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.
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.