The Decline and Fall of Sun

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2011-02-25 Print this article Print


However, in time Sun lost billions of dollars during a steady decline that continued for more than a decade after the dotcom boom collapsed in 2000-2001. During the boom Sun had been able to sell its servers and workstations for whatever the market would bear; $20,000 for a workstation or high-performance server were normal prices.

After the dotcom bust, lightly used Sun equipment became a glut in the market, and the company found itself getting squeezed on the high end by IBM equipment and on the low end by smaller, cheaper Intel-powered servers and storage arrays from Hewlett-Packard, Dell and many others. 

When he fielded the inevitable question about "what happened," Zander opted not to talk about it, saying instead that "we did what we did; we had some great successes and made some mistakes. We know that. But let's not go there now. This is a celebration of sorts tonight and let's leave it at that." 

Zander, who served as CEO of Sun (1998-2002) and of Motorola (2003-2008), asked most of the questions and offered some cogent thoughts on the development of IT, then and now. And McNealy, never one to be at a loss for a quip or joke, came through as expected with a number of funny-and sometimes surprising-lines. 

For example, McNealy says Sun can take credit for developing the concept and fundamental elements of cloud computing. 

"We invented all the elements of cloud computing at Sun. Remember, our tagline was 'The network is the computer.' We came up with TCP/IP, the first NFS (network file system), and Java. All those things are the basis for cloud computing today and they all still work really well." 

"Ken Olsen (who died on Feb. 6), who is one of the all-time thought leaders in IT, was co-founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). When DEC launched (in 1957), they called themselves 'distributed computing,' which was the first phrase for cloud computing." 

McNealy on open source development: "We invented open source at Sun, taking the first open source operating system (Sun co-founder Bill Joy's BSD Unix) out of Berkeley. We open-sourced TCP/IP, Java-a long list of really important IT building blocks. Other companies, like Red Hat, might have monetized it better." 

McNealy also conceded that one of his biggest mistakes was that Sun waited too long to move to the Intel processor architecture for its servers. 

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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