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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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  • 1. Not enough free soda pop.

    *cue Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra to play something catchy*

    • by creimer (824291)
      I always thought a video game company was going bad when they stop handing out free T-shirts to all the employees.
  • by TheSpoom (715771) * <[ten.00mrebu] [ta] [todhsals]> 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

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

      I wonder if it has more to do with the sale to Oracle that has not been finalized.

      If you're selling your car, you don't want your wife coming out and telling the guy why you're getting rid of it before he hands you the cash.

      I have my own theories on why Sun had to sell [rackserverdeals.com] and surprisingly it had to do with Notes.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by afabbro (33948)

        Sun had to sell and surprisingly it had to do with Notes.

        Yuck, yuck yuck.

        He means notes as in debt, folks. It's not a bad article, but he could have just said "debt" instead of making us think he meant Lotus Notes.

    • by Rakarra (112805)

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

      More importantly, company leadership would like people to forget the past and believe there will be no glaring errors moving forward. It's a bit hard to do that if many of the people who made those decisions are still making decisions at the company and their bad choices are being highlighted.

    • You would have thought in their decline from 200 billion to 7 billion someone would have said at some point - hey what the heck is going on here?

  • I hope he'll find another way to speak up. Maybe at a later time. I would be looking forward to it. It was an interesting read.
  • 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 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.
      • by anlprb (130123) on Friday May 01, 2009 @03:13PM (#27791367)

        I still can't get Sun. They killed the product they would eventually try to use to save the company. They killed their current flagship product and then ran scared back to it when they found out their servers were being replaced by Linux on X86. How did they think they were going to justify a proprietary system (SPARC, Solaris) when there was a perfectly reasonable replacement at a great price point (Linux, X86)? Java is nice, but it won't get them far, and what else do they have? Really? Cloud computing and redundant NAS using COTS parts have eaten any lunch they had. Maybe they are just the most current buggy whip maker... I would hate to see them go, but at least any good parts of Sun are GPL'ed. Sorry to see you go, but maybe it's just time.

        http://www.save-solaris.org/schwartz-2006-08-18.html [save-solaris.org]

        • by mzs (595629) on Saturday May 02, 2009 @01:27AM (#27796175)

          What happened is it was a short sighted save our jobs not their jobs issue. The suits in Palo Alto and Sunnyvale saw that cuts were coming. They were able to convince people including Zander that a great way to save money was to kill Solaris/x86, it had been suffering for years already due to limited staff and budget. Again the reason was that the people doing sparc and asic were afraid so that is why solaris/x86 was kept in such a sorry state. Heck they even had the people doing a large chunk of the x86 work in LA away from the rest of ON in Menlo Park.

          Anyway solaris/x86 was EOLed and almost everyone in LA working on it lost their jobs or got reassigned. But at almost the moment that solaris/x86 was EOLed there was quite a strong grassroots uprising outside of Sun about this, and it simply became impossible to not take notice. When Zander left, the correct direction was taken by embracing amd64.

          When I was there I did some x86 work. Hammer was announced. I voiced an opinion that we should get involved, and boy did that open a can of worms. Eventually through a contact at AMD in the UK I was able to get a person in Sun and a person at AMD to get in touch and we were sent three prototype Hammer boxes. What did those rascals at Sun do? They had them transferred to the SUNWpro (compilers) people instead. No they did not get one to them, one to ON (OS/Networking), and one to the x86 people in LA. The compiler group just sat on them. That infuriated me at the time and shortly after that I started looking for a new job pretty much entirely due to my disgust with how that was handled.

          Here is another nugget, a second level manager told me to distance myself as much as possible from x86 just before it was announced that solaris/x86 was EOLed.

          That is the sort of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd level managerial thinking that was the root cause of all of Suns poor decisions over the last ten years. They were always thinking about how best to serve their own group dept div instead of what was best long term.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

          Throughout Sun's history they have been involved in Open Source projects.

          They didn't back Linux as much as they did their own OS, with good reason. But Linux and the GPL are not the only words in Open Source.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by segedunum (883035)

        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 "H

        • 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.

    • It was a Hail Mary pass. It might not work, but it was certain nothing else would.
  • by randyest (589159) on Friday May 01, 2009 @01:36PM (#27789865) Homepage
    ...failing to convince the federal government to give them billions of dollars. It's all the rage among business plans these days.
  • Blame Marketing... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NecroPuppy (222648) on Friday May 01, 2009 @01:37PM (#27789877) Homepage

    It's rarely the engineers who screw things up like that.

    It's the suits who don't understand something and then write press releases / marketting material on their lack of understanding.

    I fondly remember my (then) boss at my first job out of university going, in one day, down to marketting to explain to them how they'd just killed a two million dollar product line because they couldn't be arsed to call first, and then down to HR to explain that they couldn't shorten a job listing to "five years programming experience in [2 year old web technology]" from "five years programming experience and one year in [2 year old web technology]".

