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Sun Microsystems Censorship

Employee (Almost) Chronicles Sun's Top Ten Failures 194

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the you-can't-stop-the-signal dept.
Business and Open Source pundit Matt Asay picked up on a recent attempt by Sun's Dan Baigent to chronicle the ten largest failures that took the tech giant from a $200 billion peak valuation to the recent buyout by Oracle for a mere $7.4 billion. Unfortunately, Dan only made it to number three on his list before Sun pulled the plug. How long will it take corporate overlords until they finally realize that broad level censorship and trying to control the message are far more harmful than just becoming part of the discourse? "I find that I tend to learn much more from my failures than from my successes. I'd be grateful for the chance to learn from Sun's, too. Sun, please let Baigent continue his countdown. It allows Sun to constructively chronicle its own failings, rather than allowing others to do so in less generous terms."
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Employee (Almost) Chronicles Sun's Top Ten Failures

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  • by TheSpoom (715771) * <slashdotNO@SPAMuberm00.net> on Friday May 01, 2009 @01:31PM (#27789777) Homepage Journal

    Company leadership would like people to think that the company has no failures. Ridiculous, of course, but there you have it.

  • by King_TJ (85913) on Friday May 01, 2009 @01:33PM (#27789811) Journal

    As the original article says, "There may be Securities and Exchange-related reasons for shuttering the posts."

  • So, Schwartz was an nay-sayer on the topic of Open Source for years, and then decided that Open Source would save the company and started promoting it. Open Source is really cool, but it wasn't ever going to save Sun. I can't even begin to wonder how he thought it would.
  • by S7urm (126547) on Friday May 01, 2009 @01:41PM (#27789925)

    I don't see why people would think that Sun, or Oracle for that matter, would want their ineptness broadcast to the world, when the only benefit from doing so would be for others (their competitors especially) to learn from said mistakes. It would be like them saying "Hey IBM, here is a list of what NOT to do in the future." I seriously doubt Oracle would enjoy giving people a play book of things to avoid, as opposed to hoping those mistakes WERE repeated. If anything they should create a list of "mistakes" that they've invented that would help them in regards to their competition reading it, as opposed to hurting themselves.

  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday May 01, 2009 @01:43PM (#27789967) Journal

    How long will it take corporate overlords until they finally realize that broad level censorship and trying to control the message are far more harmful than just becoming part of the discourse?

    Until it's demonstrably true?

    There's a reason so many large institutions want to "control the message", and despite our best wishes to the contrary, it's because controlling the message works. Yes, there are downsides, such as the risk of Streisand effect, but quashing off-message discussion is a proven strategy.

    Managing public relations, and managing your brand, is a useful tool. You're living in a dream world if you think it isn't. That's not to say it's not important to be aware of, and to learn from, institutional shortcomings... but to allow employees to broadcast them far and wide is doing nothing but hurting your brand.

  • by joelgrimes (130046) on Friday May 01, 2009 @01:45PM (#27789989)

    The summary makes a leap of logic. The company was never really worth 200 billion except in the eyes of the guy that bought his shares at $253.88 back in September of 2000.

    So the loss of value isn't strictly due to mistakes the company made. The stock market crash accounts for most of that drop.

  • by geoffrobinson (109879) on Friday May 01, 2009 @01:53PM (#27790133) Homepage

    Well, ego.

    But, really, who cares? Any right thinking person knows some mistakes were made. The deal with Oracle is done.

  • by Dogtanian (588974) on Friday May 01, 2009 @02:16PM (#27790465) Homepage

    The summary makes a leap of logic. The company was never really worth 200 billion except in the eyes of the guy that bought his shares at $253.88 back in September of 2000. So the loss of value isn't strictly due to mistakes the company made. The stock market crash accounts for most of that drop.

    This is akin to people going "OMG! I lost 30% of my pension" or "I just lost £30,000 on my house's value" or whatever; yes, if you measure it from the ridiculous high of the market you "lost" that much, but really, what was it over the medium to long term? The only people who genuinely lose out are those who bought in at the peak of the market.

  • by xleeko (551231) on Friday May 01, 2009 @02:17PM (#27790475)

    But, they weren't interested in playing the massive volumes with razor thin margins game of the PC world, thinking that the unix workstation market was insulated from the PC market. After all, PC's were for chumps running 1-2-3 and Wordperfect. So they introduced their own hardware, SPARC, and discontinued SunOS/x86.

    Yet another example that any large, established, company will never knowingly introduce a new product that might damage the market for an existing product. That is why giving billions to one or two large companies to develop TECHNOLOGY X never seems to work. If you gave the same amount of money to companies with less than 50 people, you would have 12 different versions of TECHNOLOGY X within a year.

    End rant.

