Sun’s new Java guru reaches to industry

Interview with Pat Sueltz

Sun’s new Java guru reaches to industry

After 20 years at IBM Corp., most recently as general manager of Big Blue’s Java software division, Pat Sueltz became president of Sun Microsystems Inc.’s software products and platforms division recently.

Among her many priorities are building strong bridges to other industry players. IDG News Service senior editor Carol Sliwa interviewed her about her new job.

IDG: What are your top priorities at Sun?

Sueltz: I am still in listening-and-conversation mode. But I think that [Item No. 1] is to clearly make sure that we execute on the plans that have already been put in place… that we continue to deliver quality products on schedule.

Item No. 2 is to continue to grow the Java community – to make sure that we work on compatibility…stability and to extend the Java community process. And that means to be inclusive – to really listen to our partners and to listen to the development community at large.

The third part of this is to really pull together that integrated development environment, the total tools package from the largest scaleable server to the smallest embedded device, to make sure that we have that complete environment to help reinforce the architectures and rules of Java.

IDG: Do you think you have the tools in-house to achieve that vision?

Sueltz: We have a tools organization in-house already of about 300 to 400 folks, and of course when we complete the [Forte Software Inc.] merger, which should happen by this year’s end, that will add another 400 folks. I think we’ve got a lot of the fundamentals, and it’s a matter now of integrating things and making sure that we leverage all of the opportunities, all of the tools and technologies that we currently have.

IDG: Your predecessor, Alan Baratz, said that getting a Java Integrated Development Environment was a top priority. Will Sun have one going forward?

Sueltz: I don’t know of any tools developer that doesn’t think that there’s always room for improvement, because the technologies keep changing. I’m going to look at an inclusive development environment that includes Java and some of the other latest technologies that are coming – including XML.

IDG: Several companies, including IBM, have had some disagreements with Sun relating to the company’s control of Java. What’s your view now?

Sueltz: I have some great colleagues and friends at IBM that I’ve worked with for some 20 years, and we all worked for a common goal of building the standard of Java in the industry.

I’m expecting that things will continue to be much like a family. I don’t know about your family, but I can tell you that sometimes in my family we have disagreements. But in the end, we still remain committed to that common goal.

What I intend to do is reinforce my commitment to the partners and the development community at large and make sure that we are communicating, because we have a lot to gain for our mutual customers by working together.

IDG: Can we expect to see Sun work even more closely with IBM on Java?

Sueltz: I’m an optimist. So I’m expecting that good relationships will get even closer and that there will be more collaboration. The beauty of Java with all of the industry is that we have coopetition. There’s good cooperation on the standards, and at the same time, there’s good competition on some of the product implementations.

IDG: Hewlett-Packard Co. still has its own Java efforts going on in the embedded space. Will you do anything to bring HP back into the fold?

Sueltz: HP and Sun have been good partners on Java. And we’ve done a lot in the enterprise space together. We have to do some more work on the embedded space, and of course my intention would always be that we keep Java together – that it be a single standard and not be fractured.

IDG: How important is Microsoft Corp. to Java’s future?

Sueltz: I think that Microsoft, because it’s a major player in software, remains important, and that Java – and what we’re standing for here at Sun – is all about including folks. It’s all about cross-platform compatibility.

I would like very much to work very closely with Microsoft and keep working on the technology together.

IDG: Will you make that overture to Microsoft?

Sueltz: I make an overture to everyone. This is all about what our customers have been telling us for a long time: Help us mature the software industry, help it to grow up. Let’s take it to a point where customers can be concerned about the particular application they need.