    Of course, this was the same man who would go fishing in the middle of a lake (and cell dead zone) during every customer live date, so he didn't have to listen to them complain about the fonts or colors.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by downix (84795)

      I remember in 1996 seeing a job posting requiring "5 years Java experience"... I wonder if it is the same job posting you are referring to.

      • by Andy Dodd (701)

        Sadly, stuff like that is quite common in job postings, for the reasons stated above - the hiring manager's requirements get filtered by HR.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by bdh (96224)

        In 1985, I'd spent about a year and a half doing contract PC work with various versions of Lattice C (2.0 bad, 2.01 better, 2.10 really bad, 2.11 bad, 2.12 good) and was looking for a new contract.

        Two local shops were advertising for "DOS based C programmers" at the time, so I applied.

        The first one rejected me because they were an Microsoft C shop, and all my experience was with Lattice. The fact that Microsoft was simply reselling Lattice C under their own name seemed to be a revelation to them.

        The second

    • by Jason Levine (196982) on Friday May 01, 2009 @02:32PM (#27790729)

      My own marketing story: I used to work for Windows Magazine. We were a pretty successful publication, or so we thought. One day, everyone was called into a meeting (never a good sign) by our corporate marketing department. They literally told us: "You guys have a great product. Wonderful writing and content. Phenomenal staff. But we don't know how to sell your magazine. So we're killing it." Yes, because *they* couldn't figure out what to do with *our* great content, *they* decided that we needed to be fired.

      Luckily, I survived that as the shut-down magazine went Dot-Com-only (WinMag.com). We figured we were pretty safe since we were the biggest traffic draw our company had. But then came an impromptu phone meeting (again, never a good sign) during which our corporate overlords told us that they had come to a decision. Instead of producing their own content, they would pull other people's content and show that. How successful were they? Well, when's the last time you visited Techweb.com? Personally, I never visit it and even had to Google it to make sure I had the name right!

    • by mikael (484)

      so he didn't have to listen to them complain about the fonts or colors.

      Didn't the software support personal configuration files so that users could select their own default fonts and colors? There is nothing more annoying that having fonts that constantly
      change between updates according to the personal preferences of whoever put together this months bug-fix update. A font like "Battlestar Galactica" may look cool when rendered with a chrome finish, but it doesn't go down to well when sending this months pro

    • by bjourne (1034822)

      If Sun's marketing were so bad, then Java wouldn't be the worlds most used programming language today. I think they have done a bang up job with that. Remember all those job ads from 97-99 sometime requiring 5+ years of Java experience? That's successful marketing.

      Java wasn't and isn't something revolutionary but they managed to convince every PHB in the world to believe that. From a technical perspective, there is nothing special about the language. In almost all situations where it is used there are bette

  • Correction (Score:4, Funny)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Friday May 01, 2009 @01:38PM (#27789885) Homepage Journal

    Dan Baigent was senior director of corporate development with Sun Microsystems.

    FTFY.

          L.E.

     

  • 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 Machtyn (759119) on Friday May 01, 2009 @02:38PM (#27790833) Homepage Journal
      Sorry about making my response political, but your post reminds me of:

      I hate Bush, so I want the war in Iraq to fail.
      I hate Obama, so I want the economy to fail.

      It's the whole crab pulling the other down to prevent escape from certain death. Why is it so hard for people to grasp the concept of failure and death? If a company or system is failing, let it die, if the concept was good, it will be reborn. Let its mistakes be revealed so that we can all learn and grow from them. People will not be able to grow and improve if we all keep making the same mistakes over and over.

      History, it's not just a school topic.

      /me avoided from getting too philosophical about death, resurrection, etc... whew.
    • by anlprb (130123)

      You say this as if there is no one as smart as the blogger employed at IBM... I think they know all of Sun's mistakes already. Sun is the only one who doesn't yet...
      http://www.save-solaris.org/schwartz-2006-08-18.html [save-solaris.org]

  • 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 portscan (140282)

      exactly. in fairness, the buyout price is in the neighborhood of 1/2 of it's post-crash valuation. and pretty much all of that loss in valuation came in 2008, hardly a banner year for equities. as for the business missteps, well who can say how long those have been festering. Sun probably was drinking the kool-aid and believing itself to be the $200bn infallible titan of industry that it was reported to be in 2000. pride commeth before the fall.

    • 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.