  • by xzvf (924443) on Friday May 01, 2009 @02:18PM (#27790487)
    Solaris was made usable by GNU software but by trying to lock Unix into a proprietary environment SUN, IBM and HP nearly caused it to fail when Microsoft came out with a good enough solution with NT. Sure first they started killing of Novell with Windows 3.11 for Workgroups but the Wintel model worked from the ground up. Sun grew to its peak during the dotcom era where Lintel started undercutting the rest of the Unix business around the edges. Maybe if Sun had freed Solaris right after the bust and rode the x86 space with more effort, maybe Solaris would be what Linux is today. The only way to succeed as a technology company in the long run it to put effort into undercutting your own market before someone else does. They figured out what to do, just six years too late. Now we'll see if Oracle is willing to undercut some of its established high margin database market with low margin MySQL. Its going to happen anyway, the question is will they lead and profit from it or just let the business disappear.
  • It would have (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kludge (13653) on Friday May 01, 2009 @02:21PM (#27790541)

    Open Source would have saved Sun, if they had thought of it 18 years ago. But they spent so long fighting it, when they finally flipped no one cared.

  • by hubert.lepicki (1119397) on Friday May 01, 2009 @02:27PM (#27790627)

    Sun apparently didn't do their job *to the very end* at various points.

    1. x86 - they entered the market, but not quite (no desktops, no laptops, no low-cost servers, only big machines). You can run Solaris on x86 but not quite. You can even run it on a laptop and have NVidia accelerator running, but for most people it's still a dream, urban legend as they can't do it at home with their own hardware. Maybe they shouldn't enter x86 at all?

    2. Java cross-platform myth. Write once - run anywhere... not quite. It's very very popular as "enterprise" solution, but most people don't use any Java desktop apps, applets were disaster and JavaFX... later about that!

    3. Open source and their products. We all know Java is open source now (finally, and obviously with large amount of work done by RedHat!), but Solaris? Binary blobs must be included in any build to make it work. Incompatible with GPL libenses, and also not a BSD model - what was that all about? It was like: "yeah we want to be part of open source movement. but you can't fork our code too much".

    4. Failure on building community. This IS a big deal. Linux has got great large community of users/developers/fans. Apple has got it's army of zombie fanboys. Sun tried to build community around OpenSolaris and failed. "Project Kenai", "Zembly" look like half-finished sites. Just compare it with Github (I know it's a bit different usage but hey). The only successful one is Netbeans.org IMHO, but still - could be more successful if they didn't require signing agreement before submitting patches. Hell, I love Netbeans but I won't send them my code so they can use it in closed-source Sun Studio.

    5. Not allowing interested users to use their innovative products. I am a software developer. I write software using Linux. I wanted to try out JavaFX... and you know what? It doesn't run on Linux. I wanted to write widgets on desktop using cutting-edge JVM drag-from-firefox-to-desktop feature, and expected my browser not to crash. I finally wanted x64 Java plugin for years, and once it got here - most people already use OpenJDK.

    6. Desktop Java. Swing could be most popular GUI toolkit today if it integrated nicely with Gnome desktop for years now, if Java could be distributed easily with Debian, and people wrote software for it. No, let's keep Java close till it becomes obsolete on desktop and release it then. Crazy.

    7. Trying to be service provider. OK, sun's hardware is great. Service providers buy Sun's hardware, say data centers. Now, one day, Sun becomes services provider, direct competitor of people who buy hardware from this company. Isn't there a conflict of interests?

    8. No one mainline software. Yeah, sun has Solaris. But also had Linux distro. Bought MySQL, but also had flirted with PostgreSQL, Apache derby. It obviously confuses people, and look at IBM: "Go run Linux and DB2 on our servers".

    9. Bunch of outdated, obsolete software that no one use. Some basic software like shells that come with Solaris were totally out of date till recently. And they still run "innovative" projects that failed many years ago: Project Looking Glass as best example.

    10. Sparc failure. Maybe not exactly a failure. I know it's really great processor family. It has got potential. It's fast, multi-core, modern. Probably made them loose lots of money recently. What went wrong here? Maybe they should license chips for third-parties? Maybe they should build and push desktop/mobile versions? Maybe they should abandon it for PowerPC to provide better compatibility with IBM? I really don't know, but they did something wrong, and giving it's own customers alternative as AMD servers didn't help.

    They did too much things wrong, and maybe too much things in general at the same time rather than concentrate on what brings them profit - their hardware.

  • a priori (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gary W. Longsine (124661) on Friday May 01, 2009 @02:31PM (#27790691) Homepage Journal
    Uh... the guy posted this shit to his blog. He works for the company he's bad mouthing. That's pretty stupid. It doesn't take much "evidence" beyond what the guy already provided. If Sun had many more employees of that caliber, it's little wonder they declined.
  • Re:It would have (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rakarra (112805) on Friday May 01, 2009 @02:32PM (#27790713)

    Open Source would have saved Sun, if they had thought of it 18 years ago. But they spent so long fighting it, when they finally flipped no one cared.

    Worse yet, when you spend that long fighting it and you flip, people don't trust you or your commitment. They'll go with the people who had already been promoting and supporting it for years.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 01, 2009 @03:17PM (#27791415)

    2. Java cross-platform myth. Write once - run anywhere... not quite. It's very very popular as "enterprise" solution, but most people don't use any Java desktop apps, applets were disaster and JavaFX... later about that!

