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The End of Sun Microsystems?

1 reply on 1 page. Most recent reply: Feb 19, 2003 1:17 AM by Frank Sommers

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Bill Venners

Posts: 2244
Nickname: bv
Registered: Jan, 2002

The End of Sun Microsystems? Posted: Feb 16, 2003 4:03 AM
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Robert Cringly writes, "We burn our fields in Silicon Valley, then plow the ashes under and start anew. It is perfectly natural, then, for companies to die here, but that doesn't mean there is no room for regret and nostalgia. So today I look with nostalgia on Sun Microsystems and hope -- probably in vain -- that the company doesn't die."

http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit20030213.html

Here's an excerpt from this pbs.org article:

Sun did not invent the engineering workstation, but they certainly perfected it. But where are workstations today? Gone, for the most part. Sun's workstation business is about the same size as SGI's, which is to say small. Sun is now a server company, but that won't last long either under the onslaught of Linux. Cheap Intel and AMD hardware running Linux is going to kill Sun unless the company does something so stop it, which they aren't.

Sun made a big show this week of rolling out its new product strategy, called N1, which pits the company directly against both Microsoft and IBM. Both Napoleon and Hitler learned the hard way that it is not a good idea to fight a war on two fronts, and Sun, which can barely afford to compete against one of those companies, much less both, is about to get the same rueful lesson.


What do you think of the author's comments?


Frank Sommers

Posts: 2642
Nickname: fsommers
Registered: Jan, 2002

Re: The End of Sun Microsystems? Posted: Feb 19, 2003 1:17 AM
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I don't think it's a particularly deep article.

I do believe that the trend is away from big server machines, and towards building computers out of many inexpensive, off-the-shelf (commodity) parts.

But the author of this article somehow missed Sun's latest strategy - which is exactly aimed at building highly reliable systems out of inexpensive computers. Most of the high-end Sun systems are, for all practical reasons, clusters - they contain many independent partitions that can be pooled together for larger computing tasks, or can be dedicated to independent activities. Those partitions might be housed in the same case, or might be shipped in their own encasings (as with "blade" servers).

A lot of people that have real business problems to solve (read: people who have real money), can't afford the time to assemble such clusters themselves and fiddle with configuration, management, etc. So they can just buy one of these clusters-in-a-box or blade-clusters, from Sun, and start running their businesses. Designing and selling those systems makes a compelling business case, even if the current economy does not afford Sun to collect a tidy premium for those systems (but their margins are still in the 40% range).

I do think, though, that Sun's marketing has really failed to deliver the message of what the company is all about: They're still talking about "friggin' big Web switches" (to quote Scott McNeally), whereas they should be talking about the ability to pay-as-you-go for computation, or "computing by the slice," etc. They need to be able to communicate the company's strategy much better, i.e., come up with "Sun by the Slice" or "SunBricks" etc, etc.,

They also would need to embrace a much bigger part of the open-source development community - a lot of corporate IT folks are either a part of that community, or are "sympathizers." Sun should be their best friend. In other words, they need a marketing strategy. And they would also need to regain the passion of a start-up, and put the buzz back in the com... (or NET?)

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