      • This comes from how stock prices are calculated. The stock is valued at the price of the last trade. If one person buys 1 share of stock at $1 higher than the previous trade, and there are a billion shares, then the company's value just jumped by $1,000,000,000. But that value jump is only real if everyone keeps buying/selling at that price. It's a system of imaginary money that massively magnifies small fluctuations.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Post dot-com failure Scott McNealy said: [businessweek.com]

      But two years ago we were selling at 10 times revenues when we were at $64. At 10 times revenues, to give you a 10-year payback, I have to pay you 100% of revenues for 10 straight years in dividends. That assumes I can get that by my shareholders. That assumes I have zero cost of goods sold, which is very hard for a computer company. That assumes zero expenses, which is really hard with 39,000 employees. That assumes I pay no taxes, which is very hard. And that assumes you pay no taxes on your dividends, which is kind of illegal. And that assumes with zero R&D for the next 10 years, I can maintain the current revenue run rate. Now, having done that, would any of you like to buy my stock at $64? Do you realize how ridiculous those basic assumptions are? You don't need any transparency. You don't need any footnotes. What were you thinking?

      Wall St was unrealistic during the dot-com era, at least in their advice to others.

      Unfortunately McNealy didn't seem to realize there was a bubble either and didn't react to the crash quick enough. Sun might have borrowed too much during the dot com era [rackserverdeals.com] too.

      • by jonbryce (703250)

        Apple did manage to overtake its dot.com peak. I believe it was the only tech company that did. I guess that is because it was a pretty lousy company back in 2000, and in a much better shape now.

        • Apple didn't have any significant bump [yahoo.com] during the dot-com years compared to other tech companies.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jonbryce (703250)

            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.

            • At the peak of the dot-com era, AAPL was trading about 5 times pre bubble price, Sun was more than 20x, Oracle was about 10x. Yahoo about 30x. Dell around 50x

              Throw in all the IPOs that went nowhere and that little bump AAPL had is not significant.

  • by assantisz (881107) on Friday May 01, 2009 @01:51PM (#27790103)
    Apple, during those times before Jobs came back, that is. Look at the server line-up. Too many CPU options (AMD, Intel, UltraSPARC T line, UltraSPARC IV, SPARC64), too many OS options (Solaris, Linux, Windows), f'ed up renaming and branding attempts of Sun's software stack, very confusing model numbers/names for their servers, getting rid of the highly popular US-IIIi entry-level server line, etc. etc. I've been using Sun servers for a very long time and have been a proponent but the last couple years have been very frustrating with them. They never fixed the performance issue the online support site has, for example. I think Schwartz was not a good choice to lead Sun after McNealy left. There is one good thing that came out of Sun in the last couple years, though: open-sourcing of Solaris.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      > I think Schwartz was not a good choice to lead Sun after McNealy left.
      > There is one good thing that came out of Sun in the last couple years, though: open-sourcing of Solaris.

      I think Schwartz is a closet hippie (witness the pony-tail). He snuck into Sun pretending to be an MBA-bearing preppie, and when he got there, he looked around and said, "SHIT! We'd better open source everything we can before somebody buys us and locks all this great software up forever!"

      • 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 Big Jojo (50231)

        I think Schwartz is a closet hippie (witness the pony-tail). He snuck into Sun pretending to be an MBA-bearing preppie...

        Actually he came as part of the purchase of "Lighthouse Design" (?) which wrote some GUI tools that Sun liked enough to buy (and then obviously to kill). He was in Engineering ... but didn't exactly do anything except politicking. (IMNSHO.)

    • Uhm, IBM has boatloads of CPU options (POWER, PowerPC, x86, Itanium) and they've been doing pretty well.

  • Well, ego.

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

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

      Those in the proverbial crosshair of potential litigation from Oracle?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 01, 2009 @01:53PM (#27790139)

    I worked at Sun briefly. My office was across the corridor from a corner office CTO type. One day I overheard him ranting to someone, wondering 'why anyone would want to use Linux when they could be using Solaris -- that has everything -- instead.'

    I swear the guy was channeling Ken Olsen, when he said: "...the beauty of UNIX is it's simple, and the beauty of VMS is that it's all there."

  • If I did the same thing at my company I would have simply been terminated.

    • by swordgeek (112599)

      Maybe, maybe not. It depends on your contract, and the rules around using the company's "blog space." (wow, that's a terrible expression!)

      Sun has encouraged employees to speak their mind on blogs.sun.com. This is the sort of thing that should be (and was) tolerated.

  • by Kurt Granroth (9052) on Friday May 01, 2009 @01:54PM (#27790155)

    This isn't the only Sun censorship going on. Tim Bray [wikipedia.org] (of XML fame, now Sun's Director of Web Tech) had a very insightful post on his 'ongoing' [tbray.org] blog comparing Sun's strengths and weaknesses with Oracle's. It was up for all of a day before the lawyers stepped in and made him take it down.

    It was all in vain, of course -- caches and copies will beat redactions every time. Here's one copy:

    Us and Them [acm.org]

    Interesting stuff!

    • This isn't the only Sun censorship going on. Tim Bray [wikipedia.org] (of XML fame, now Sun's Director of Web Tech) had a very insightful post on his 'ongoing' [tbray.org] blog comparing Sun's strengths and weaknesses with Oracle's. It was up for all of a day before the lawyers stepped in and made him take it down.

