Sunrise Sunset

As Year 2003 begins, we believe that this will be a do or die year for Sun.

Sun 2003 scarily resembles Digital 1993. Consider the similarities:
* Both competed on single, unified architectures offering cheaper, reliable mainframe alternatives.

* Both claimed huge ISV support and promoted best-of-breed solutions.

* Both pushed TCP/IP. Ironically, had Digital played its cards right, it should have become THE
Internet company.

* Both faced similar disruptive challenges that they initially dismissed: UNIX for Digital and Linux for Sun. (We believe that Linux, not Windows, is currently Sun’s biggest threat.)

More importantly, both companies had respectable, but neglected software portfolios. Digital, which practically invented groupware with messaging and collaboration products leveraging DECNet, but refusing to sell it on Windows platforms. Sun’s Java commanding the agenda for web development, but squandering its advantage by picking religious fights with Microsoft and IBM.

Sun never knew how to make money with Java, bungling the acquisitions of NetDynamics, Netscape, and Forte. With IBM’s Eclipse making a mockery of the Java Community Process, IBM has largely preempted Sun in driving Java de facto standards. Fortunately, with Jonathan Schwartz, Sun software finally has adult supervision — but has it come soon enough to avoid DEC’s fate?

As Sun admits, its real strength is systems. Although under siege by “Lintel” (Linux on Intel), SPARC still has breathing room. For now, so does Solaris. However, with IBM and the open source community pushing hard, Linux will likely close the 80% of the functionality gap within 18 – 24 months. Sun’s response — to embed Sun ONE into Solaris (alongside WebLogic — go figure?) is a year and a day late. While Sun’s N1 vision of autonomic data centers is based on future Sun ONE software, until this point, Sun ONE has been a costly distraction and drain on limited revenues.

To survive 2003, we propose a not-so-modest six-step program:
1. Dump Sun ONE. Strong medicine yes, but remember, most Java folks are buying
WebSphere, WebLogic, or open source alternatives.

2. Continue bundling BEA WebLogic lite (and throw in Borland JBuilder), elevating them to preferred status.

3. Open source Java to counterbalance IBM’s technology dominance over Eclipse. Do the same with N1 to cost-effectively tap the community’s latent R&D capacity.

4 Embrace the heck out of Linux, bulking it up with Solaris capabilities. Optimize Linux on SPARC.

5. Direct all resources into what Sun does best: Building industrial strength systems and doing best-of-breed optimization on Sun platforms. Do this in conjunction with the Accentures of the world, who are threatened by post-PwC IBM. Make that integration simpler, cheaper than IBM or Microsoft.

6. Finally, merge with Fujitsu Siemens, the “second source” of SPARC hardware, which has good EMEA presence and, more importantly, a fast-growing services business.

We’d like to be proven wrong, but to do so, NetBeans must draw real ISV support, Sun must stop contesting every IBM/Microsoft XML web services idea, and its internal organization must learn how to spell software. Otherwise, Sun’s best alternative is becoming a simpler, cheaper, less body shop-focused Linux alternative to IBM, because IT shops demand a second source.