I've just finished a conversation with Andreas von Bechtolsheim, Sun's co-founder, who is in London this week for IP Expo, at which he was speaking about Arista and its high-performance 10 gigabit datacentre switches.
Bechtolsheim was happy to speak openly about his regrets over the Oracle acquisition of what was his baby. He prefaced his comments about last year's buy-out of Sun by Oracle by saying that what he thinks about it doesn't matter, which tells you something about how he thinks. And although it's a done deal and post facto tears are, in practice irrelevant, you might feel free to disagree with his remark.
Here are some verbatim comments from the conversation: It's the end of a dream. We thought we could succeed by going open source and giving stuff away. While customers benefited from that, as a business it didn't pay for the costs of running the company. Sun never did make the transition it needed, while Oracle is the complete opposite and charges people for everything. You can tell some people are disillusioned by this, such as [Java creator] James Gosling. [Gosling resigned from Oracle in April and described in his blog why he did so and how he felt about it.]
On Oracle, Bechtolsheim said: There's no question that they're going to make a lot of money but the role that Sun had as an open source developer has disappeared, but in business you have to make enough money to be viable and it didn't work. There were other issues such as the SPARC transition, but the bottom line in the end was that the original plan was not applicable. It's a shame.
But nothing will stop open source - its one of the strongest forces in the software universe. In the end, open source works when the community benefits from the development, that's what open source is all about, and Sun played an important role in that. [The buy-out] it doesn't change what's happening in OSS - that will continue.
Sun Microsystems was founded in 1982 by Bechtolsheim, Vinod Khosla and Scott McNealy. Bechtolsheim left Sun in 1995 but was hoovered up again in 2004 when he sold Kealia, a server design company that he co-founded, back to Sun.