Announcing Greg Papadopoulos, CTO and EVP, R&D

Greg Papadopoulos (Sun’s Chief Technology Officer) and I made a joint customer call recently, to the COO of one of the world’s largest on-line companies. The customer made an interesting point – his job was getting more technical. A change from a few years ago, when his priority was big web traffic deals and traditional business development. The customer was a technologist to start, so he was in his comfort zone, but it had become increasingly obvious that the next generation of differentiation on the web was going to come from technology innovation – not just good BD or branding.

Now as you may have heard, I gave Greg a new title recently. In addition to being Sun’s CTO, he’s now Executive Vice President of Research and Development. Why’s that important?

Well, Sun is a company built for engineers, by engineers. I know that probably rubs some folks the wrong way, who want to hear me say we’re a “transformative value solutions” company (I can’t keep a straight face saying it). But let’s face it: value in information technology is coming down to how efficiently you can get something done. Whether it’s building a 30 teraflop grid or a web services infrastructure; powering a Java handset or an entire datacenter. From what and who I see, the folks who measure that efficiency are getting more technical, not less.

When the tools are chosen or the RFP’s are written, when the benchmarks are done or the operators take over, technologists are playing a more prominent role in our industry, not less. At least for our key customers, who live and die by technology (vs. those that should be shutting down their datacenters to buy network services from our core customers). Nick is right, IT Doesn’t Matter to those for whom IT isn’t a differentiator – but those aren’t Sun’s customers. Our customers live and die by IT.

So as a part of this change, the product group CTO’s, the sentinels supporting the line executives who run our businesses, will also report to Greg. In the world of human resources, that’s known as a “dual hard line” reporting structure. On the one hand, that’s only a symbolic change.

On the other, it is a very clear indication of where we’re heading. You cannot build a house by motivating sub-contractors with compelling visions of the future. That’s why you hire an architect. Similarly, you can’t build a network computing company without a chief architect to coordinate nearly $2 billion in R&D. And as a systems company, we now have a chief systems architect (and a fellow blogger).

This is also a signal inside and outside Sun: I am redoubling Sun’s commitment to the primacy of the systems technologist, the systems innovator and the systems engineer. And not just in engineering – but across Sun as a system itself (more on that in a later blog). Our core customers, those who develop systems and services, who operate, administer – and pay for – them, need thought partners and system (not component) suppliers. Most business problems, in our world, have solutions rooted in innovation – and primarily technical innovation. That’s our history, and our future.

I’m thrilled to have Greg assist me in driving focus and simplicity throughout Sun. From our great new developer tools, all the way up to identity enabled encrypted tape.

There are an ever smaller number of true systems innovators – those that can bring together the software, the hardware, the network and services layers, to form a coherent and compelling platform for the future of network computing. In your datacenter or in your pocket. We’re committed to be exactly that: an innovator that delivers value as measured by those who live or die by innovation.

Please join me in congratulating Greg as he helps to define a new era of technical leadership at Sun.


ps. For those interested, here’s a Q&A I just did with Forbes. And yet more focus on the things that really matter (at least the Inquirer has a sense of humor).


Filed under General

11 responses to “Announcing Greg Papadopoulos, CTO and EVP, R&D

  1. Roger Hughes

    On the one hand your comments are admirable and I think you’re right Sun has an opportunity to be unique designing, building, implementing and if it chooses, running its own technologies. Taking a systems based approach to solution provision is what genuinely helps customers.
    However there is a big threat in assuming engineering excellence adds up to commercial success. The same is true about assuming R&D = Innovation. Sun’s return on R&D investment over the past 5 years has been poor. Innovation is about the ‘corporate system’ and is not a function of R&D….Innovation is a process relying on envigorated and motivated people, it is about capturing and commercialising good ideas from wherever they eminate be it accounts clerks, reception personnel or EVP’s.

