Sun’s Tough Choices: Rich Green Books, 6,000 to Loose Job

Posted on November 14, 2008

Today we got a press release no one wanted to see: Sun Microsystems Aligns Business with Global Economic Climate and Amplifies Growth Opportunities Across Open Source Platforms… how much more rosey you can make it sound, I don’t know. As a result, the stock traded higher today, by 1% at close, but the stock took a beating in after-hours trading and struggled to stay above $4 in early trading.

So lets break it down, for better or worse…

Many of us have known that Sun is still too large, in terms of employee count. Even with repetitive RIF’s (reduction in force), the company keeps making aquisitions and the cuts, as deep and painful as they are, haven’t been deep enough. What a horrible thing to say…. but there it is.

Rich Green is gone. Whether he resigned for personal reasons or not, I don’t know and don’t care. There are a great many of us glad to see him gone, but as for particulars, he hasn’t really been an outward facing fellow, so most news about him comes by way of rumor which I don’t like to subscribe to.

WIthin Systems Software there are now 3 groups:

  1. Application Platform Software, run by EVP Anil Gadre, formerly Chief Marketing Officer. So these guys handle everything on top of the systems software, including the whole Java stack, databases, software integration, and even Sun Ed.
  2. Systems Platforms, run by the EVP John Fowler, undoubtedly the most public facing of all Sun’s executives, will handle all the software that makes the hardware go, including Solaris, Virtualization including xVM and Virtualbox, management software, etc.
  3. Cloud Computing & Developer Platforms, run by SVP Dave Douglas, will handle NetBeans, OpenOffice, and, trying to put Sun in a position to leverage the Cloud and build new avenues of business for the company.

So we see a stack here. I’m curious as to how much of systems, from a hardware production perspective, will stay with John Fowler and who will be stepping in.

As usual, two big questions are floating in the air: a) when will Sun be acquired, and b) when will Jonathan step down. As to the first, I don’t think it will happen. The company is a tough one to deal with, and would invariably involve a lot of slicing and dicing. In this tough economic climate I don’t think anyone has the time or money to take on the problems of Sun. As to the latter, I like Jonathan and wish him only the greatest success. I do question many decisions he’s made, the MySQL acquisition first and foremost, and I’m not happy with how distracted Sun is by itself. Systems, Systems, Systems… make great systems, sell great systems, provide software that makes them better… systems systems systems! The bottom line is, the Sun Board of Directors will make that call, and clearly they haven’t felt it was the right decision.

I want to highlight that point. There is a lot of people after Jonathan’s head, but the blame for any missteps is on the Board. They are the final authority and they are signing off on it.

The future is unclear, but its time to streamline. I recommend reading my (Joyent) CEO David Young’s perspective: In the Business Cycle of Create, Improve, Destroy: What Sun Needs to Do Now, forward looking given that it was written on Nov 6th.