When CEO Scott McNealy recently told eWeek that Sun is "a solid company financially, market-positionwise, technologywise, pipelinewise and all the rest of it," some observers, no doubt, wondered if he was talking about the same company that reported a revenue decline of 31 percent last year and a net loss of $2.28 billion in the recent financial second quarter.
We tend to agree with McNealy that, despite some persistent product gaps and strategic misapprehensions, the company is in a stronger position than post-dot-com-bust appearances might indicate. Thats a good thing. The IT industry, particularly in the current environment of spending retrenchment and vendor consolidation, needs Sun and its technology innovation.
Indeed, despite financial setbacks, Suns core technology advances continue apace. Its recently announced Throughput Computing strategy will boost the power of its UltraSPARC processor by a factor of 30 over the next five years.
Sun has also made some encouraging decisions on the software side. Its Orion initiative should help reduce the complexity enterprises face in provisioning and deploying new software releases. And, after an initial balky response to Linux, Sun has figured out a way to embrace the operating system, at least on the desktop.
However, if Sun is not only to survive but also to thrive, it must focus first and foremost on the requirements of enterprise customers. So far, Sun has seen Linux mainly as a tool for boosting Solaris server sales, but Sun should recognize that many CIOs are ready to consider Linux for more complex server-side applications and give enterprise customers the choice of Unix or Linux.
Similarly, Sun must recognize that, as enterprises look to reduce complexity and boost flexibility, they increasingly want a single vendor for leading-edge IT and business services as well as technologies. Suns N1 initiative, primarily a technology-centric strategy for delivering self-managing data centers, should add a services component, similar to IBMs e-business on-demand strategy.
If Sun continues to retool its strategy according to the needs of enterprise customers, sooner or later, McNealy will have no need to reassure outsiders of the companys viability. That will be obvious to competitors as well as customers.