When Sun was in trouble a few years back, I was really frustrated by a simple reality of open markets: when you’re down, it’s not your answer to the question “why?” that matters. It’s your competition that’s quoted everywhere. “Here, let me tell you why Sun’s having a hard time.” It drove me nuts. (You’ll recall, “Why is Sun down?” “Because they’re proprietary and expensive, and all customers want is a cheap box.”)
So over the past couple weeks, spiking yesterday with the release of industry market share numbers showing we outgrew the market (in my new role, I’ve been counseled, not by our general counsel, to avoid saying “we spanked the market”), I’ve been getting a lot of questions going the other way – wanting my view on why our peers are shrinking or troubled.
My answer? I have no idea, go ask them. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.
I can tell you why I believe we are succeeding, however. I do spend a lot of time understanding our pipeline, wins and losses.
We’ve been saying for a while, for the customers we serve, innovation is about the only thing that matters in winning business. Cost of acquisition is a nit – compared to the cost of operation and management. A cheap Ferrari doesn’t help a transport company that needs to move 10,000 people every day. They want a bus.
And no, this message doesn’t resonate with everybody. It goes over like a lead balloon when you’re selling to a flower shop in a shopping mall. Or a dentist’s office or restaurant. They want a cheap box. But that’s not our core market, that’s someone else’s. In my view, they’re both going to stop buying infrastructure, anyways. Here’s my CRM advice for both: shut down your servers, go directly to salesforce.com. We at Sun will then focus our time on salesforce.com. And believe me, IT matters to them. And they are
spanking the market. Sorry, handily outpacing the market.
Secondly, the proprietary and expensive moniker is now dead. Dead dead dead. Solaris is open source, and gaining huge share (to my friends in the analyst community: you should stop saying the x64 market is characterized as a Windows and Linux market – when it’s obvious there’s a growing Solaris market on x64 systems). SPARC is now open source and gaining its rightful place in the industry standard server market – with Niagara’s focus on eco-responsibility and energy efficiency seeming awfully timely. Our new lineup of UltraSPARC IV+ systems are cheaper and faster than IBM’s Power systems (one customer just told me, “they’re appropriately named when you get your electricity bill.”) And our Opteron lineup is just, plain, awe inspiring:
But then there’s the most fundamental answer to why we’re gaining share.
I was sending out a note of congratulations to one of my staff members this week, when we first got wind of the data. And then I figured, it wasn’t just his team, it was both our hardware/systems teams. And our software team for Solaris. And our marketing team, and our global sales and service teams. And our amazing ops team. And the corporate functions keeping the wheels on the bus while we’re restructuring it. It was every one inside Sun, and all our supporters in the market.
Great products take great teams to gain share. So why’d we gain share?
We had a few good people focused on it. It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it.
And just in case you missed the news, here’s a couple good articles: