eWEEK readers weigh in on Sun Microsystems' woes and the reason Sun is laying off over 6,000 employees. Is Java to blame? Some say inroads from other languages and application development frameworks such as Ruby on Rails could further Sun's demise. Others say never count Sun out.
What is a Java developer to do? Sun Microsystems
began letting people go as
of Jan. 22 in the first wave of layoffs that are likely to affect up to 5,000
to 6,000 employees. Many of those released, according to employee reports, were
My colleague, Chris
Preimesberger, reported that layoff notifications were sent to about 1,300
as part of that action. And reductions were made across all
levels, including vice presidents and directors, Sun said.
Despite the economy being a major factor leading to this carnage, folks are
looking for who else or what else to blame for this mess. Some mention the
company's "NIH (not invented here)" attitude, while others single out
Java and Sun's inattention to complaints about Java's complexity, which opened
the door for newer, more developer-friendly languages to come in. Fair points
Said one person who commented
on Preimesberger's Sun layoffs story
BTW the engineers are not blameless
either. Like many successful companies used to be a lot of NIH attitude. That
has changed. OpenSolaris is evidence of that. But is it too late?
And in a comment responding to that one, another reader said:
Yeah I think it is too late, even with
OpenSolaris and I.murdock [Ian Murdock, founder of Debian Linux and champion of
OpenSolaris] there. Nobody is using it. People are sticking to Linux.
Even their sure bet java, is being
threatened by .NET and a slew of other more dynamic, friendly
languages. People were complaining about the unfriendliness of Java technology,
its being too tedious, they had to write code for the plumbing instead of
focusing on their business domain, and Sun didn't do anything to rectify, or
dragged their feet so much, that it opened the door to PHP, RoR [Ruby on
Rails]. A lot of people moved to PHP, Ruby and RoR and even .NET.
These guys messed up one after
another. In a way they deserve what is happening to them. I predict they will
go the same way like Informix, which had good technology and got bought by IBM for its technology and then got 'dumped,'
after their technology was grafted into IBM's own databases.
Well, there's some truth in both of those claims. But from my sense of
things, despite Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz's
claim that Sun has been able to monetize Java in myriad ways, Java was never a
direct moneymaker for Sun, but an indirect one by association. And it is pretty
well known that other companies, such as IBM,
have made more money from Java than Sun has.
So I don't think Sun's woes can be linked specifically to Java or software
revenue problems. Java is everywhere still. And, indeed, in one alternative
sense Java could be viewed as possibly one of the things that could even hurt
Sun's revenue, as its write-once, run-anywhere promise makes it easier for
users to migrate their applications off of Sun hardware.
James Governor, an analyst with RedMonk, said, "Sun's problems are not
really software revenue problems-that is not where the fall-off has been. It
needs to sell more boxes. The bigger problem is still servers and the company's
awful decision to can Solaris x86 back in the day. That single decision should
haunt the managers at Sun-it's the one that hurt the firm more than any
And Marc Fleury, founder and former CEO
of JBoss, who made a killing off of selling services around the Java-based
open-source JBoss Application Server, said, "The secular trend of Linux is
hurting Solaris. As Linux continues its path of adoption in the high end,
Solaris is a hindrance. They could ignore this point five years ago because of
legacy applications, but porting to Linux and, ironically, Java makes this
point a thing of the past."
John Crupi, CTO of JackBe and former
distinguished engineer at Sun, put it succinctly, and in my view correctly.
"Sun is ahead of its time in vision, but unfortunately others beat them
to the punch. Take a look at Amazon EC2. Sun announced $1 per CPU per hour
years ago. Then comes Amazon and EC2 and executes on Sun's vision. Now Sun is
Michael Cote, another RedMonk analyst, said, "Technologies from the Sun
side of the world like Java are still widely used and depended on for billions
of dollars in potential revenue. The problem for Sun has been capitalizing on
that potential more than its rivals. In the case of Java, other outfits like IBM
and Oracle/BEA somehow figured [out] how to swipe sales based on Java
middleware away from Sun. On the other hand, when you look at Sun revenue
numbers, they're still large amounts of money, just not enough to support the
large company that Sun's become. To me, Sun has the problem of too wide of a
focus: There are many software products and areas that Sun works in, but I'm
not sure if the market duplication helps more than hurts."
So there are all kinds of places to lay blame, but I seriously doubt that
developers abandoning Java should be one of them. Besides, Sun is making
headway with efforts to support Ruby, Python and other dynamic languages on the
Java Virtual Machine.
As Marc Fleury put it: "Sun has a history of proving everyone wrong and
shaming analysts; never write them off. The 'Sun is setting' pun has been going
on for the past eight years, since [the] dot-com bomb ... that is one long
sunset. I like sunsets."
So what do you think? What's the reason Sun is in the
predicament it is in?