      Well, yeah. Bray should have the good sense to wait until the f'in merger closes.

  • by joib (70841) on Friday May 01, 2009 @01:54PM (#27790159)

    Ironically, a couple of decades ago they were sitting there with literally the keys to the realm in their hands, and they threw them away. Back in the late 80's they introduced the Sun386i workstation, featuring (drumroll..) Intel's 386 processor and a 386 port of SunOS. This was a proper preemptive multitasking OS with 32-bit virtual memory and a decent GUI, far ahead of Windows 2.x at the time. Not only that, it also had a functioning DOS emulator, allowing the machine to run MS-DOS programs. By focusing on x86, and selling SunOS/x86 for $50 or so they could have become the Microsoft of today.

    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. Of course, as TFA says, they re-entered the x86 game in 2002, but by then it was too little, too late.

    The failure to see the cost effectiveness afforded by the massive volumes of x86 chips Intel was turning out is all the more damning considering the main reason they had become the dominant unix workstation vendor wasn't that their hardware or software was leagues ahead of their competitors, but rather that they were cheaper.

    • 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 Big Jojo (50231) on Friday May 01, 2009 @04:49PM (#27792535)

      Ironically, a couple of decades ago they were sitting there with literally the keys to the realm in their hands, and they threw them away. Back in the late 80's they introduced the Sun386i workstation, featuring (drumroll..) Intel's 386 processor and a 386 port of SunOS. This was a proper preemptive multitasking OS with 32-bit virtual memory and a decent GUI, far ahead of Windows 2.x at the time. Not only that, it also had a functioning DOS emulator, allowing the machine to run MS-DOS programs. By focusing on x86, and selling SunOS/x86 for $50 or so they could have become the Microsoft of today.

      The Sun386i product line was what got Sun onto huge quantities of financial market desktops, and got Sun beyond Engineering/Server markets in a major way.

      And they were set to be the first to market with (drumroll) the Sun486i workstation, which worked even better. In fact it out-performed the first SPARC generation... can't have that! They invested in SPARC to get founder Andy Bechtolsheim to come back! (He wanted to design CPU chips, and that wasn't really practical at a company making primo commodity-based systems.)

      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.

      But the Sun386i was a workstation, not a PC. The big apps were CAD tools and financial analysis packages. One reason it was popular at customer sites was however that if you had one, you didn't need TWO honking big pieces of computer hardware at your desk. The same one could handle all that PC stuff (which you needed regularly) as well as the hefty stuff (which you needed constantly).

      The real issues with x86 were political ... sometimes masquerading as strategic. It was developed on the East cost, not the west. Keeping Andy; not having to deal with the fact that the engineering culture on the west coast was aggressively blind to a lot of issues. Wanting to see themselves as Sun Gods. Even the desire to avoid investment in DOS/Windows compatibility, despite the customer demand for it.

      So they introduced their own hardware, SPARC, and discontinued SunOS/x86.

      They gave the Sun386i product line a nice lingering death, though, then more or less excised it from their corporate histories. That all the wood behind one arrow buzz-phrase, widely used inside Sun for a while, was all about getting rid of non-SPARC product lines. And stifling dissent.

      Another factor was that the Sun386i products had a different -- and more Apple-influenced -- design approach. Maybe it was realistic to focus on higher margins for a while. But the level of internal censorchip it took to ignore everything the '386i stood for (and Sun itself once stood for) ... was intensely damaging over the long term. A lot of upper level Sun engineers and managers internalized those battles so deeply they just kept blinders on.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by atrimtab (247656)

        We used Sun386i's for commodity trading workstations. They were fantastic. You could run multiple MS-DPS instances with all the MS-DOS applications. You could even use PC hardware with box DOS and SunOS simultaneously. All while running large trading apps in SunOSin Sunview or X11. (But you had to build your own X11.)

        Adding a parallel printer interface to a Sun386i was a $50 card at Fry's. It cost at least $800 on any other Sun product at the time. Almost any ISA hardware could be made to work if you could

      • by joib (70841)

        But the Sun386i was a workstation, not a PC.

        Sure, I agree. My point was that by taking x86 as the strategic platform rather than SPARC they could have taken advantage of the economies of scale of x86, and thanks to the DOS compatibility they even had a window of opportunity to take on Microsoft on the desktop before MS got their act together with NT.

        Of course, ultimately the x86 commodification of the workstation, low-end, and mid-range server markets would have forced them to reduce HW prices in ord

    • With one minor problem - it cost almost $8000 as I recall.

  • Oh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by immcintosh (1089551) <slashdot@NOspam.ianmcintosh.org> on Friday May 01, 2009 @02:23PM (#27790569) Homepage

    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?

    Apple begs to differ.

  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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 overwhelm

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        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 nabsltd (1313397) on Friday May 01, 2009 @03:47PM (#27791767)

      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?

