Sunday, May 17, 2009

Thanks For The GREAT Memories Sun Microsystems: Scott, Bill, Andy, Vinod and John

With all the news today, I just wanted to share some memories of Sun over the past 22 years I have worked here at Sun. Note, I am still here at Sun, just thought I would take a couple of minutes to write down some of my memories over the many years.

When I first spoke with Sun Microsystems, it was the summer of 1984 and Betsy MacLean (later Ferry) and Steve Ferry had recently went over to Sun Microsystems from Systems Development Corporation (SDC) a Division of Burroughs Corporation. I met Betsy and Steve while we were all at SDC. It is interesting to note that SDC based in Santa Monica, California, was arguably the world's first computer software company as noted by Wikipedia. I was not smart enough to go over to Sun in 1984 :-)

Sun was founded in 1982 with Sun standing for Stanford University Network (SUN).

In 1986, I was an SE for SDC and technical lead for a HUGE and extremely challenging opportunity for High Performance Workstations opportunity where Sun Microsystems was the digital workstation and Masscomp was the analog workstation of choice. At the end of 1986 and long after the completion of the bid and benchmarks, I started talking to Sun Microsystems about working there. I started on May 4th, 1987.

Betsy hired me and was a great manager and leader. My mentor was Neil Groundwater who was clearly the smartest person in computers that I had ever met. In the summer of 1987 we found out we won the HPW business that has since been worth at least $2 BILLION to Sun Microsystems over the years - yes that is B as in BILLION. Steve Ferry was THE Sales Rep on this opportunity and to this day is far and away the best Sales Rep I have ever seen/worked with and a great friend to this day.

There are so many people to thank for the great, great memories that I have of Sun Microsystems. I have to first thank Betsy for hiring me, Neil for being a great mentor and a great friend. I have worked with and for lots of great individuals for 22 years at Sun. I had the privilege of working for three great SE Directors - Joy Warfield, Brad Kirley and Sue Walls who all showed great leadership and courage. Most importantly, Joy, Brad and Sue firmly believed in the Sun mantra "work hard and play hard". In the "play hard" vein, Dennis Govoni and I pulled countless pranks on each other and have teamed up with others on some very memorable April Fools Goofs as well.

During the past five years I have been the Chief Technologist for the Software Practice and it has been the most fun I have had at Sun. I have had the great fortune for working for a true software leader in Dave Profozich. Dave has been a great leader and friend.

By far, the most fun and rewarding experience I have ever had was working with Dave Patterson of Berkeley on MTConnect.

Finally, a huge special thanks to Scott McNealy, Bill Joy, Andy Bechtolsheim, Vinod Khosla and John Gage. While John was not officially one of Sun's four founders, he was always known as the "fifth Beatle" and employee #21 John coined the term "The Network Is The Computer". Below is one of the classic photos that we always used for presentations to show the founders.

Above is the photo from the Sun Founders Panel night at The Computer History Museum on January 11th, 2006.

I remember Scott McNealy signing my Sun 10 Year Anniversary Yearbook in 1992 with the message:

I remember being with Bill Joy, John Gage and Neil Groundwater having dinner in Georgetown and the wine list was given to me to select. This is the classic pig staring at a Rolex watch type of scenario with Dave Edstrom looking at a wine list. I looked at the list and said, "how about a pitcher of Busch beer?" Neil Groundwater gave me one of those looks that could kill. Bill Joy was very cool about it. Bill said, "Dave, a cold beer sounds good and John, why don't you select a bottle of wine as well."

I could go on and on with stories, but this is enough for today.

It is a sad day when a company that had so much energy and creativity as Sun Microsystems dies. Sun is probably best known for Java, Solaris and SPARC but there is so much more at Sun Microsystems. If you worked for Sun during its peak, it was quite the company to work for. As my oldest son John, who works for Sun as a Campus Ambassador, told me this morning, "Sun had quite a ride." Yes, it was a great ride!

Who knows how this will all shake it out, but at this time I am reminded of the old phrase, "You can not adjust the wind, you can only adjust your sails...."

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