A Big Idea

By Steve Gillmor  |  Posted 2004-03-16 Print this article Print

You referred on your blog to looking forward to "having enough cycles" for a Big Idea. What is it?

As Jim Gray has been saying for some time now, "Memory is the new disk. Disks are the new tape." And I think enterprise applications arent architected taking that fact into mind, and I have definite ideas how they could be.

Again, how would that relate to what your duties at Sun would entail?

Well, clearly, anything that makes the delivery of enterprise applications better, faster, more robust is interesting to Sun, and the fact is that the enterprise computing infrastructure has been changing due to Moores Law and so on, and the falling price and rising size of memory tends to exceed the expansion in the rate of data in recent years. And so I think there are some very interesting and productive changes to be made in some of the infrastructure, particularly the Java infrastructure, to potentially take advantage of that. Very very early stuff, just experimental, but keeping me awake at night.

What about peer-to-peer technologies such as JXTA—have you looked into that?

Only trivially. That has some roots of its thinking in the old Linda [parallel programming coordination language] technology that [David] Gelertner did years and years ago, which I thought was wonderful and which I was astounded never changed the world. But I have been working so hard on search and user interface and things like that for the last couple of years that I havent had time to go deep on JXTA.

Your goals: near, mid and long range?

Theyre all the same. My goal is to have an impact on the way people use computers.

What did John Fowler say to you that convinced you this was the right way to turn at this point?

Johns a really smart guy, and we had an extended conversation and discovered that we have lots of points where we have shared perceptions of the world. And he painted a picture of the way that his group works, and he also disclosed some of the very interesting directions that Sun is thinking of moving in, and it all just lined up really well with the things Ive been thinking a lot about.

What do you see as the resources Sun can bring to bear, competing with Microsoft Corp. in particular?

Sun has fantastic resources in terms of the population of really smart people. The problem of how does one compete with Microsoft is a problem of global importance thats not limited to what any one company does. Speaking for myself, not Sun, the way current information technology is priced is just crazy. The whole notion of doing your IT infrastructure out of the capital budget, capitalizing and depreciating that stuff, is just stupidly bad accounting and also bad business. One of the things that turns my crank is some of the things Sun has been saying about the right way to go about pricing infrastructure.

Per-citizen licensing, etc.?

One way or another, the world is going to end up with something just like that.

And you think Sun has the resources to pull that off?

Well, they do now that Im there. [laughs] I think its a good bet.

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Steve Gillmor is editor of eWEEK.com's Messaging & Collaboration Center. As a principal reviewer at Byte magazine, Gillmor covered areas including Visual Basic, NT open systems, Lotus Notes and other collaborative software systems. After stints as a contributing editor at InformationWeek Labs, editor in chief at Enterprise Development Magazine, editor in chief and editorial director at XML and Java Pro Magazines, he joined InfoWorld as test center director and columnist.

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