      One problem is that the very latest SPARC chips ("CoolThreads") are outperformed on a per-core basis by the much cheaper Intel Core i7.

      A fairly nice 16-core Core i7 motherboard/CPUs/RAM config will cost around $1000. Sure, you'll have to add disks, a case to put it in, etc., but those costs are essentially the same regardless of what CPU architecture is being used. And, you can get the Intel system from a variety of vendors (HP, Dell, etc.).

      The SPARC version will cost closer to $4000 (tough to call, because you can't get the raw motherboard), and run at 1.4GHz instead of 2.66GHz.

      Then there's virtualization, which Sun uses to claim SPARC is lower cost because it comes free while you must pay $4000+ for x86 virtualization on an equivalent system. One problem with this claim is that SPARC only allows you to virtualize Solaris, while x86 virtualization allows you to virtualize Windows, BSD, Linux, etc. The second problem is that there are many free hypervisors for x86 that are as good as the one included with Solaris...it's only the enterprise-class easy-to-manage ones that cost money.

      • by rackserverdeals (1503561) on Friday May 01, 2009 @04:29PM (#27792299) Homepage Journal

        One problem is that the very latest SPARC chips ("CoolThreads") are outperformed on a per-core basis by the much cheaper Intel Core i7.

        The point of the coolthreads servers aren't to go core to core with other CPUs. The strength of those systems is the number of cores you can get in a single system. A T5440 supports 4 T2 Plus prcoessors which gives you 32 cores. The CoolThreads servers also the number of threads. A 4 socket Core i7 server only has 32 threads while a T5440 has 256.

        The Core i7 is also not a server class processor, it is meant for the desktop and gaming market. It doesn't support ECC memory.

        The Nehalem based Xeon processors will be coming out this year will support up to 8 cores 16 threads per socket.

        That might be closer, but the Niagara line of processors are still quite different. I think the Nehalem Xeon processors will be more like Rock so it will be interesting to see head to head comparisons of those systems when they eventually come out.

        But that's besides the point. Niagara based servers have been shipping for years and other than the Mac Pro workstation that came out recently, the Nehalem Xeon systems haven't started shipping yet.

        • by merky1 (83978) on Friday May 01, 2009 @05:24PM (#27792907) Journal

          The point of the coolthreads servers aren't to go core to core with other CPUs. The strength of those systems is the number of cores you can get in a single system. A T5440 supports 4 T2 Plus prcoessors which gives you 32 cores.

          And even with the "32 cores", the Niagara was beaten out by cheaper x86 servers.

          http://h71028.www7.hp.com/ERC/cache/280124-0-0-0-121.html [hp.com]

          Sun basically killed themselves by canceling the Sparc line. They never ramped the clocks on cores, and the multi-threaded model that they designed towards was a fringe case at best.

          • by joib (70841)

            Sun basically killed themselves by canceling the Sparc line. They never ramped the clocks on cores, and the multi-threaded model that they designed towards was a fringe case at best.

            Another way of seeing it, their volume*margin for SPARC was so low that they couldn't afford to keep up in the single-thread performance race with Intel, AMD and IBM. Short of completely getting rid of SPARC, cookie-cutter copying many simple and slow cores on a die was a cheap choice their budget did allow. And it does wel

          • Sun didn't cancel the SPARC line.

            That article you link to is years old and is about a the first generation of Niagara processors, T1, sun has addressed some of the issues with the T1 in the T2 and T2 plus.

    • Sun's mistakes go back a ways. They explored display Postscript, and discarded it in favor of X11. While X11 was open source, display Postscript was much faster and easier to program in, and gave cleaner displays. But they then screwed up X11, proprietizing it and making it incompatible.

      Sun's marketing plans have also failed miserably by refusing to admit that people wanted better versions of what already worked, rather than the "next big marketing plan". The switch to from SunOS to Solaris for the sun4m ar

    • The ironic thing is that if Sun did all the items listed, they would be still out of business. The company wanted to make it big with its hardware and the "x86 movement" (i.e. commodity hardware) killed it--it was inevitable. Really, the list isn't why Sun failed, but more of why Linux has only a 1% market share [slashdot.org] today. Sun could have made Linux take off, we all would not be running Windows on "some-box" in our network, but they choose not to--hence why it is dead and why Linux is still where is was [at leas
  • by Brandybuck (704397) on Friday May 01, 2009 @02:32PM (#27790721) Homepage Journal

    It's the nature of large organizations. Brandybuck's law states that the collective intelligence of an organization is inversely proportional to its size. That applies to chess clubs, corporations, and governments. The larger the company, the dumber they are.

