Thursday, May 4, 2017

30 Year Anniversary of My First Day At Sun Microsystems

Thirty years ago today, May 4th, 1987, was my first day at Sun Microsystems.   This is a long post because it is fun to think back over all of the great memories.  Note: if you want to share this blog,  is the URL.

First off, it was far and away the best 23 years of my work life!  It was incredible working with the smartest, most creative and without question the most passionate people on planet earth.  I started off as a 27 year old and left at age 50.  When I started Julie and I had no kids and when it was all over we had three sons age 22, 20 and 16.   If I started to list all of the great friends I made at Sun it would be literally thousands of entries.

Words can not express how grateful I am for having had the opportunity to have worked at Sun Microsystems for almost 23 years.  I have had more fun, learned more than anyone thought possible, and made a ton of lifetime friends.  My wife and I have been to 7 Sun Rises (Sun's Club and trip for top achievers) and were able to see parts of the world we never would have seen without Sun. My favorite Sun Rise memory was sitting on the beach at Waikiki and watching my 12 year old son John and 10 year old son Michael swim out 100 yards, get up together and surf  all the way in for the first time in their lives.  My oldest son, John, became Sun's Campus Ambassador at Virginia Tech and had a blast doing that for Sun.
I have been asked many times over the years (especially during the tough times at Sun):

       "Why do you stay at Sun?"

My response has always been the same:

       "Scott McNealy and Sun's employees."
When they would ask me to expand, I would tell them about all the things that were/are so great about Sun - the people, the mission, the products, the integrity of the company, and it all starts with Scott.  Scott will always be a hero to Dave Edstrom.

Sun was founded February 24th, 1982 with Sun standing for Stanford University Network (SUN). Below is the canonical photo of the four Sun founders (all of whom were 27 at the founding of Sun in 1982) with (from left to right) Scott McNealy, Andy Bechtolsheim, Bill Joy and Vinod Khosla.


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 :-)

In 1986, I was a Systems Engineer (SE) for SDC and technical lead for a HUGE and extremely challenging opportunity for High Performance Workstations (HPW) 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.

Above is a photo from one of my bucket lists trip on Mike O'Dell's super yacht.  From left going clockwise is Neil Groundwater, me, Mike O'Dell and Captain Fred Denniston.

When I started for Sun I remember seeing this orange logo (without the word workstation), when I was out in Mountain View at 2650 Garcia Avenue in Mountain View (from Wikipedia), on a sign, but the logo to the right below was logo Sun had up until 1996, and the large Sun logo below both the logos was the logo from 1996 until Oracle acquired Sun in 2010.  Vaughn Pratt of Sun designed the famous Sun logo, which features four interleaved copies of the word "sun"; it is an ambigram according to Wikipedia.

Scott McNealy always said to "work hard and play hard!"  At Sun, we were known for our April Fools Pranks.  In the McLean, VA office we had a few great ones as well.  Longtime Sun employee,  fellow Sun Prankster, SPARC God, Corvette and biking buddy, and all-around great guy John Meyer has captured these for historical purposes and absolutely worth checking out. 
  • Govassic Park
    • SunCLONE ONE in particular really needs to be checked out as this was "insanely great".  Please note Steve Jobs STOLE that phrase from us :-)
Meet SMI's newest subsidiary, SundEnPjMsF, the brilliant minds behind the SunCLONE ONE:
  • Neil Pierson, Java MRI Real-Time Imaging Architect (JMRIA)
  • John Meyer, Java Physicist and Quantum Computing Architect (JPQCA);
  • Dave Edstrom, Chief Genius and Technology Architect (CGTA);
  • Steve Fritzinger, Java DNA Neurosurgeon Architect (JDNAC)
One of my favorite Sun "foes" :-) over the years was Dr. Dennis Govoni.  We had WAY too much fun pulling practical jokes on each other over the years, as well as doing some very important work.  Dennis presented at VT's ACM Meeting.  When Dennis left Sun, I wrote this blog post because Dennis was one of the best that Sun had ever hired.  My all time favorite customer visit was when Bill Joy's office called and asked Dennis, Conrad Geiger and me to visit a company in Chicago. This company claimed to have *invented* a storage device using sub-atomic particles and aspects of quantum mechanics. We all made the trip out there on a very cold winter day. Let's just say, that this "company" clearly did *not* invent anything. Makes for great memories though... Dennis, Conrad and I laughed all the way back to the airport :-)

Above is my all time favorite Sun t-shirt!   We often joked about how many t-shirts, polo shirts, jackets, sweaters, and yes - even Sun underwear one time from the storage group, that we would get at Sun.  One of my favorite Sun apparel stories was the suggestion in the DC office that we should all bring in our Sun shirts that we no longer wanted and give them to a homeless organization in DC.  Everyone thought it was a great idea until someone said, "do we REALLY want EVERY homeless person in DC to be wearing a Sun Microsystems shirt?"   Oh yeah, good point.  We then talked about chipping in and having "IBM Global Services" t-shirts made up, but did not go that route.  We did have many homeless drives, but we decided to keep our older Sun shirts at home :-)

 One of my more famous stories was my $1million dollar Ford Taurus.

In April 1995 I exercised 4,000 options at $4.45 a share (split adjusted) to purchase a fully loaded 1994 Ford Taurus.  Those 4,000 options gave me $17,800 to purchase the car and I took a little money out for some other minor things.  Most of the money went for the 1994 Ford Taurus.

Anyway, back to the story.  On August 28th, 2000 SUNW was trading for $255.62 a share (adjusted for splits).   Sooooo, my 1994 Ford Taurus was worth $1,022,480  (which was 4,000 * $255.62)

I told the story back at a Sun meeting and the funny part of it was  once (years later) I was at a large Sun meeting and this Sun VP gets up there and tells MY STORY.  I raise my hand and say, "I'm the guy.  I STILL OWN that Ford Taurus."  The Taurus was still "worth" $36,880 when I gave it away. 

An event that was sold out and had a long waiting list was the Sun Microsystems Founder night at the Computer History Museum.  I was in town and it was the hottest ticket in town with very limited seating.  I knew I could not work the normal Sun channels because everyone at Sun was trying to do that, sooooo, I thought for awhile and came up with a plan that worked.  Ask me in person on how :-)

Here is the video on the Computer History Museum that was the founders of Sun talking about Sun's history.  I was there in the 3rd row on January 11th, 2006.   I asked Bill Joy and John Gage to retell the "Network Is The Computer Story" which I heard both Bill and John tell me on separate occasions when were having dinner together in Aspen and Georgetown respectively.  It was a great night listening to Andy Bechtolscheim, Vinod Khosla, Scott McNealy and Bill Joy.   In the photo below, I asked Bill Joy to retell the story of how "The Network Is The Computer", which came about at the 1:43:40 mark in the video below:


A very interesting trip for me was visiting the old Sun campus after Facebook purchased it from Oracle.  I was visiting because my oldest son John now works for Instagram/Facebook.

Below is the Facebook sign that you see from the road.  Mark Zuckerberg had the old Sun Microsystems sign turned around so that when all Facebook employees leave the campus they see the old Sun Microsystems sign and are reminded that if they do not continue to execute they will end up like "that technology company."  Obviously, I have mixed feelings about that message :-)

The first time I visited the Facebook campus John pointed out that they had forgotten to take down one of the old "Sun Badges must be displayed for entry"

John was also a Sun Campus Ambassador.  I was fortunate to have the opportunity to bring down some real Sun thought leaders to speak at VT where John was also the President of the ACM at VT.   Below is John at Java One with Jonathan Schwartz and James Gosling.

Above is the signature of Scott McNealy on the 10 Year Anniversary of Sun Microsystems book we all received.  Scott asked me how to sign it and I said, "how about to the east coast Bill Joy?"  Scott laughed and agreed to sign it that way :-)

At VT on November 6th, 2007  Chris Melissinos surpassed anything that I have ever witnessed before. 

The audience was 60 extremely bright Computer Science students who are also members of the ACM at VT.   VT is one of the top Computer Science and Engineering Schools that is well known for their deep Linux expertise.

The students started showing up early at 7:00pm and Chris spoke until 11:30pm with no breaks until we finally had to leave.  The President of the ACM said:

         "I have seen countless ACM presentations by every
         company you can think of and I have never - ever -
         seen this type of response and this amount
         of incredible interest."

Chris helped me out by speaking at VT AND in 2011 he gave an incredible keynote at the first ever [MC]2 MTConnect: Connecting Manufacturing Conference!  Below is me thanking Chris after his talk.



Above is Mike Geldner finishing up a tremendous presentation at the same conference.

In 2013 John Meyer and Steve Fritzinger gave the opening keynotes and did an AMAZING job!