  2. Ed

    Wow – I never noticed the ponytail before! Can’t believe it’s such a big deal either

  3. Aris Doukakis

    Congratulations Greg – good to see proven people assume more responsibility at Sun.
    I think Sun’s greatest challenge is not one of technology leadership however, but one of ability to align great technology with business process.
    Customers and Wall Street alike will want to see the new leadership focusing on solving business issues as well as providing technical innovation.
    Certain that the new leadership has the will and know-how to move Sun into a new era.

  4. Anonymous

    Sun Microsystems would be doing it’s shareholders a big favor by eliminating the handing out of stock options to it’s executive officers. Sun lost an additional 5 cents per share this past quarter on stock options alone. You should be controlling executive greed before you start looking to layoff workers especially when it’s the executives’ fault that Sun is losing money and the stock is down to $5 per share. Obviously, you have to get rid of redundancies when you do acquistions, but you should start with executive officers’ greed first. There is NO INCENTIVE for an executive to HOLD on to company stock from stock options. Their incentive is to sell it to quickly double their money. If Sun Microsystems is the premier “real world technology education” company that I hear it is, then Sun doesn’t need to be handing out stock. The employees are leaving Sun to go become executives and CEOs of other companies; they aren’t staying because you give them stock options. Secondly, Sun Microsystems should pay down all it’s debt from the earnings they do get. Debt is always a drag on a company. And lastly, since the stock price is still only $5 per share, I would like Sun to buy back outstanding shares to get the overall outstanding shares below 3 billion shares. I am hoping and praying for Sun to have more corporate governance and less executive excessiveness.

  5. [Vision vs. Reality…]
    In my book, the new shopfloor management, and the results from the heart, I called it Glass wall management when people share progress of what is happening in his area of interest with those others in a concise manner so that the learning from the past is shared as much as the path to the future is discussed across the organizational boundaries. I see that idea practiced when you write your blog. I see that idea applied in how Sun may be positioning to move toward “network is the computer” principle in terms of its vision and – possibly – its way of own operation. Although I am not familiar with the current state of Sun’s business, I just wanted to share such as my impression.
    Saint-Exupery said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t gather your people and ask them to provide wood, prepare tools, assign tasks…Just call them together and raise in their minds the longing for the endless sea.” While I very much like this quote, I know that finding the balance between vision and reality is one of the most critical tasks each of us has. So, my best wishes to your challenge!!! Bon Voyage!

  6. Nikolaus Heger

    I thought I was going to sell my Sun stock now that it has made a healthy 30% but after reading your blog I am keeping it and actually may buy more.
    Your enthusiasm is contagious.

  7. Congratulations Jonathan for your new Job at Sun, I think you will do the best for the company, I’m a Java/Netbeans Developer and user, I think Sun is one of the most important companies in IT in the world, take care and Java Rulez!!!

  8. Apu Petilon

    It is scary that you are only counting companies such as Ebay and as your important customers. It is scary because there are only a few such companies. In the computer industry volume is everything.

  9. [Trackback] Jonathan Scchwartz, the leader (congratulations) of Sun Microsystems has an interesting post where he announces on his blog that the CTO of Sun (Greg Papadopoulos) is also going to be responsible for heading R&D.

  10. You are right on the mark (and hopefully right on the money too!). I have been a big advocate of the thesis that business innovations in the 21st century are based on technology. Any senior manager without a working knowledge of technology will be handicapped. At Boston University, we have a dual degree program (MBA and MS in IS) which is very attractive to many students precisely because of the fundamental interconenction between business and IT. The comment you made about the large on-line company is equally relevant to many companies as they transition to the network era. Congratulations to you on your appointment and good luck to you and Greg.
    Posted by
    Professor N. Venkat Venkatraman
    Boston University School of Management

  11. vruz

    coincidentally, the G guys have just started this new service, and you might want to have a look at this graph:
    Netbeans is certainly improving at getting the word out there, but mainly at the expense of JBuilder.
    (and Borland has been doing nothing for months now !)
    There’s probably a lot to do, PR-wise about Netbeans, it doesn’t matter you got the best technology if you don’t push it harder and people know little about it.

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