    It's even been shown to be true via economic analysis. The top down control of a firm hinders the natural distribution of localized information. This affects all firms, but with small organizations it's just background noise. But above a certain size firms will become so bogged down in process that they cease to operate. Which is why large companies artificially divide themselves up into smaller semi-autonomous divisions. And why huge multinationals only exist only in an environment where government hands out special privileges and subsidies like candy. Leftists like to bitch about businesses running government, and the right about governments running businesses. But they're both the same thing, shielding businesses from the natural market mechanisms that would otherwise limit their size.

    Yeah, it's sad that Sun is squashing openness, and sad that they can't see it's ultimately bad for them. But you can't expect much else from a corporation of their size.

    • by XanC (644172)

      Have you read Confederates in the Boardroom? It's about how decentralizing can make things more efficient.

  • They are a little younger than MicroSoft and Apple.
    Sun did a lot of interesting things in its first decade like pioneer networking, build one of the earliest usable graphics computers, and the best flavor of UNIX. They stumbled in the 1990s before briefly recovering with JAVA, then downhill again.
  • They'll announce the failings or let folks talk after they get new jobs somewhere else.

    .
    .

    Interview Tip #1: Don't B*tch about your previous company during an interview! Wait until you get the job first.

  • by mzs (595629) on Saturday May 02, 2009 @03:42AM (#27796735)

    so somebody better post them here for posterity, and I guess that will be me.

    End of an Icon
    It's been quite a while since I've written anything in my blog. Having worked for the Corporate Development group at Sun for the past 3 1/2 years, I've had to be very careful about what I posted on a public blog. I felt it was better to be safe than sorry, so I've left it to the many other prolific bloggers at Sun to tell our story.

    But with the recent announcement that Sun will become part of Oracle, I feel able for the first time to talk about how we got here. Not about the Oracle acquisition itself, but rather how we as a company came to the point where seeking an acquirer was the best way forward. Granted, 2009 is one of the most challenging years in decades and many companies are struggling, but when I joined Sun in 1997, we had the technology world by the tail and were poised to become as influential and lucrative as our more famous rivals (Microsoft, IBM, Intel, HP and even Oracle). So as excited as I am about becoming part of Oracle (there were many far worse options in my opinion), it still feels a little anti-climatic.

    So as a sort of "post mortem" on the company, I'd like to examine where I think Sun really missed its opportunities. Some things are only obvious in hind sight, but many of these things are things I've spent my career at Sun advocating and attempting to drive forward. Maybe this is a bit of sour grapes on my part, but mostly this is just an attempt to say externally some of what I've been saying internally at Sun for most of my tenure, now that our future as a Corporation is moving out of our hands.

    I will call this my "Top 10 Reasons Sun is Setting". In typical Top 10 fashion, I will start with the #10 Reason Sun is Setting and work my way up to the #1 reason. I know there is a lot of opinion on this topic out there, so feel free to comment as you see fit. I think we may all find this cathartic.

    Posted on: Apr 23, 2009
    Posted by: dbaigent
    Category: Sun

    Comments:

    Don't blame employees. Just look back at the Sun very recent history. December 2008 : Southeastern Asset Management enter the board. April 20, Southeastern Asset Management sells all its stocks : http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idINN2150514720090421?rpc=44 [reuters.com].
    Think about that.

    Posted by Dominique on April 23, 2009 at 09:36 AM PDT #

    I have a question for you Sir
    When you hear that Oracle wants to make 15% profit in the first year, are you embarressed? I mean you (and the other managers) could have cut all those useless projects that Oracle will cut now years ago, couln't you? Does it really need Larry Ellison to make a company with 13bn revenue and 55% gross margin profitable?

    Posted by Mista on April 23, 2009 at 10:36 AM PDT #

    I don't blame employees - at least not the rank-and-file. Sun is full of great, dedicated, energetic people who have done some incredible things with technology. Better than our rivals. My comments will be more on missed opportunities and poor strategies, not on the failure of any specific employees.

    Posted by dbaigent on April 23, 2009 at 11:43 AM PDT #

    No, I am not embarrassed by the idea that Oracle might turn a profit when Sun alone could not. It's easy to turn a profit by slashing jobs. Sun has been trying to turn a profit through increasing revenues, which is much harder.

    Posted by dbaigent on April 23, 2009 at 11:50 AM PDT #

    Increase revenue? With what?
    - with Looking Glass? Darkstar? Wonderland?
    - with a webserver?
    - with support fees of 1000$/socket for an application server or a database while direct competitors charge at least 20x that much?
    - with cutting prices for products (Openstorage or Niagara) ?

    Posted by Mista on April 23, 2009 at 12:31 PM PDT #

    The strategy for increased revenue depended on increasing the attach rate for existing products by leveraging communities of customers who

    • by mzs (595629) on Saturday May 02, 2009 @03:46AM (#27796753)

      We failed to understand the x86 Market

      It often gets mentioned by the press and certain analysts that Sun didn't get into the x86 market soon enough, or strong enough, or didn't drop SPARC when it should have, or some other such criticism. I believe Sun entered the x86 market when it had to (our first foray into the market was the oft-lamented LX50 server back in 2002) and has done a decent job (with the help of Andy Bechtolsheim) at differentiating our offerings while maintaining a competitive price (although margins are another matter altogether).

