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Employee (Almost) Chronicles Sun's Top Ten Failures

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the you-can't-stop-the-signal dept.

Sun Microsystems 194

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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And the number one reason why Sun failed (5, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#27789759)

1. Not enough free soda pop.

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

Re:And the number one reason why Sun failed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27789893)

On the bright side, Oracle provides free soda pop to their employees, so it should be smooth sailing from here on out.

#1 Reason for Sun's Demise... (0, Flamebait)

Gary W. Longsine (124661) | more than 5 years ago | (#27789975)

Employees that are so stupid they think this kind of stunt is OK.

Re:#1 Reason for Sun's Demise... (1)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790007)

On the bright side, Oracle provides free soda pop to their employees, so it should be smooth sailing from here on out.

Employees that are so stupid they think this kind of stunt is OK.

What do you have against free soda pop? Are you a dentist?

Re:#1 Reason for Sun's Demise... (2, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790349)

He might be a marketing hack. They demand but never get free blood delivered to their desk. It's infuriating that everyone else gets free soda.

Re:#1 Reason for Sun's Demise... (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 5 years ago | (#27791371)

Why on earth would dentists be against soda pop? Without it, they'd be out of a job!

Re:#1 Reason for Sun's Demise... (1)

f0dder (570496) | more than 5 years ago | (#27791963)

He's probably a sugarcane farmer.

Re:#1 Reason for Sun's Demise... (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792059)

Most dentists like their patients to have good teeth. They aren't in it for the exploitation.

Re:#1 Reason for Sun's Demise... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27792081)

If that were the case he would secretly be all for it, because it brings him "customers".

Re:#1 Reason for Sun's Demise... (-1, Troll)

Gary W. Longsine (124661) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790597)

Flamebait? Flamebait? Moderator, Dudes. I'm serious abou this. Flamebait is stuff like... posting dirty laundry about your employer to your blog. The guy should be thoroughly debriefed about his full 10 points, and then fired.

Re:#1 Reason for Sun's Demise... (0)

Rakarra (112805) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790653)

When you start out with "Employees that are so stupid" you'd better provide some pretty hard evidence to back it up. It's a fairly insulting statement, and while I personally wouldn't have bothered to mod it down, I don't think it was undeserving. Sure, insults are as common as oxygen on the Internet but that's a pretty low standard to go by.

a priori (2, Insightful)

Gary W. Longsine (124661) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790691)

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:a priori (3, Funny)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790991)

As we feared: he was trying to be an open source.

Now he's closed.

Re:a priori (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27792259)

You've managed to get modded "flamebait", "troll", and "insightful", all for the same thing. It's a /. hat trick!

Re:And the number one reason why Sun failed (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790307)

I always thought a video game company was going bad when they stop handing out free T-shirts to all the employees.

See, the thing is... (5, Insightful)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 5 years ago | (#27789777)

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

Re:See, the thing is... (2, Interesting)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790649)

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:See, the thing is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27791509)

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.

But he wasn't pointing out flaws, he was pointing out what caused it.

If you are selling a car and the other guy sees it doesn't start, you really want to explain "It is because owners forgot to tank gas" (ie. blame the current and old management, something that the new one will easily change) rather than letting him guess reasons for it...

Re:See, the thing is... (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 5 years ago | (#27791769)

Oh, so you're saying this was marketing and PR? Why on earth would someone who is "Senior Director of Corporate Development" think that this was even a remotely good idea, or it was anywhere within his remit to document for people, including Oracle's benefits, the reasons behind Sun's performance (in his own opinion, of course)?

Re:See, the thing is... (1)

Rakarra (112805) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790677)

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.

Re:See, the thing is... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27790753)

... http://rompa.mybrute.com/

8]

Re:See, the thing is... (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 5 years ago | (#27791873)

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

Not just people, investors. Customers avoid a product based on the product. Investors will run if there are systematic problems, and that's the big worry. Since he was pointing out the organizational issues causing the products to be bad, I don't blame them for being skittish.

I added his blog to my RSS feeds just for that... (1)

assantisz (881107) | more than 5 years ago | (#27789791)

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.

Reason #2 (0, Troll)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#27789805)

2. It ain't called Slowaris for nothing.

Re:Reason #2 (0, Flamebait)

getclear (1338437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790347)

Sorry, this is soooo flamebait, but...Your an idiot

Re:Reason #2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27790525)

He may be an idiot, but he's also right (at least in this case).

Re:Reason #2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27792133)

Wouldn't you post Anonymous if you were going to flamebait off a troll?

This seems like a valid guess, though .... (4, Insightful)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 5 years ago | (#27789811)

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

Re:This seems like a valid guess, though .... (3, Funny)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 5 years ago | (#27789855)

And our number one failure of Sun:

[REDACTED]

Reason #3 (-1, Flamebait)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#27789853)

3. Scott McNealy has Gates-envy.

Banking on Open Source to Save The Company (3, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#27789861)

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.

shifting too open source too late to save (4, Insightful)

xzvf (924443) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:shifting too open source too late to save (3, Interesting)

anlprb (130123) | more than 5 years ago | (#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]

It would have (4, Insightful)

Kludge (13653) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (4, Insightful)

Rakarra (112805) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:It would have (2, Insightful)

segedunum (883035) | more than 5 years ago | (#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!"

