Jonathan Schwartz, president and chief operating officer of Sun Microsystems, recently met with a group of eWEEK editors, where he discussed his corporate agenda, Suns focus on energy conservation, open source and related topics. The following excerpts are from an edited interview.
What are the top items on your corporate agenda this year?
These are my personal priorities, which may not be reflective of corporate priorities. First and foremost is developer capture. Those are the folks that really fuel our ecosystem. When it comes to communities, Im concerned with everyone, not just the people who are going to write code. My blog is about reaching the broadest market possible and engaging with that community.
Second is basic awareness. Notice that the first one dovetails with the second. If you dont have engagement in the marketplace, it will be tough for you to get your message out. Im not worried about winning deals. Im worried about getting into the deals. If I can get into the deal, I can win it, and that is a difference from two years ago.
Recently Sun has been emphasizing the energy saving aspects of its products. Has that message started to resonate with CIOs?
Yes. Power and heat are big issues, and if you can reduce your power spend by 50 percent, that is real money.
Has any one industry been especially receptive to that message?
The financial industry is acutely focused on energy and space costs right now because frankly they are the most acutely focused on using technology as a competitive weapon.
Where do you think will be the next big corporate technology investment?
Social applications will drive more infrastructure development in the next year or two years than the entirety of the ERP [enterprise resource planning] demands in the 1990s. Let me give you an example of that: We run Suns ERP system on a 30 percent utilized E-10K, which is a 5- or 6-year-old computer which I can replace right now with a Niagara box.
Compare that with the infrastructure for our developer community, which costs millions and millions of dollars. So even within Sun we see that shift. Social infrastructure is going to drive the corporation. You will spend more of your time interacting with your customers online in the next year than you ever have.
Is security still a top priority for the customers you meet with?
Security is a pervasive issue and will be for as long as we are on the planet. Our fastest growing business these days is the network identity business.
Other future acquisitions?
We will be a consolidator in the industry. With $4.5 billion in cash we are not only looking at continued organic development, but also on acquisition activity. We will be focused primarily on activities that allow us to purchase the innovations that allow us to radically reset the performance of the network infrastructure. We want to be the provider of the technologies that define computing.
Can you clarify the versioning, qualifying and updating of the Solaris operating system?
Solaris 10 is the last release to which an ISV needs to worry about qualifying because from here on out all the new features and innovations will be delivered as new updates or services. We have a very long pipeline of innovations that will be coming out as updates. As an example, Update 2, which we publicly said will be in June, will include ZFS, will be in the mainstream distribution and will be the worlds only 128-bit file system.
What was the analyst expectation, and what was the reality as Sun went about open-sourcing all of its software?
The expectation was that after all software was free and open source our revenue would go down. Our revenue didnt go down, but adoption in the pipeline went up.
Open-source operating systems, open-source middleware. Whats next?
SPARC. We will now have an open-source hardware platform as well.
Is open source a risky undertaking for a customer?
Open source is no more or less safe than closed source. What you need to worry about is, “Is the vendor safe?”
Whatever happened to Suns plans to lease or rent out computing power?
Salesforce.com has proved that outsourced services is the right model of delivering application services. No one has yet proved that it is the right model for delivering computing services, but it is not a big bridge to cross to get from one to the next. Weve been working one on one with customers to get them one at a time onto the grid.
And further developments of your Google partnership? There was disappointment that little was announced beyond a partnership last year.
Lets be clear, I think the media was disappointed. There is more to come. All companies will ultimately be in the business of not just content distribution but technology distribution also. There is very active discussion across the two companies.
And further developments in your discussions with Microsoft?
We continue to work with Microsoft especially with standards around network identity. That has definitely been the core focal point for our activity. JES [Suns Java enterprise system] is the only open-source program that allows interoperability with the [Micorosoft] .Net stack. Weve actually done quite a bit. We probably disagree with Microsoft on digital rights management.