      The problem is we didn't understand the x86 market. We approached the market in the only way we knew how - as an extension of our high-end, low-volume, high-value approach to network computing. And not just in terms of product features and capabilities, but in terms of sales, partnerships, channel programs and supply chain management. We've been improving over the years, but we still have a channel strategy that leverages our traditional partners and programs and does not effectively take our volume products to volume customers.

      Our other mistake was to allow our strategy for proliferating Solaris on x86 to overshadow our need to drive volume for our x86 business. Although Sun has been offering Linux on our x86 systems since 2003 and has recently entered into OEM agreements with both Microsoft and VMWare, our focus as a company has been exclusively on Solaris. It is the only OS we pre-install on our hardware. The key to gaining momentum in the channel is to provide the environments that customers want, which for x86 is still predominantly Linux and Windows. We needed to focus on Solaris, but in the area of ISV recruitment and creating solutions that uniquely leverage Solaris and add value to customers, thereby creating demand. By failing to promote other OS offerings and solutions within the channel, we became a niche player in their mind and ultimately became an after thought in their sales to end users. Volume drives the channel, the channel drives volume and volume is the only way to make money in the x86 market.

      We've been getting smarter about this lately and over time we would have eventually gotten this right. And we've made progress on the Solaris side, so overall this was not going to bankrupt the company. But it has stunted one of the key growth markets for us and helped to keep us in the "expensive, proprietary system" box that our competitors painted for us, so it has contributed to our lackluster stock performance. For this and other reasons, it is my #10 Reason for Sun to be Setting.
      Posted on: Apr 24, 2009
      Posted by: dbaigent
      Category: Sun

      Comments:

      No, the LX50 was not the first. Sun386i was - yes, off your main point here, but it's nice to know your past.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun386i [wikipedia.org]

      Posted by RNC on April 24, 2009 at 09:34 AM PDT #

      You're right RNC. Thanks for keeping me honest.

      Posted by dbaigent on April 24, 2009 at 10:14 AM PDT #

      Can you comment a bit, how x86 affected your SPARC sales? Did you loose a lot of SPARC64 or Niagara customers because of your x64 offerings?
      Thanks

      Posted by Dennis on April 25, 2009 at 01:10 AM PDT #

      Dennis,

      There have clearly been circumstances where a customer who would otherwise have purchased a SPARC-based system instead chose to buy an x64-based system, but that was rarely because Sun offered one. In other words, it was rare for Sun to "lose" a SPARC-based system sale because of our own x64 offerings. More often, a customer would show a preference for x64 (for real or imagined benefits of that system architecture) and by having an x64-based offering, Sun could keep that customer. The problem in my mind was that our x64 strategy prevented us from truly leveraging x64 to gain new customers, nit that it cost us any existing customers.

      Posted by dbaigent on April 25, 2009 at 05:43 PM PDT #

      I had a 386i, it was 20 grand list, but I bought it for 500 quid. It cam

    • by mzs (595629) on Saturday May 02, 2009 @03:51AM (#27796767)

      Messing with the Java Brand

      Much has been said and will be said about how Sun "blew it" with Java - mostly around the lack of contribution by the technology to Sun's bottom line. But this #9 reason for the Setting Sun is not so much about lack of Java revenue (that's actually a rather complicated story), but rather about the numerous attempts by well-meaning marketing folks at Sun to try exploit the value of the Java brand itself and how that ultimately reduced the very value they tried to exploit. To some degree, this is as much about the lack of value in the Sun brand (at least outside our loyal customer base) as it is about Java. After all, if we had sufficient value in the Sun brand there would be no need to try to leverage the Java brand in other areas. But I believe our attempts to leverage the hard-fought value of the Java brand ultimately back-fired, diminishing both the Sun brand and the Java brand.

      In the earlier days of Java, the technology was managed by an independent "operating company" called JavaSoft, with its own marketing, sales, products and brand management. There were numerous discussions and debates within JavaSoft about the use of the Java brand and for the most part there was a strong focus on associating the brand with the promise of the technology - that old idea of "write once, run anywhere". There were several brand campaigns around Java - there was the concept of "Java Compatible" for licensees of the technology, "100% Pure Java" for application providers, "Java Powered" for devices, etc. - some of which were very successful, others were branding duds. But there was always a careful consideration of the term "Java" and how we would allow it to be used - both internally and externally.

