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Commentary
4/25/2007
08:07 PM
Michael Singer
Michael Singer
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Sun At 25 ... Where Is This Company Headed?

Good question. Are Solaris, Sparc,and tape storage gaining momentum? Are you buying Sun products?

Good question. Are Solaris, Sparc,and tape storage gaining momentum? Are you buying Sun products?The last five years were tough for Sun and it was easy to pick on their past technology strategy because it seemed to be soooo 1999. "The network is the computer," "All the wood behind one arrow," "It's mankind against Microsoft." Blah, blah, blah. That blathering doesn't seem to be the case any longer. The company has a renewed vigor now that CEO Jonathan Schwartz is in the seat. That's not to say that chairman and former CEO Scott McNealy was wrong. Many people think he was spot on. Perhaps the cloud has finally lifted from Sun's post-bubble blues.

The shareholders think so and have finally turned around the stock, despite the mixed news (revenue up/server forecast fears) on Tuesday's earnings call.

That said, past performance is in no way a guarantee of future performance , but at least Sun has always had a habit of hiring extremely smart people: Java-master James Gosling; co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim; CTO Greg Papadopoulos; security guru Whitfield Diffie; XML-contributor Tim Bray; Beyond Java engineer Guy Steele; and ZFS guys Jeff Bonwick and Bill Moore.

So what are these guys up to? Guess what, it's not about selling just the servers anymore. Here are some thoughts based on what pundits and analysts are suggesting.

  • Java gets broader wisdom with more of the code going the way of the GPL. Sun still has a chance of beating IBM and Borland in the Java-app department.

  • Mobile Java takes on a new life with the recent acquisition of some assets from SavaJe. More announcements to come at Java One in May.

  • Solaris continues to keep pace with other server operating systems, or at least the OpenSolaris one does. These things do take time to build. Heck, it took Linux nearly a decade before Fortune 500 companies figured out what to do with it.

  • Sparc is to x86 as Sun is to IBM. They all get the job done, just in different ways. If you believe in monoculture, though, analysts are wilder about Sparc's future (e.g. Rock).

  • Keep an eye on Sun's new Streaming System. They already have the contract with Major League Baseball. With the amount of video being posted on the Web, Sun might have a good leg up here.

  • While the acquisition of StorageTek is still a sore spot for bean counters, all of that information on the Web needs to be secured somewhere. "Give me that old time [storage format] religion," could be Sun's other saving throw.

Still, I'm no expert. So you tell me.... Where is Sun headed? Will they be the next big thing all over again?

And if you're interested, Sun is holding an anniversary sale. Think of it more like a sale at Macy's where the clothes are pretty but the stuff on the clearance rack might fit you ... and then again, they might not.

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