Solar Eclipse?

The title is misleading. During an eclipse, the sun is blocked for sometime before it re-emerges in its full glory. No such luck for Sun or more precisely Sun Microsystems, which will merge into Oracle.  I am sure all of you have heard and read various analysis on what this deal would do to Sun, Oracle and the industry in general. (I was away on vacation, hence the long silence). Oracle also acquired Virtual Iron, a virtualization company, after it acquired Sun. The industry dynamics is surely changing now. Cisco, with its UCS (Unified Computing System), has got into the blade server space, which is dominated by HP and IBM. Now Oracle wants to get into the virtualization space, dominated by VMware. Oracle now has three virtualization solutions:  its own, Sun’s xVM and the virtualization solution of Virtual Iron. How the market of Blade Servers and Virtualization will change remains to be seen. Added to this, NetApp is buying DataDomain for a large sum. Interesting times ahead.

It was a bit sad seeing Sun set. In the early part of my career, as I had indicated in my earlier post, we were fighting against Sun in many places with our SGI workstations. We lost in a lot of them since the solutions were totally different and Sun had the exact solution which a lot of people wanted. The actual fight in the workstation space those days was between Apollo and Sun. Apollo was later taken over by HP. In those days Sun was sold in India by Wipro and they were doing a good job of it. (Those were the times when we generally got systems which were atleast a couple of models older, if not a generation older.  Those were the times when India as a market had not evolved and there were lot of restrictions in getting newer equipment into the country. Added to it, it was costly getting new equipment in because we had to pay heavy import duties. )

Sun was always known as a technology company and there were a couple instances wherein I could see the  great respect people had for Sun. I was part of the organizing committee of what was known as ‘Techforum’, an annual technology festival within Wipro.  Though it was an internal festival we would invite a few speakers from the industry for this festival. One such speech was given by the Sun representative. He spoke about the 10 technologies that we should look out in the future. This was probably around 8 to 10 yrs back and I don’t remember what were the technologies he spoke about. What I do remember is that whatever was spoken made a very good impression on everyone present. It was generally accepted that this was the best presentation we have heard during our conference. There was lot of clarity in thought that came out during the presentation. (One remark by the speaker I still remember. He said that when Sun started saying, “The Network is the Computer”, a competitor put out a counter comment stating that, “Sorry. The network is a network and a computer is a computer”, only to beat a hasty retreat later.)

The next incident relates to Scott McNealy’s visit to Wipro. Scott was supoosed to deliver a lecture to our folks on a weekend. (I think the talk was scheduled for a Sunday.) As can be expected, there was a bit of apprehension regarding the number of people who would come in, given that it was a weekend. So managers like me were asked to see to it that as many team members turned up for the lecture as possible. I did my best to urge people to come in for the lecture. We had probably underestimated people’s respect and admiration for Scott. We had a large turnout that day and everyone enjoyed the talk.

While Sun did have a great reputation as a technology company, their India Development Center was more subdued and had a lower profile than some of its competitors like HP and IBM.  I may be talking from my limited exposure but I have seen more engineers keen to join companies like HP and IBM than join  Sun. Maybe Sun did not recruit as aggressively as HP and IBM did in India and hence this effect?

What we are witnessing now, with new products and all these M&As, will have a big impact on the future of the industry. Robin Harris, the Storage Mojo, has a nice article on “Why we are getting vertical – again”. Read the comments section as well since there are some relevant comments there.

I have not followed Sun very closely to know why they got into this situation but it always saddens you when a technology company goes down. Sun may disappear soon but they do leave behind a rich legacy. Stuff like NFS and Java will be around for more time to come. Hopefully the Sun culture for technology innovation will continue within Oracle.