Interpreting McNealy's lexicon

No one can accuse Sun CEO Scott McNealy of being reserved. He peppers his speeches with puns that pan his competition-here's the best of McNealy's bon mots.

In his public appearances, Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy rarely misses the opportunity to twist at least one competitor's product or technology name into a derisive pun. But it's McNealy's delivery that adds punch to the pun: some deliberate stammering as if groping for the name, and then feigning innocence when he "corrects" himself and finally utters the real name. But there's meaning behind McNealy's malapropisms, with his quips usually signaling what's on his radar. The following McNealy-isms came up during his interview with Tech Update's David Berlind.

.NOT--McNealy's nickname for Microsoft's .NET architecture.
According to McNealy, there are only two IT architectures for the future, and technology decision makers will have to pick one: Microsoft's .NET or Sun's Java-based Sun ONE. But, predictably, McNealy doesn't think .NET is all that it's cracked up to be. First, he considers the technology to be inferior, especially when it comes to security. More importantly, he says it's a poor strategic choice because those who opt for .Net now will later regret the limitations of its proprietary nature, and will ultimately be locked into Microsoft technology. That kind of dependence, says McNealy, will take away your control over the total cost of technology ownership and hand it over to Microsoft--a risky proposition.

Itanic--McNealy's interpretation of Intel's Itanium.
Itanium is the first and currently only available version of Intel's 64-bit processor architecture known as IA-64. IA-64 is based on a technology known as Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing (EPIC) that is considered by some to be a superior technology to RISC-based processors. All other 64-bit processors, including Sun's SPARC processors, are RISC-based.

McNealy's ocean liner-like reference is usually followed by his claim that IA-64 is a sinking ship that isn't working yet, especially in multiprocessor configurations (compared to 108-processor configurations of Sun's servers that are available today). He says that for Intel to succeed with IA-64 it must ride the coattails of the Microsoft monopoly and the .NET binaries that go with it. While the 64-bit version of Windows has been met with considerable criticism, the truth is that IA-64 is currently available in multiprocessor configurations, the most promising of which are Unix-based. Also, Intel and IBM's Teragrid computing project for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), which will eventually cluster hundreds of Linux-based IA-64 systems in an effort to provide supercomputing power without the cost of a supercomputer, is well underway. A large cluster has already been deployed for NCSA at its Urbana-Champaign location. Even so, enterprise-class multiprocessor configurations based on IA-64 that match Sun's 108-processor offering won't be here for some time.

Regretta--The name McNealy uses to refer to IBM's AIX-based p690 Regatta server.
Earlier this year at Gartner's Symposium conference, McNealy said that IBM's policy is "if you have a wallet, we have a Hoover... [IBM] will stay as long as it takes to solve the problem or until we suck your wallet dry." Select IBM as your strategic technology partner, says McNealy, and you'll be funneled through its Global Services consultancy which, in turn, will take responsibility for setting up your IT. In McNealy's scenario, IBM will then take a bunch of difficult-to-integrate technologies, convince you that they should be integrated to solve your problem, and then take all your money doing the integration. The result, says McNealy, is much like casting your lot with Microsoft and relying too much on a complicated solution which, in effect, can give that partner that controls it too much influence over your technology costs. In truth, Sun and IBM aren't that far apart on strategy. It's not uncommon for large enterprises to seek help with integration. In fact, McNealy says it should be one of your top priorities (link TK) when preparing to rearchitect your IT for the 21st century. IBM's own consultancy is a huge business but Sun, like IBM, also certifies third-party partners to resell their technologies and provide assistance with integration. And, as pre-integrated solutions go, it probably wouldn't be that hard for IBM to replicate McNealy's "big friggin' WebTone Switch" idea with Lotus Domino. Domino actually provides more choice than either Sun or Microsoft when it comes to choice of foundation, because it can run on IBM's big iron systems (AS/400 and S/390), AIX, Linux, Windows, and even Sun's Solaris.

Lookout--McNealy's inverted name for Outlook, Microsoft's e-mail client.
McNealy says you need to "look out" for trouble when using Outlook. McNealy frequently cites Outlook's well-documented security problems. He says that to get the most functionality out of Outlook you'll also need Microsoft's Exchange Server. But the combination, and the Microsoft-only mail and calendaring protocol required to connect them (MAPI), is yet another example of how Microsoft locks businesses into proprietary technologies that eliminate choice and flexibility.

Hairball--How McNealy brands "proprietary" solutions.
McNealy often refers to the entire Microsoft platform as a "hairball." Deconstructing it is nearly impossible, so you're left with having to keep it together which, according to McNealy, puts Microsoft in control of your IT, your data, and your cost structure. McNealy applies the hairball epithet to Microsoft's proprietary technologies and interfaces such as MAPI, Active Directory, and Passport Authentication, and says that technology decision makers should seek alternatives that let them retain control by sticking with technologies that are based on open standards. Proponents for Microsoft will argue that the company's technologies support those standards. McNealy says they don't. The truth is somewhere in the middle. For example, Outlook and Exchange Server can be connected using open standards such as SMTP, POP3 and IMAP4. But, in the strictly open standard configuration, many key features and benefits such as calendaring and document routing become disabled which, as many Tech Update readers assert, again locks you into a Microsoft-only world. But readers who are satisfied with their Exchange implementations don't see much more freedom in Sun's alternative; for example, running Sun's WebTone switch requires Sun's Solaris OS running on a SPARC-based server. Sun executives admit there are dependencies at the foundation level, but claim you can replace almost any Sun application with a third-party alternative that supports open standards.