Re:Banking on Open Source to Save The Company (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#27791869)

It was a Hail Mary pass. It might not work, but it was certain nothing else would.

Somewhere in that list should be.... (4, Funny)

randyest (589159) | more than 5 years ago | (#27789865)

...failing to convince the federal government to give them billions of dollars. It's all the rage among business plans these days.

Re:Somewhere in that list should be.... (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790179)

Indirectly the government did give them billions through prosecuting MS.

oops, My Bad (2, Interesting)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790201)

I just made the mistake I've been complaining about with others - it wasn't a prosecution because it wasn't a criminal case.

Blame Marketing... (5, Interesting)

NecroPuppy (222648) | more than 5 years ago | (#27789877)

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:Blame Marketing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27790101)

Where does he work now? Sounds like it might be a good place to send a resume. :)

Re:Blame Marketing... (2, Interesting)

downix (84795) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790385)

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.

Re:Blame Marketing... (1)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790865)

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.

I read the same one. Turns out they left off the decimal point. Should've read .5 years experience. ;-)

=Smidge=

Re:Blame Marketing... (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 5 years ago | (#27791349)

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:Blame Marketing... (2, Interesting)

bdh (96224) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792283)

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 shop was even more amusing. Despite being impressed with my credentials, all my experience was unfortunately on PC based, and, as the interviewer patiently explained to me as if he was speaking to a child, their shop in question had no PCs, they had (drum roll) the new IBM XT computers.

The frightening thing is that in those days HR (or Personel, as it was known back in the day) didn't interview tech positions, because they knew they didn't understand it. So the tech manager did the interviewing. So it was the management types, the people who would have been my immediate superiors, than didn't know the difference between a PC and an XT. For you youngun's: the XT has a hard drive, 7 bus slots instead of 5, and a 120 watt power supply rather than 63.5 watts. None of which really makes a difference to a C coder, but there you go.

I didn't get an offer from either shop. Of course, I didn't really want one. Working at places where I'd report to managers like that really wasn't a big draw.

Re:Blame Marketing... (5, Interesting)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 5 years ago | (#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!

Re:Blame Marketing... (1)

mikael (484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27791491)

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 progress report to the CEO.

Re:Blame Marketing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27791901)

Oh yeah there is nothing more anoying. I mean it is not like data migration and the production processes have any actual meaning for the company, and you are under very high pressure to get everything up and running at all.

Honestly, if on a going live someone complains about the font I would chop his fucking head off and take a dump in his neck.

Reason #4 (0, Flamebait)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#27789883)

4. Hey, let's give everything away for free! That'll bring in the profits.

Correction (3, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27789885)

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

FTFY.

      L.E.

 

Why wouldn't they block it? (5, Insightful)

S7urm (126547) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Why wouldn't they block it? (3, Interesting)

Machtyn (759119) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790833)

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.

Re:Why wouldn't they block it? (1)

anlprb (130123) | more than 5 years ago | (#27791401)

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]

Reason #5 (1, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#27789933)

5. Turns out Gosling preferred tea.

wishful thinking by a lot of us (5, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#27789967)

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.

Re:wishful thinking by a lot of us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27790259)

Most consumers (and, probably, long-term investors) would consider broadcasting a company's huge institutional failures a good thing, however. It helps them to know who's fucking them the most.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that if your brand can't survive the truth being known, then it damn well shouldn't. That's not to say that bad PR generated from materially inconsequential things shouldn't be avoided, but rather if a company is busy creating fairy-tales about itself (e.g., Enron) it is better for society that that company should fail and fail at the earliest possible date.

Re:wishful thinking by a lot of us (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790587)

That's not to say that bad PR generated from materially inconsequential things shouldn't be avoided, but rather if a company is busy creating fairy-tales about itself (e.g., Enron) it is better for society that that company should fail and fail at the earliest possible date.

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.

For a market to work efficiently, information should be available for all. That's not the case, however, which is one reason why our economy doesn't function as efficiently as it should.

Sun was never worth 200B (5, Insightful)

joelgrimes (130046) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Sun was never worth 200B (1)

portscan (140282) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790339)

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.

Re:Sun was never worth 200B (3, Insightful)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790465)

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.

Re:Sun was never worth 200B (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27790675)

And the people LIVING on pension.

Re:Sun was never worth 200B (1)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | more than 5 years ago | (#27791373)

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:Sun was never worth 200B (2, Informative)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790875)

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.

Re:Sun was never worth 200B (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 5 years ago | (#27791825)

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.

Re:Sun was never worth 200B (1)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27791945)

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

Re:Sun was never worth 200B (2, Insightful)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792201)

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.

stock market != logical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27791865)

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.

Sun has US$ 13B worth of revenue with 25,000 employess, Red Hat has $400M with 2,200, and yet they' have a roughly equivalent market cap ($3-6B).

The stock market is not based on logic.

I see parallels to Apple (5, Interesting)

assantisz (881107) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:I see parallels to Apple (2, Funny)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790191)

> 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!"

