily.

        The other issues were that we just could not get consistent serial port access all the way through the boot process. The documentation was either nonexistent of inconsistent (like, it said to supply the /devices path for the serial port as a kernel parameter, but never said what those values were except that it was "har
  • I thought Hu rather than Mr. Scott McNealy heard a heckler say, "Your days are numbered." At around the same time, Scott McNealy just read a Chinese fortune cookie saying "according to the sun, your days are numbered." Hu knows why...
  • Scott never gives up (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AlexOsadzinski ( 221254 ) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @01:34PM (#15166406) Homepage
    I worked for Sun for 7 years, some of that time at VP level, so I got to know Scott, and work with/for him. He taught me an important lesson: never, ever, give up. There were at least two occasions when I was sent out to fight "hopeless" battles for Sun against the arrayed masses of competition. He pushed hard to not give up in the face of impossible odds, and we won.

    He never gives up.

    It's very easy to armchair quarterback what Sun and Scott have been doing this past decade or so. Whenever I find myself wondering why my SUNW shares aren't worth a tenth of what I paid for them, I'm tempted to think of how I could run the company better than Scott. And then I realize that my puny mind can't come up with anything. The company generates cash, employs a lot of people and satisfies a lot of customers. Scott's never been afraid to remake the company (I lived through the transition from technical workstations to commercial servers and that was quite something), but there's only so much that you can do.

    I have no clue what's going on inside the company now but, of one thing I'm sure: if Scott does step aside, it's because he thinks that it's the best thing for the company. He's given everything to it for over 20 years, and could easily have taken the "go lie on a beach" path years and years ago.
    • I remember reading an interview in a business mag about 10 years ago, when the Sparcs were lagging everyone and IBM/HP were gaining market share. His comment was along the lines of, "yeah, everyone's waiting at the end of the runway for us, and not because they think we're going to take off." Then they did take off. I'll admit having thought, "well, they're day is done this time", more than once, and each time they come back. If Scott goes, I hope that attitude of fighting on stays.

      And having run bot
  • []

    These aren't two business people finishing a deal! These are comrades, even more THAT'S LOVE! Look at their eyes, how they look at each other, the smiles in their faces, incredible. There's hope for mankind, we're still able to really, really love each other.

    Replacing Scotty would - of course - destroy this enormous love...

    Oh my..., all these feelings...
  • John Howard has spent all but two years of his ten years as PM of Australia having to deal with speculation on when he'll retire - it's an open joke. WRT McNealy similar rumours have passed around for years and years and years also and it's even more stupid for him because he's so much younger.

    In the article it says "Mr. Stahlman wrote a research note about the possibility of a management change in early March." If I were him, I wouldn't be boasting about it.

    "Dusk could be near". That's news with confidence

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.