Sun Microsystems' Jonathan Schwartz on CIO / CTO differences

Blogger Jonathan Schwartz, who also happens to be CEO of Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:JAVA), has written an insightful post describing issues raised by Chief Information Officers (CIO) and Chief Technology Officers (CTO) during meetings with Sun. His comments reveal distinct differences between the two groups.

Sun MicrosystemsÂ’ Jonathan Schwartz on CIO / CTO differences

Blogger Jonathan Schwartz, who also happens to be CEO of Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:JAVA), has written an insightful post describing issues raised by Chief Information Officers (CIO) and Chief Technology Officers (CTO) during meetings with Sun. His comments reveal distinct differences between the two groups.

Here are Jonathan's comments on the CTO group:

  • The youngest company in the CTO session was started last year.
  • Not a single company in the CTO room paid for software. Many knew Sun exclusively from our work in the open source or academic arena - validating free communities as a vehicle to meet new opportunities, before they join the Fortune 100.
  • The CTO's in the web companies wanted innovation at an accelerating pace.
  • The CTO's said we were too hard to do business with, but they appreciated the ease with which our software could be freely downloaded.
  • [T]he CTO's all had mandatory platform standards - with no variation permitted without explicit approval. Then again, the web companies mostly had the luxury of being less than 10 years old.

Here's what he said about the CIO group:

  • The oldest company in attendance was more than 100 years old. The CIO of the latter...claimed he was still running processes from the 1800's. He wasn't smiling when he said that.
  • The cost of people and change dominated the CIO room - not capital assets or power.
  • In contrast, not a single company in the CIO room allowed free software without a commercial support contract. Validating the notion that for more mature/diverse companies, the cost of downtime dwarfs the cost of a support contract.
  • The CIO's (broadly) wanted innovation to slow down long enough for them to manage and exploit it.
  • The CIO's praised us for being so easy to do business with, and one groused about the ease with which his developers can bring our software into his network.
  • All the CIO's wanted to drive toward uniformity in their datacenters ("just like Southwest Airlines" - it's cheaper and easier to manage an airline if all you fly are Boeing 737's - diversity and variation is very expensive, especially at scale).
  • Most of the CIO's were struggling to free the resources necessary to drive a singular platform standard.

In what I consider to be the final summing up, Jonathan points out:

No CIO wore a baseball cap. The same was not true of the CTO sessions.

Which got me wondering, what's the fundamental difference between CTOs and CIOs -- could it be the old nerds / suits thing playing out once again? Please share your thoughts in the Talkback comments.

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