Looking at Sun in different ways

By Ken Hanley

IS Guerrilla

A couple of issues back I asked you tell me what you think about a number of current technology issues (and a few non-technology issues too) in the second sort-of-annual-whenever-I-get-around-to-it IS Guerrilla survey. And you did. Thank you for that. Many of your answers were detailed, thoughtful and funny as hell.

Although I have my own opinions on the issues raised in the survey, I will say that I’m a flexible guy in general, open to reason, robust argument, and education by my technological betters. There is, however, one issue of import on the survey that I won’t back down on, no matter what the results say.

Is it the question of SUN’s future? It’s interesting, even seminal to the industry, but no.

Is it Wi-fi and G3? Coming your way soon, but not an issue to which I feel religiously attached.

Wherefore Linux? The state of the Web server wars? Interesting yes and yes, but not issues I’d take sides on and fall on my sword for.

The key issue for me: under no circumstances whatsoever is it acceptable for a gentleman to drink a crantini. Or for that matter, a chocolatini, grapefruitini, blueberrytini, vegetini, or any other non-puritan gin or vodka-tini, or for that matter, any other drink that looks like it might make an appropriate home for a paper parasol.

Robert C., I hear you man, but I have to agree with the father in a story I was reading in the New Yorker this week. He said to his daughter: “If you’re going to drink, dear, stick to Scotch”.

But I digress – back to the survey. If I were Scott McNealy and the Sun crowd, I’d be a little bit concerned about my future, at least if our merry band of survey respondents/prognosticators is concerned.

When asked: Where next for Sun – Their best days are behind ’em, or they’re doing fine and are primed for an even bigger comeback. Only one respondent (out of about twenty – OK, so I’m not working with a huge sample set here) said Sun would make a comeback, and one respondent gave them a “maybe.”

Sun’s best days are “absolutely” behind them “unless they can re-captivate a new throng of IT geeks…they are hedged between …the retiring mainframe crowds that don’t think Sun is mature enough for their stuff…and the Windows and Linux children of the world,” wrote one reader.

Another reader said they’ll have to do the “IBM trick” and “transform themselves into a services, a software only company or die by 2008”.

But all that said, maybe Sun will ultimately prove us wrong. McNealy is beating the drum on a new initiative to “commoditize” and sell pre-tested hardware, and therefore reduce costs by a factor of 10. Maybe he’s on to something. The company also recently repackaged its enterprise software under one subscription-based license.

On another positive note, the fact that Sun has US$5 billion cash in the bank and US$126 billion worth of its gear installed worldwide (according to the Fortune article) should be seen as a positive for them, along with its legendary ability to be both quirky and adaptable. One reader said that he’s been expecting Sun to implode for years “and yet they still survive. “I remember Bill Joy riding his bicycle into our meeting of the ANSIC standards group in Cupertino and giving us s*** for our mangling of the floating point portion of the spec…”

More survey results later, and a big thank you to those who took the time to respond: you know who you are, and the beer is on me if you’re ever in Calgary.

Hanley is an IS professional in Calgary. He can be reached at isguerrilla@hotmail.com.