The root of Sun's strategy

The root of Sun's strategy

Summary: I was talking with John Loiacono, executive vice president of software at Sun, about the roadmap for open sourcing Sun's software and how Sun profits from the strategy. At the root of the strategy is Sun's belief that whoever has the developers, gets the applications, which begets customers, which drive revenues.

TOPICS: Oracle

johnnyL.jpgI was talking with John Loiacono, executive vice president of software at Sun, about the roadmap for open sourcing Sun's software and how Sun profits from the strategy. At the root of the strategy is Sun's belief that whoever has the developers, gets the applications, which begets customers, which drive revenues. Sound familiar?

How to get the much desired developers? According to Loiacono, make it easy for every developer to get access to the technology, which means make it free and open for programmers to experiment with the code, doing commercial proof-of-concept projects or academic research. If commercial entities want to deploy it, they can do whatever they want with open source code, but will likely want indemnification, support, integration help or consulting services from Sun in the form of a subscription fee.  For non-open source Sun software with different license covenants than open source, customers would also want the subscription services Sun offers, according to the theory.

Sun will sell you a mail server and thousands of mail boxes, a communications suite for $50 per employee per year, a full enterprise suite with per employee or citizen pricing or $1 per CPU hour, Loiacono told me. It's a complete menu of services from which customers can choose a la carte or from a range of prefixed menu choices. Sun doesn't have all the pieces yet--systems management is lacking, for example, but it has been acquiring and building six integrated software infrastructure suites that drink from the SOA and Web services fountain over the last few years.

Sun officials have said that the goal is to make all Sun software open source over time, but no timetable has been set. According to Sun software CTO Hal Stern, it's a bottoms up approach, starting with Solaris 10, the app server, and integration bus and working up the stack. Directory, portal, proxy and Web server will follow, and then identity management, access, auditing and federation, he said. More functionality will be driven down the stack and become part of the operating system, which Loiacono called "technology sedimenting in the OS." Sun is even thinking about a low end open source database (meaning not competitive with Oracle, DB2, SQL Server, Sybase) project to satisfy what Loiacono called customer demand. 

Given that proprietary software is becoming less dominant, and open source is ascending in different parts of the stack, Sun’s strategy is practical—as well as a natural evolution of the company’s BSD, NFS open roots. *In fact, “free” software has become Sun’s latest mantra, as a way to nurture the market for its products, especially in emerging markets that are still relatively wide open and growing fast. Certainly, open sourcing floats all boats in the software community, bringing more developers into the Java fold, potentially away from Microsoft platforms. Sun seems confident that its implementations will lead in price, quality and innovation. But, whether “free” will attract developers and convert them into loyalists supporting a Sun ecosystem (not just Java) that will turn around the company's fortunes is a question mark.

*Updated 10:27AM 6/29/05

Topic: Oracle

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  • Humpty-dumpty

    How long can one say, we almost have the pieces together?
  • Sun is utterly confused...

    A classic example of how a great company can screw-up if they don't have a clear strategy. Sun had a great opportunity with Solaris, but they always overvalued it. How do you expect people to fork-out $ 10K for Sparc Station which performs maybe 50% higher than a $500 Linux box ??? By the time they realised it, it was too late...

    Then they came out with java - which revolutionized the programming world. But Sun never found out how to make money from it. They could have developed a Java OS for x86 which could wipe out just about any other OS out there. But again they never figured out what to do. Java was supposed to be a lean-mean efficient language to be run everywhere including your humble remote control... But look at latest java version now. It is a bloated 80 MB package. How do you expect a remote control to run an 80MB code base and still be sold for $5 ? They positioned java for all deivices small or big, but even today there is no standard Micro java out there. So many device profiles and so much confusion... Java never had a good Graphical User Interface, and for that matter Sun is generally awful in GUI area (just look at Solaris GUI). Despite all this Sun thought they are the best steward of java. They couldn't do it and never allowed other to it either...
  • As the internet bubble companies learned...

    ... giving away your primary product is not a way to make money.

    So Sun wants to remove the value (ability to charge) from their software. This will leave them earning revenues for their equipment and services.

    If someone can find cheaper equipment and doesn't need the services, or can get services from a more services oriented company like IBM (which is making sure it might as well be SUN as far as equipment and software are concerned), then what does Sun have to sell.

    Its good name?!

    Maybe the major beneficiary can change its name to IBM & Sun.
    Anton Philidor
    • But software has no value

      Hardware is a real property, has intrinsic value due to the materials cost and labor to construct the artifact, as well as other associated costs of manufacture.

      Software per se only has production/marketing and distribution costs - there is no real and tangible property associated with software.

      And here is where the open source movement rests and draws the line - why else the argument of copywrite versus patent - why software creation is always put into an analogy with writing of novels?

      This has been an attempt to devalue the actual worth of software - the ideas and thought behind it, the art and science of the individual(s) who create the software.
      • Software has value - even without patents

        I would disagree with your statement that Software has no value ! Although intangible, but it has the same value as a Doctor, Scientist, Musician, Artist, or anyone else with their skills and knowledge - again intangible but valuable.

        Open source movement and its success have to do with the extreme greed of companies. They tried to overvalue their software and thats when the problems started. If comapnies price their software products reasonably, customers will prefer to still buy their products with support, instead of just the open source solutions. BTW i am not discrediting open-source software. There are a lot of them which are better than commercial alternatives. But same is true of commercial products too...
  • Sun Needs to Buy Novell and finally have all the pieces!

    Sun is on the right track and if they think clearly into the future they will see that Novell is the missing piece in the big puzzle. Heck they borrowed from Suse to build thier GUI offering why not own them as well. Sun would benefit the technology world and thier stock holders greatly if the bought Novell.

    They both would benefit greatly. Sun would bring in thier excellent Unix programmers, and Novell would bring in the management tools, and Suse with all thier Linux programmers. Thier joined forces would be invincible.

    I could see it now. The solar system.
    • Novell is sinking

      And Sun does not want to go deep with it, so such a purchase in
    • A brief paraphrase...

      ... of an incident in HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

      One by a freak a mild remark in English was transmitted to a part of the galaxy in which English was unknown. Unfortunately it sounded like a deadly insult.

      The offended peoples determined from whence the remark came and built a huge fleet of the most vicious warships they could imagine and set out, still enraged, for revenge.

      They materialized prepared to begin total and merciless destruction, but were swallowed by a yawning dog.

      When it comes to Sun and Novell, the dog's mouth is beginning to open.
      Anton Philidor