  • Processing Zetabytes: The Technologies Enabling Big Data and AnalyticsJohn Meyer of IBM’s Systems and Technology Group will put in perspective where computing technologies have been and how they are adapting to a big data future. Most importantly, John will discuss how industry is positioning itself for a future where massive data analytics will be in common use and how it is applying these technologies for competitive advantage.
  • Manufacturing with Darwin, Moore, and MetcalfeSteve Fritzinger of Network Appliance brings together a unique blend of deep technical expertise and economics knowledge to address problems for clients. Steve is the economics commentator for the BBC program Business Daily. Manufacturing is going through a great deal of change and it won’t be the strongest that survive, but rather those companies that can adapt, scale and connect. In this talk, Steve will describe how trends in software, international trade and education policy will affect manufacturing in the coming decade.
Getting together with Sun friends over the years is always a true pleasure.  Folks such as John Morrell, Joel McClung, Brian Raymor, Brian Wong, Tim Wallace, Sue Walls, Joy Warfield,  Harry Foxwell, Jim Fiori, John Gardner, Gary Grimes, Dick Bowman, Mark Connelly, Tom Merical, Bruce Haddon, Marie O'Brien, Anita Weber, Dave Profozich, Garry Jakoby, Dennis McLain, Cynthia Renshaw-Lion, Bob Ebling, Brad Kirley, Faye Melissinos, Wayne Gifford, MaryBeth Cockerham, James Hollingshead, Phil Morris, Paul Krein, Ray Voight, Rey Perez, Mike Dye, Mike Dergurahian, Mike Briggs, Adrian Cockcroft, Hal Stern, the other folks I mentioned in this blog post, as well as countless others that I wish I could list here are lifelong friends that all came out of the great Sun Microsystems.

It is very sad to think of Sun employees you are no long with us.  Great individuals such as Brian Carney and Todd Hathaway come to mind immediately. 

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

Below are some photos from the "40 Years of Patterson" blog that I put together of that amazing weekend celebration that I was lucky enough to be invited to!

Above is Dave Patterson and me.
It was great seeing the old Sun gang.  To my left is Dr. Bob Sproull a legendary computer scientist who was at Sun for 21 years and next to Bob is the world famous John Gage - known as the fifth Sun founder - the person who coined the term, "The Network Is The Computer" and created "Net Day" where John convinced President Bill Clinton and VP Al Gore to wire classrooms across the country for Internet access.

Above on the left is Ed Kelly (former Sun Distinguished Engineer who developed the first SPARC computer, Sun-4 systems architect, MBus systems architect, SPARC-64), Dr. Bob Gardner in the middle (former Sun employee and father of SPARC - Lead instruction set architect of first SPARC microprocessor and hardware co-designer of the Sun-4/200 workstation, the first SPARC system, in the Advanced Development group (SunLab's precussor), defined key aspects of 64-bit SPARC and co-sponsored SPEC consortium. Manged the I/O ASIC design group (of 7) for the SPARC-Center-2000 "Dragon" high-performance server.) and me.

I sat at the table with Ed, Bob and Bob Sproull and we had a great time reminiscing at the Saturday night Dave Patterson dinner at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza in Berkeley.

My most proud moment in those 23 years was working with Dr. Dave Patterson on MTConnect.
In March 2006, AMT asked me to come up with a speaker from Sun Microsystems who also had knowledge of manufacturing to speak at AMT's Annual Meeting in Lake Las Vegas. I went through three such speakers over a six-month period as each one either left Sun on their own or had their position eliminated. After the third speaker left the company, I was out of candidates. I felt embarrassed for both Sun and myself that I let AMT down. When I apologized to John Byrd, AMT's President at that time, for not being able to deliver a Sun speaker, John suggested that I do the keynote. I was more than happy to do this, but I knew little about machine tools. John came up with a great suggestion: I could spend two days at IMTS 2006 with AMT's CTO and VP of Technology, Paul Warndorf, in preparation for the keynote. It was a brilliant idea and I jumped at it. Paul took me around to countless exhibitors to learn about the different technologies and ask questions about them.
After we finished the two days, I met with John and Paul where I made two observations and two suggestions.

My observations:
  1. Manufacturing does not have a manufacturing problem. Manufacturing has a computer science problem. The manufacturing industry was like the computer industry back in the mid-1980s. There were too many network protocols and the fight was to own the winning protocol. Back then it was very expensive and you had to place a bet on which network protocol was going to win. It could easily be an additional $700 to enable your PC to be networked in the enterprise. TCP/IP and ethernet eventually won the network battle. When this happened the number of computers networked grew by multitudes, as did the software that would take advantage of the ubiquitous networking. It was the classic story of a rising tide lifting all ships.
  2. Until you have an open and royalty-free way for these machine tools to speak to the rest of the world, nothing else really matters and manufacturing will just continue to struggle. The technologies are already out there today with XML, http and TCP/IP. There was no need to reinvent the wheel. A usable solution could be built on the de facto internet platform that already existed. Additionally, it was important to avoid the "country club approach" that had failed in the past in manufacturing and other industries — the kind where you charge for the protocol and you charge for each deployment.