      Fast forward to around 2003 and Sun is struggling to regain its former dot-com glory. We're coming off the painful Netscape-AOL alliance (more on that later) and we're struggling to find a way to express our remarkably robust software assets through a brand. We'd abandoned the confused "iPlanet" brand (which suffered from under-promotion and a "who's your daddy" syndrome between Sun and AOL) and were struggling with the equally confusing and under-promoted "Sun ONE" brand. We were also in one of our many post-dot-com-bubble austerity programs, so heavy investment in any brand was not likely to get funded. I can only assume that the branding discussion (which I was not part of) went something like this:

      What's the answer to our branding problem? Java! It's already one of the most recognizable brands in the world and we own it outright. Confused about what Sun ONE Application Server is? Call it the Java Application Server and problem solved! Well, wait - not quite. We can't really call it Java Application Server - that's already an industry standard term for Java EE implementations like IBM's Websphere and BEA's Weblogic and we don't want to further promote them. So let's call it Sun Java Application Server! Wait - hold on. That's likely to get confused with Sun's Java Application Server, which isn't very "brandy" and would be like saying "Sun's Operating System" for Solaris. Not good. Okay - how about Sun Java System Application Server! Yeah! That means it's not just an Application Server, but it is part of a system! Great! All our software is part of a "system"! Now we have a convention for all our software assets! The Sun Java System (fill in your product function here)!

      This lead to a proliferation of product names like Sun Java System Access Manager, Sun Java System Identity Manager, Sun Java System Directory Proxy Server, Sun Java System Web Proxy Server and on and on. The problem was not only was this a messy and cumbersome branding campaign, it was diluting the Java brand both within it's own convoluted convention and the broader technology market. Did Sun Java System Web Proxy Server have any Java in it at all? Did it manage the proxies of a Java web server or any web server? And if Sun was not going to use the Java brand to describe Java technologies, why would anyone els

    • by mzs (595629) on Saturday May 02, 2009 @03:54AM (#27796785)

      Fumbling Jini

      Just an aside...

      Before I go any further, let me just admit up front that I have a specific software bias in my perspective. Most bean-counter analysts will rightly say that the primary reason for Sun to be setting is that we didn't keep our stock price up and that we could have through a variety of financial measures, most notably more lay-offs. But in my opinion, the ability to keep the stock price up is directly related to how a company exploits all its market advantages over time, and I believe that the primary failures for Sun are in the areas of exploiting its software assets, not in a lack of aggressive job cuts.

      Building to the "Next Big Thing"

      When I joined Sun in January of 1997, Java technology had already transformed Sun from a technical workstation and server company into a software powerhouse. The 1997 JavaONE conference was the largest software developer conference ever held at the time. And Sun was charting an aggressive course for the technology, introducing Java Beans, JDBC, Abstract Windowing Toolkit (AWT), PersonalJava, EmbeddedJava, JavaCard, Enterprise Java Beans, Java Naming and Directory Interfaces, and on and on. And we quietly introduced something called Remote Method Invocation, or RMI. Interestingly, RMI, (along with another interface called Java Native Interface, or JNI), was one of the two aspects of Java 1.1 that Microsoft found so threatening that they refused to implement them in their Java 1.1.4 runtime, causing Sun to sue Microsoft over breach of contract.

      RMI is actually a relatively innocuous technology that allows the Java software components (called "objects") in one Java environment (called a "virtual machine", or VM) to talk to Java objects running in another VM. This type of process enables something called "distributed computing", a concept that had been around for years in various forms (some of the more common ones were Common Object Request Broker Architecture, or CORBA, and Microsoft's own Component Object Model Plus, or COM+). Distributed computing enabled software systems to become distributed around a network and still cooperate in solving a given compute task. RMI introduced a Java-specific way to accomplish this and it turns out that by having the same type of objects on both sides of a distributed computing model, the whole process became much simpler and more powerful (CORBA and COM+ allowed objects of different types, like Visual Basic and COBOL, to talk to one another and required a complex set of request brokers and foreknowledge of the application in order to work). What was needed was some form of dynamic finding service where Java objects could register themselves and, using Java-specific capabilities like Reflection and Introspection, determine how to interact with one another at run-time.

      Jini Jumps out of the Wrong Bottle

      In 1998, Sun introduced something we called Jini. According to and interview with Bill Joy in Wired Magazine, "The Net made it possible. Java made it doable. Jini might just make it happen". What was "it"? It was the idea that the Network really could become the Computer, making Sun's long quoted catch phrase a reality. It was the idea that if every computing device in a network could run Java and RMI, then creating networks of applications that could easily describe themselves, broadcast their capabilities to the network and join up with other devices to create distributed compute networks would be greatly simplified. And by doing it all in Java, it could be programmatic and automated. Jini was the architecture that made the value of Java running everywhere leveragable. And don't forget that Bill Joy was Sun's resident genius and a strong proponent of both the idea of Jini and its development.

      So what happened? How could a technology that was the brain child of Sun's resident genius and part of what Microsoft considered to be such a threat end up as a barely noticed project run by Apache? One obvious answer is that, like so many Sun products and technologies, it was a solution

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