A guy called Joe

A guy called Joe

Summary: The world's best advice: "if it doesn't work, stop doing it", applies to mergers as much as to government - and ignoring it was probably Sun's single biggest mistake.


Once upon an eighties year a young man straight out of a liberal arts program lucked into a job as a clerk in a 3090J environment. From there he eventually became a DASD configuration specialist functioning as part of a team responsible for a half dozen System 390 sales.

In the mid nineties he accepted a better offer - from Hitachi, and five years later found himself selling DASD and tape automation for StorageTek.

By late 2004 Sun was headed for deep trouble: on the positive side its products were four times faster, and an order of magnitude per cycle cheaper, than IBM's - but IBM's account control combined with the after effects of the NT bubble meant that their stuff sold where Sun's didn't.

Part of the response was to buy StorageTek - because Sun's board knew their own products were genuinely superior, had been led to see the problem as one of getting Sun sales people in through IBM data centers doors, and saw the StorageTek people, people like Joe, as already inside.

Confronted with new bosses, new marching orders, new products, and enough careerism in IBM's mainframe marketing group to block his return, Joe smiled through his pain and called on his old customers to sell them stuff he understood: x86, tape, some Hitachi disk - and because his managers judged him on revenue rather than margin contribution, even some third party disk into an HP SAN installation.

What he didn't do was sell SPARC, learn about Solaris, or buy into the user centricity of the Unix idea - indeed his overall reaction to the SPARC/Solaris combination was similar to that of the stereotype illegal meeting his first Walmart super center: baffled disbelief, total rejection, and a desperate scramble for the old certainties, the old perceptions, and the absolute social certainties underlying the comfortable gossip, and deep contempt for everything Unix, he shared with his friends and contacts.


Unfortunately for Sun, Joe is a personable guy with real selling skills and he didn't exactly hang out a sign saying: "I'm an idiot, shoot me" around his bosses - many of whom, of course, shared his bewilderment at being expected to shill for the enemy of all they believed in. As a result some joes moved up the ladder where they found each other in the chameleon culture of selling what's selling - and now? Well, "Sun is the brand and Oracle is the company".

Was it really that simple? Not entirely, but the underlying mistake: believing that people bought in from an opposing culture won't try to continue their old ways while undermining yours is dead common - history abounds with empires or royal houses which fell to the idea that barbarians hired to fight barbarians will miraculously change their ways. It doesn't happen: in reality a barbarian who interacts with barbarians stays a barbarian - and in the four bitter years Joe spent with Sun he took a few small SPARC orders (which he discounted to the limits of his authority) but he never initiated a sale, never mentioned Sun Ray to a customer, never learned what the company was about, and is still today as loyal to what he learnt in the 80s as he ever was.


Topics: Storage, Hardware, IBM, Open Source, Operating Systems, Oracle, Processors, Servers, Software

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  • Sun's dead and it's not fair....BooHooo, now change you diaper!

    Rudy your hypothetical stories made to support your fantasy take on what the IT industry is all about are actually sick. It shows what kind of pervert you really are.

    Sun was the best but.....ZZZZzzzzzzz...ZZzzzzzzzzz....Zzzzz
  • that's why computers are a young man's game...

    or someone that is willing to constantly change with the times. Too many people learn their jobs and expect things never to change, alas for poor joe, the times they are a changin' and now that there is a global economy, and literally billions of people pushing forth their own agendas, change is more rapid than many people can handle.<br><br>The moral of your story it seems, isn't about sun or oracle, but about life in the fast lane, don't cling to that passed past or get passed by by the competition. Adopt the enemy's position for a bit, and understand. Be flexible in life, and in your job. Stop passing judgment, killing the messenger, and finding yourself on the outside looking in.<br><br>Compromise, compromise, compromise, and accept.<br><br><br>oh yea, sun does have some good ideas, and superior machinery, but forgot about the rest of the world.
    sparkle farkle
    • Yes - people have to adapt to change

      @sparkle farkle

      However, that message was supposed to be secondary to the obvious one: since people in groups don't change, companies shouldn't commit merger on the assumption that the people involved will change.

      I think we'll see more of your interpretation working out over the next few years as the whole wintel mess recedes into history to become more and more just a hobbyist thing.
      • RE: A guy called Joe


        It's like we had a partry and you didn't get invited Rudy. I started with mainframes and minis and then the ubiquitous PCs. Now I have a business server that needs virtually no maintenance, Ofiice software that is way ahead in power and design, I can access my web servers anywhere and run a VPN with the push of a button. All my employees use Messenger for office interaction, we can even spare bandwidth for video calls. We now have Windows Live as well if we get caught without Office access.

        Due to the ubiquitous nature of Windows I can sell my software or complete projects for a variety of clients, big and small. I can even use my Windows tools to create web-based apps that even people with fringe OSs can use.

        Would all this have take place without the "Wintel mess"? No.

        I sympathise Rudy, I preferred Betamax to VHS, WordPerfect to MS Word and thought RSTS/E was the most elegant OS ( I mean an OS written in interpreted BASIC - who wouldn't). I had trouble intitially with OOP, but I got through it and saw the benefits.

        But both videotape formats are dead, CDs are better than vinyl and MS Word got a lot better. Windows 7 also came out and the development tools available from MS are years ahead.

        I moved on Rudy, perhaps it's time for you too ;-)
      • RE: A guy called Joe

        @murph_z <br> Your dreaming murph.... Windows systems aren't going away... neither is IBM. Sun's strategy in the 90s was to throw low cost servers at the world... They didn't adopt a new strategy when consolidation and x86 systems came on the market and stole their mantel. The same customers who saw the Sun advantage in the 90s saw the cost advantage of consolidation, specialty engines and x86 systems and the platform flexibility of Linux and abandoned Sun systems. <br><br> You think it's a SALESMAN/Marketing issue, but it's not... Here's a hint... Itanium sales are down, as are the other UNIX OS systems.... Consolidation, specialty engines and x86 systems have been chewing them up,too. Sun failed to transition their customers to these lower cost structures and paid a steep price. <br><br> It seems that the old Sun and Oracle aren't taking your own advice..."if it doesnt work, stop doing it" So the question is ... why are you telling people that Sun's strategy will work, when it hasn't been working for the last decade. Sun was #1 in hardware sales in 1999(aka, they didn't need help getting in the door)... now they(Oracle) are #4 in hardware sales and are in danger of collapsing.
  • LOL - whole wintel mess

    That's right, in the future everything will be in the cloud and everyone will be running around with Android and iPad tablets swiping their greasy fingers back and forth, in an orgy of technological pleasure.

    It's funny how Wintel is a "mess" all of sudden, yet wintel machines generate more data every day than anything else.
  • Interesting reading the different mindsets here

    Murph tries to be philosophical while most talkbacks are practical. Murph writes paragraphs of interesting perspectives and then makes a swipe or two at Wintel. The talkbacks then come back and pound Murph on those swipes.<br><br>I've been reading Murph for many years now, and he is mostly spot on. His knowledge of the market and of Sun is pretty good - although he does tend to NOT keep his enemies closer . . . (read your Sun Tsu!).<br><br>In case you guys didn't notice, Murph was painting a picture of out-of-touch people that are blind to technological change. They tend to think in terms of what they have always thought - disruptive tech is ignored. They do so at their own peril - as change will usually bury the dinosaurs.<br><br>Murph has set you guys up - and many of you have taken the bait.
    Roger Ramjet