The suggestions:
  1. You need an economic wake-up call on why it is important to have an open and royalty-free way for these machine tools to speak to the rest of the world.
  2. You need someone who has led a revolution or two, since this is what we are really talking about. They asked me who I suggested. I said the only person I would recommend would be Dr. David Patterson of the University of California at Berkeley (UCB). Dave Patterson is a computer pioneer and a true legend in the computer industry. Dave is one of the most recognizable names in computer science. I knew Dave because he was the advisor at UCB to Bill Joy. Bill was a co-founder at Sun and has been called "the Edison of the internet" by Fortune Magazine. Bill is a legendary programmer and system visionary. I also knew Dave from working with him when I was chairman of a futures conference in 2000.

John Byrd asked if I would reach out to Dave Patterson. Luckily, Dave agreed to work on the project provided I come out and brief him and that we work together on both presentations. I was thrilled to work with someone of Dave Patterson's stature. It was like being a high school basketball player and having Michael Jordan say he wants to work closely with you.

Dave and I worked very hard together to create two hour-long keynote speeches. Dave joked that if he knew how much time he was going to put into it, he might not have said yes to me. But our presentations were a huge success. Rick Kline of Gardner Communications came up to me afterwards and said that our presentations were two of the best that he had ever seen in manufacturing. It was great to see that we'd had such an impact.
In 2013, I wrote a boot titled, MTConnect: To Measure Is To Know, answers the question, "how and why a royalty-free and open source standard is revolutionizing the business and technology of manufacturing."

This is the world's first book on MTConnect and open systems. This book is not just about MTConnect, but it is first a book that discusses the many lessons learned in the world of open systems. Dave Edstrom has spent 35 years in the computer industry, where he worked at such companies as Sun Microsytems for over 23 years. Dave helps the reader understand that MTConnect is not an evolution in manufacturing, but it is a revolution and a true game changer. MTConnect is making possible the dreams and desires of generations of manufacturers, machine tool builders and manufacturing equipment providers who all want to see the same goal of different devices having a common connection on the plant floor.  

Learn how and why the lessons of open systems are being applied to manufacturing and changing the business and technology of manufacturing with MTConnect.   It is available at Amazon in paperback and in Kindle format, at Google Play aka Android as well as on iTunes at Apple.

Above is the front of my book and below is the back cover.  I am eternally thankful that both Dave Patterson and Scott McNealy wrote the recommendations on the back cover.

In the spring of 2014, I received an email from Dr. Richard Zurawski, who was referred to me by Dr. Dave Patterson of UCB, to to write a chapter on MTConnect for the Second Edition Industrial Communication Technology Handbook.  Dr. Zurawski's book is THE book on industrial communications and was an honor to be asked and an extreme honor to be included in this very important book.

For everyone else, there are way too many people to thank from fellow employees to customers to partners and most importantly - family and friends.

Most importantly, I must thank my beautiful wife - Julie - for all her support through thick and thin.

Sun is just a memory now - much like Burroughs, DEC, Apollo, Data General, Sperry Univac and countless other computer companies that either acquired, merged or simply went belly up.....

Thanks to Sun and selling half my SUNW stock, (near the peak - it is better to be lucky then good and having my accountant drive home the point to diversify and my mother-in-law telling me stories of her friends at IBM that watched their stock go in the crapper drove me to sell and being a paranoid guy led me to sell 1/2 - thank god!) the photo above I took on our 25th Anniversary in 2008 when we spent a month in Europe with a 12 day cruise in the middle.

On Thursday the 27th, 2009, we held a SunDC Sunset Party for former (and some current) Sun Microsystems employees. We were hoping to get 20 to 30 to show up since it was a Thursday, it was a prime vacation week and it was simply a get together. This was not Sun sponsored and Sun did not pay for anything. We were shocked and thrilled to have over 300 Sun employees (past and some current) show up.

We created a tradition where the third Thursday of July at Coastal Flats in Tysons, VA.  It is an annual event that always puts a perpetual smile on my face thinking back on those great years.