Sun's 'Open'-Door Policy

Sun's Schwartz and Green discuss how the company is leveraging open source to make new enterprise inroads. 

Sun Microsystems President and CEO Jonathan Schwartz and Executive Vice President for Software Rich Green run what is now the largest open-source-based IT infrastructure company in the world.

Schwartz became CEO of the 26-year-old company in May 2006 when longtime President and CEO Scott McNealy moved to take over as chairman of the board. One of Schwartz's first moves was to rehire Green, who had run Sun's Java and Solaris businesses-among other things-for 14 years, from 1990 to 2004. Green has overseen the company's final two years of transition to a company that develops open-source software, uses it as an entr??«e into enterprises, and then sells hardware and services into those enterprises.

Schwartz and Green sat down with eWEEK Editorial Director Eric Lundquist and Senior Writer Chris Preimesberger on April 8 for a wide-ranging conversation at the company's Menlo Park, Calif., campus.

Sun has made the transition to a legitimate open-source business model. What is the next step?

Schwartz: Open source is a means to an end. It's a mechanism to grow the broadest market, build the largest ecosystem, reach the maximum set of opportunities ... but just because you've reached the market doesn't mean you've effectively built the business. It's the difference between being popular and being successful.

In your estimation, is the open-source message getting out to the institutions, by and large?

Schwartz: They may not be the target demographic. Because, for 95 percent of the CIOs I interact with, when you say, "open source," they cringe. And they worry. And what they want to know is: Is there robust enterprise support, a high-integrity road map, great innovation and full legal indemnification? So that's what we talk about when we talk to CIOs.

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And again, none of them is likely to join the community and submit a bug fix. That's the antithesis of what they want to do. On the other hand, if you talk to a developer, or a startup, or a developing nation, they care an awful lot about the fact that we have the highest-integrity open-source license, highest-integrity open-source community-the only real productive commercial engagement with open source in the marketplace.

Lots of other companies have assembled intellectual property and then put their brand on the top and said, "Look what we did." We actually put 11,000 engineers to work at Sun to go fuel those communities, seed those communities and drive those communities. The net result is we produce innovation-with brands like MySQL, OpenSolaris and Java-and then we produce products and technologies that allow businesses to run more efficiently. At the end of the day, that's what CIOs care about. They just want to run their businesses better, and they don't want to get involved in political philosophy or theorizing.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he has...