Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Three Simple Things Sun Should Do to Win

This post was also published in InfoWorld.

The industry trends around Linux, x86 processors, and scripting languages are clear. Unfortunately, Sun is swimming against the tide on all three of these trends, in fear that it could cannibalize its existing business. Following is a simple, three step strategy for Sun to swim WITH the tide, while still maintaining its revenue.

#1 - Migrate Solaris to Linux

Operating systems are a commodity. The Unix wars are over, and they have been won by Linux. IBM is migrating AIX to Linux. Digital Unix is dead. SGI Irix is dead. HP-UX is dead. Sun should announce a long term strategy of moving to Linux and start migrating Solaris features like DTRace to Linux, just like IBM contributed SMP and journaling code to Linux. Sun is unique in that it has a full Unix System V license from AT&T, so it can sell an indemnified Linux.

Proof point: IBM has a long term strategy of migrating AIX to Linux, and it has not cannibalized AIX/Power sales.

#2 - Migrate SPARC to Opteron

Processors are a commodity. Sun should provide binary translation so that customers can easily move their applications from Solaris SPARC to Solaris x86. A decent binary translator will run SPARC machine code on an Opteron almost as fast as anything on the SPARC roadmap. And native Opteron code will scream compared to SPARCs. Either Sun can provide this migration to their Galaxy Opteron servers, or Dell and HP will continue their "Visine" customer programs where they migrate customer Solaris boxes to commodity Linux x86 boxes. And with its Fujitsu SPARC partnership, Sun can continue to extract revenue from SPARC on the very high end.

Proof point: IBM has a very strong, coherent Linux/x86 strategy and it has not cannibalized AIX/Power sales.

Proof point: Sun has successfully made such a transition from Motorola 68K to SPARC. Apple has has successfully made such a transition from Motorola 68K to Power to Intel.

#3 - Endorse LAMP and integrate it with Java

Java is great on the back-end, but LAMP is great on the web tier (as Google, Amazon, Yahoo!, Flickr, MySpace, Friendster, etc. have shown). Sun should endorse PHP and go one step forward and make sure the "P" languages run great on the JVM by open sourcing Java. Sun doesn't make much money on Java anyways.

Proof point: IBM and Oracle have strongly both endorsed PHP into their architectures and it has not cannibalized their Java middleware sales.

So there you have it. Three simple things Sun can do which would give it a coherent strategy relative to industry trends. Sun could then focus its energy on finding new revenue streams rather than protecting declining revenue streams.


Alex said...

Hi Peter,

I don't disagree with your points (actually I think most are correct), but all you say is what SUN shouldn't do anymore. Maybe the much more interessting point is, which are the things SUN will make money with in the future. As doing what everybody else does is usually not a big differentiator.

Therefore only following your points would IMHO kill SUN. Doing the same things IBM does, SUN could never survive as IBM has much more power and money to win the competition. So the question is what to do differently from IBM...

Ciao Alex

Peter Yared said...


On the contrary, Sun should definitely do what IBM has been doing, which is listening to customers! It's not as if IBM did feel as strongly about AIX and Power as Sun does about Solaris and SPARC, yet it realized early on that customers wanted Linux and commodity machines. Sun currenty sells Linux/Opteron boxes, but it does not provide a migration strategy for its own customers to move to these boxes. I agree that Sun needs to differentiate, but it should not try to differentiate on commodities like Unix operating systems and microprocessors.

There is still a lot of money to be made in middleware, and I think that it was a big mistake that Sun did not buy JBoss (and SuSe and Ximian). However there are still many opporunities in business process automatation and collaboration. Even simple things like wikis are starting to make a big difference in enterprises. Winning emerging markets is all about focus, and right now Sun is focused on the past.

pcdinh said...

I dont think that Sun will drop it strategy of OpenSolaris to embrace Linux. Solaris has a wide user base in telecommunication and banking industry. The achievements reaped so far has proved that Sun's decision on open sourcing infamous Solaris is correct.

Making a move to Linux requires a lot of investment and there is no evidence or base to believe that Sun will compete well with other rich competitors such as IBM or Novell

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