Sun is toying with the number 1. Whether that number is indicative of leadership or aloofness is not a bad question to ask. Building on the success of the Sun ONE (Open Net Environment) campaign that kicked off last year, Sun has at least two other singular strategies: S1 and N1, the latter being a quasi-secret Sun project that, as far as I can tell, is the closest the company has ever gotten to hypeware.
While Sun ONE is about Suns vision for network development and S1 is about storage, N1 is perplexing—its about the network infrastructure and better ways of managing it. Sun started discussions of it in February during an analyst call. Two months later, the company actually retreated from talking about N1. Instead, Sun prefers to talk about the surrounding problems that IT administrators face, which led to the idea of N1.
The problem, in general, is that there are so many discrete components on the network, each one with its own management scheme, that IT administrators are forced to manage the components and not the network. Its a sort of penny-wise and pound-foolish scenario for networks. The goal of N1 is to enable administrators to manage the network instead of the components.
Although N1 is a fundamental and necessary goal, the question is whether Sun can pull it off. Im not convinced that any other company could do it. IBM seems unlikely. The company was never able to overcome the failure of the Micro Channel bus, and its best research lies hidden in a lab. Intel could have a role, but its stake in networking (acquired with the purchase of Level One) is not completely fleshed out yet.
Microsoft also seems unlikely, not because it cant do it, but because the competitors that are necessary to make it all work simply wont invite Microsoft to the table.
Sun, however, has a long way to go. The companys recent exclusion from the WS-I (Web Services Interoperability) Organization list of founders demonstrates that theres a disconnect between how the company perceives itself and how others perceive it.
My point is not that Sun needs to be a founding member of the WS-I to make N1 succeed. The problem is one of influence. Sun clearly cant do something like N1 alone.
Can Sun convince partners and competitors to make N1 possible? Write to me at email@example.com.