    I think this one is interesting. They came out guns a blazin' about cross-platform in 1994. So many folks got burned, but now, with Java 5 and Java 6, it is remarkable. Probably not perfect but it's far far better than it was back then. The bitter taste people got sort of overwhelmed though. Same with performance, it's consistently faster than Ruby, Python and other alternatives folks suggest but to many it's still "slow." Java was the first language/platform to start out with advocacy, that might be the lesson, if you have marketing and advocacy then you might have problems. Opening it up earlier wouldn't have hurt either.

    10. Sparc failure. Maybe not exactly a failure. I know it's really great processor family. It has got potential. It's fast, multi-core, modern. Probably made them loose lots of money recently. What went wrong here? Maybe they should license chips for third-parties? Maybe they should build and push desktop/mobile versions? Maybe they should abandon it for PowerPC to provide better compatibility with IBM? I really don't know, but they did something wrong, and giving it's own customers alternative as AMD servers didn't help.

    Sparc could have been good, it's not very. You have to really contrive tests to make it look really good, it's not many common use cases these days. Intel should have paid Sun to jump on to Itanium and abandon Sparc 10 years back.

    It sort of seems really really dated and just clueless to me that ZFS and dtrace were somehow supposed to light the world on fire and make it a Sun planet. What percentage of users even know or care what filesystem they are using? How ever small it is, it's probably too many as it is.

  • by hubert.lepicki (1119397) on Friday May 01, 2009 @03:28PM (#27791537)

    It sort of seems really really dated and just clueless to me that ZFS and dtrace were somehow supposed to light the world on fire and make it a Sun planet. What percentage of users even know or care what filesystem they are using? How ever small it is, it's probably too many as it is.

    And the sad thing is that both DTrace and ZFS are amazing products. ZFS with it's snapshots and other features would work great not only in data centres, but also in cheap home backup boxes - an alternative to apple TimeMachine thing. DTrace is like a candy, amazing, powerful tracing framework that I'd love to see more widely used.

  • by swordgeek (112599) on Friday May 01, 2009 @04:01PM (#27791955) Journal

    I think you've got Schwartz exactly backwards. He's pretending to be a cool open-source tech/hippie sort, but in fact is another two-faced incompetent middle-manager who should be left to shuffle paperwork (or alternatively, pick bottles in the alleys).

    That pony tail is a desperate attempt to fit in with the tech staff of Sun's customers. It never worked.

  • by jonbryce (703250) on Friday May 01, 2009 @04:20PM (#27792201) Homepage

    If you use a logarithmic scale [yahoo.com], they had as much of a bump as anyone else.

    On the linear scale it looks flatter because of the huge pre-dot.com slump when they lost their market leading position to Microsoft and the PC manufacturers.

  • Re:It would have (Score:3, Insightful)

    by segedunum (883035) on Friday May 01, 2009 @04:23PM (#27792233)

    Open Source would have saved Sun, if they had thought of it 18 years ago. But they spent so long fighting it, when they finally flipped no one cared.

    They still haven't flipped though. They created a license in the CDDL that is was needlessly GPL incompatible and years later if you want to bootsrap an 'OpenSolaris' system you will need some binary bits and have to do it from Nevada - Sun's blessed OpenSolaris distribution. They wanted the appearance of being open source so they could go to people and say "Hey, we're just like Linux!"

  • by lgw (121541) on Friday May 01, 2009 @04:46PM (#27792493) Journal

    I agree with you 100%. However, from the company's perspective, that's a bad thing. And as we all know, actors tend to act in their own self-interest. That's the foundation of our economic system, for good or bad.

    That's the foundation of human nature, for good or bad. Our economic system is based on dealing with that reality (as opposed to hoping it might become otherwise).

  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday May 01, 2009 @05:11PM (#27792785) Journal

    That's the foundation of human nature, for good or bad. Our economic system is based on dealing with that reality (as opposed to hoping it might become otherwise).

    Yet an individual human is more likely to recognize the personal benefit of acting (erstwhile) altruistically. Human nature includes personal sacrifice for the benefit of others. This is not as common in corporate entities, which our economic system depends upon.

    It's important to note that many actors in our economy are not humans, and so applying human nature to them yields false conclusions.

    This is the same mistake Greenspan made with the concept of self-regulating banks. He assumed the banks would self-regulate since it was in the banks' long-term interests to do so; he depended on human nature (self-interest) to keep the banks from borking the whole economy. Instead, the actors in the economy (the banks) took actions that benefited the decision-makers (upper management) at the banks. So, an economy dependent on self-interest of the actors ran into trouble -- the actors in the economy didn't act out of pure self-interest, they were subverted by indivuduals who stood to gain.

  • Re:It would have (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mzs (595629) on Saturday May 02, 2009 @01:35AM (#27796217)

    I hate how someone always brings this up. It was because of patents and that it needed to be based per file that the CDDL was made. There was no anti Linux conspiracy. It is not incompatible with the GPL, the GPL is incompatible with the CDDL because of demands that the GPL makes in its text. I was there at the time working down the hall from a person very involved with CDDL and open sourcing solaris. There was another person at Sun that made some comments that were frankly lies when no longer an employee and all the FUD about that stems from that.

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