Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Open Source Mistakes That Killed Sun Microsystems

I really enjoyed this article on Sun Microsystems in The Register. Below is a snippet:

"Is there, then, a teachable moment here? A moment that McNealy can impart to Ellison, given that McNealy is a career-long fan of marrying open source with commerce since he picked up BSD and ran with it in SunOS, and then teamed up with Unix's then-owner AT&T to sink SunOS into Unix System V Release 4 in 1990?

McNealy, after all, likes to boast how Sun donated an "enormous" amount of its R&D to the community, and he identifies Sun as the Red Hat of Berkeley Unix. Any lessons the old dog of open systems can teach the brash database king?

Sure, McNealy tells us: put your shareholders first.

Wait — what? That's the language of Ellison [10]!

"We probably got a little too aggressive near the end and probably open sourced too much and tried too hard to appease the community and tried too hard to share," McNealy said. "You gotta take care of your shareholders or you end up very vulnerable like we got. We were a wonderful acquisition — we got stolen for a song at the bottom of the Dow."

"That's the message," McNealy tells us. "You gotta strike a proper balance between sharing and building the community and then monetizing the work that you do... I think we got the donate part right, I don't think we got the monetize part right.'"
 I remember personally asking Scott when would Sun have a DB.  He agreed with me that we needed a DB to compete in the market place.  Below is his recent discussion on this topic from the same article at The Register:

History lessons

History might have been different had Sun open sourced Solaris sooner and delivered its own x86 servers rather than rely on a set of compromised Microsoft partners. It might also have been different had Sun ventured away from hardware sooner and into that other great moneyspinner, the database. Not having a database was Sun's "Achilles leg," McNealy said. "Oracle sucked an enormous amount of life blood out of [Sun] customers because we didn't have a database to compete."