Re:I see parallels to Apple (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27790469)

pretending to be an MBA-bearing preppie

Trust me. He's just as clueless as any other MBA poser.

Re:I see parallels to Apple (4, Insightful)

swordgeek (112599) | more than 5 years ago | (#27791955)

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.

Re:I see parallels to Apple (1)

Big Jojo (50231) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792231)

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.)

Why would they care at this point? (2, Insightful)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790133)

Well, ego.

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

Re:Why would they care at this point? (1)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790497)

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?

#7. Failure to understand Linux (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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."

Censorship? So what (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790153)

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

Re:Censorship? So what (1)

swordgeek (112599) | more than 5 years ago | (#27791913)

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.

Not the only one: Tim Bray (5, Informative)

Kurt Granroth (9052) | more than 5 years ago | (#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!

Re:Not the only one: Tim Bray (1)

SteeldrivingJon (842919) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790271)

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.

Sun missed the x86 boat, yes (5, Interesting)

joib (70841) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Sun missed the x86 boat, yes (4, Insightful)

xleeko (551231) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Sun missed the x86 boat, yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27790963)

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.

Funny, while I wasn't buying hardware back then, I don't remember SUNs being that much cheaper than Apollos or DG M88K boxes. Sure SGI MIPS boxes were more expensive because of all the 3D hardware but they were going for a niche market. I think SUN had mind share from early mover advantage with SUN 2s and SUN 3s, and then I think the SPARC speeds initially scaled better than a lot of that early competition. Another factor was that their resellers didn't seem to under-spec for proposals as badly as some of their competitors, so they had better customer referrals. They weren't cheaper until they had to cut prices when they had to go up against IBM Power, HP-PA and DEC Alpha boxes that, performance-wise, were stomping all over the contemporary versions of SPARC.

Unless you're talking about them out-competing minis like Burroughs, DG Novas and DEC Vaxen? But that was like shooting fish in a barrel. Nothing survived the attack of the Killer micros [die.net]

The Barbara Streisand Effect (0, Redundant)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790199)

Starting in 3... 2... 1...

Oh? (4, Interesting)

immcintosh (1089551) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790569)

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.

Not doing things *to the end* (5, Insightful)

hubert.lepicki (1119397) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:Not doing things *to the end* (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Not doing things *to the end* (2, Insightful)

hubert.lepicki (1119397) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Not doing things *to the end* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27791655)

Linux has got great large community of users/developers/fans. Apple has got it's army of zombie fanboys.

Nice completely gratuitous dig at people who like Apple's stuff. Way to show off your Linux social skills.

Re:Not doing things *to the end* (4, Interesting)

nabsltd (1313397) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Not doing things *to the end* (3, Informative)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27792299)

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.

Re:Not doing things *to the end* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27791983)

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?

They did. Back in '89 they set up a separate company (SPARC International) to do just that. Fuji manufacturers them a whole bunch of them for Sun's M-class servers.

They've even GPL'd some (all?) of their UltraSPARC-T-based chips:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SPARC

Re:Not doing things *to the end* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27792307)

"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?"

http://www.sparc.com/aboutOverview.html

It's the organization, stupid (2, Interesting)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 5 years ago | (#27790721)

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.

Re:It's the organization, stupid (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 5 years ago | (#27791591)

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

Sun-Linux strategy factors into this as well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27790803)

I think Linux was a big part of this as well, I switched from sunos/sparc to x86/linux because it was
faster on my engineering applications. Lower license use cost, lower hardware cost came into it also...
x86/sunos or linux/sparc never really factored into it....

n/a (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27791227)

As indicated, there is knowledge to be gained from failures. So, why should a company be more eager to share it than any of their other proprietary data? It would be better to keep it secret and let the other companies make the same mistakes.

SunPeak and the attitude that ran it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27791337)

This goes back a ways, but it is a great example of the problems at Sun. SunPeak. Those that know this project, know how much time and money Sun sunk into this over several years in the 90's, only to scrap most of it just prior to Y2K. Shareholders would be shocked. The numbers you are thinking of are dwarfed by what this project eventual ate up.

The continued emphasis of Sun on Sun and making everything a showcase was what doomed this project to re-inventing/re-starting itself every 6 months as the OS revved, the hardware revved, or Oracle Apps revved. Ironically Oracle is about to own Sun.

I'm tired (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27791637)

anyone know how I can catch some zzz's at work? without anybody catch me of course!

This Is Not Censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27792241)

It's ridiculous and childish to call this censorship, it's not... Thumbs down to the "I'm entitled to everything I feel like" generation. The submitter needs to move out of his parents basement, get a job, and learn how the world works.

Baigent works for Sun, anybody with a nickel of common sense would know that not only is it unprofessional to communicate the kind of crap he was trying to, it is also against most company's policies to do so, and I would bet your lives Sun is no different.

If he wants voice his assessment (top 10 list) he is welcome to quit his job and post his opionion, as long as he doesn't violate any agreements he made with Sun. It would be censorship if they prevented him from voicing his opinion outside of any agreement he has with Sun.

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