Courage is Relative

I sat down with my friend Mr. Scoble last week. If you want to know why the train accident to which I alluded in my last entry changed my life, watch here (that section’s at around 35:00, the iPhone discussion is about 8 minutes in):




And before you send me the email, yes, I saw the entry written by Matt Mullenweg – and all I can say is… I’m really sorry, Matt. That’s not the way Startup Essentials is supposed to work. We screwed up, and you’re completely right to suggest if that’s the norm, we should kiss goodbye our aspirations of reestablishing our business in the startup community.


If there’s anything I can do to win a second chance, I’d like to know. I appreciate your first sentence.

31 Comments

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31 responses to “Courage is Relative

  1. Christopher Mahan

    Jonathan, interesting interview. Interesting response to Matt.
    On the interview: very tight money-wise. Very very tight, remember that. I’m a software developer for a fortune 500, in my late 30’s with a wife and a 1.5 year old. It’s still not easy to make ends meet. The cost of housing and health insurance alone is killing me, not to mention food and gasoline. I take a lunch box to work to same money. The family cars are 8 and 3 years old respectively.
    Now, I am also part of a two-man startup. We have a couple of colocated servers (total cost $3500, on my partner’s credit cards mostly) with $60 monthly hosting costs. We do little database driven websites for local businesses. I develop in python, php, asp and javascript, and do consulting for a company I worked at before, as well as take occasional development jobs.
    I also often converse with Jim Grisanzio on his blog about OpenSolaris and sometimes with James Governor via email about enterprisey stuff in general.
    I too wish Sun the best. But I gotta tell you, I don’t have a single machine running Solaris under my control. I tried installing it on a couple old machines (Debian 3.0 Sarge runs just fine on both) and failed both times. Now, I’m not a Solaris admin, and not a UNIX guru, I’m a web application developer (backend stuff mostly, web-services, etc) and I can install and manage RH, Ubuntu, Debian Etch, even a Windows 2003 Server 64 machine (had fun getting ADODB working under IIS on that box but I managed). I’ve installed and manage mediawiki, bugzilla, svn, Apache with reverse proxy, ftp, ssh, and gasp, can play with routing tables. I admin databases, (many flavors except DB2) and especially love sqlite these days.
    To me the fact that I failed to install Open Solaris, or Solaris Express (what’s up with your zipped cd isos btw?) means that I cannot in good faith recommend it to anyone except seasoned UNIX people.
    Now, I tell people all the time to dump Windows (unless they work in accounting) and OS X (unless they’re photo people) and use LAMP with the P either php, python or p-ruby. I also recommend Postgresql, and I use about 30 extensions in Firefox (for development aids) — which is why IE is dead for me.
    Why am I telling you all that? Because I want you to know that I’m not a *NIX zealot, not a script-kiddy, not a academic type. I’m an average developer who’s trying to finishhis BS six units per semester. And because I want to use Sun software, but it’s “Too Hard” for me. I would love to use Solaris 10 and get ZFS and all that stuff. Except, well, I can’t. I can’t get my wife to dislodge $2,500 for “yet another server”, and I can’t bring myself to kill 5 CDs to burn an OS I’ll probably not be able to install on hardware with less than 1GB of ram.
    Oh, and I do not have a 19-inch rack at home.
    What I want Sun to make a $400 machine that I can run as a Solaris server with postgresql, mysql, python, mod_python, php, mod_php, apache, and a few more utilities (LaTeX, DocBook, svn, trac, mediawiki, bugzilla, ftp, (see Debian apt-cache for a full list) and make it support a few users (less than 50 for sure). It has to be a server. There won’t be any GUI installed. Let me repeat that: no GUI.
    You do that, and make the order page 1 page with a “credit card number and address” and no silly questions like fax number, company name, and ship it the same day, and Jonathan, I will personally buy one, and will tell all my friends about it, in person. Also, you have to ship it the same day! It’s very important. I never buy anything online or offline if I have to wait more than a day or two for it (that’s why no Ebay for me).
    A final piece of advice: Sell the system pre-configured, with all the software above already working, and hardened by your engineers, and send along a little hard-bound manual with exact configurations. If people want to wipe the HDs and start again, that’s up to them. Remember that these machines will be toys for tinkering.
    Just like people tinkered with Linux 15 years ago.
    A couple of other things you can do to gain the going-to-exist-business: release Solaris under the GPLv2 (not 3, 3 does not exist) and encourage mingling of technologies with Linux. I’ll repeat that: mingle with Linux. Make ZFS work on Linux and contribute it. This will splash more than the EU report of FLOSS (which I printed and skimmed).
    The other thing I would like you to do is take it easy on the java platform: I don’t code in java, and I will never code in java. I don’t do Java EE with ejb and serverfaces. I don’t develop applications for J2ME. After getting to know Python better, I now want to go after Ruby, Scheme maybe, Dylan maybe. So stop mentioning “Java is on a Billion devices” every single time. We all know that know this and I personally don’t care. I want Solaris as a platform for my applications, not a “Java Is The Greatest” spiel. It’s getting old.
    Anecdote: on New Year’s day, I was at a gathering, and a 13 year old showed me photos on her cell phone. I asked what kind of stuff she had on her phone, and she proceeded to show me. The Java logo came on, and I asked her what that was. She stared blankly and said “I don’t know”. She had tuned it out, never wondered about it, just like he FBI warning in front of videos and DVDs that absolutely everyone completely ignores for having seen them endlessly without appropriate context. Now, that kid made her own website and thinks MySpace is for old people. I can get her to buy that $400 machine. You can’t, but I can. Heck, I can even get her dad to buy her one instead of an Xbox. Later that afternoon she asked me how one goes about getting a domain name. Let me rehash: I would love to get her on Solaris, Apache, Mysql, Python. I can totally see how she’s going to make money off The Network someday soon. Jonathan, help me get Solaris 10 in her hands.

  2. Thanks for listening to the blogosphere, and thank you for taking time to respond. So many other business leaders could do more of that.
    That doesn’t mean I don’t think your company messed up. I think Matt did what he should have done, and moved on after not getting a response. The shows how important it is for the big companies to listen and take action in the first place.

  3. Akhilesh Mritunjai

    Hi Jonathan

    One more frustrating thing I’d like to point out is “branding” of software products. I am consulting to a couple of startups and just navigating the website and choosing a product is a nigtmare!

    For example, go and try to download “Sun Java application server”, with the requirement in mind that it’s the J2EE 5 compliant application server that I want. There are no less than 5 confusing options on what to download! Again the issue is same with J2EE SDK. There are 5 choices with no clear indication what is suited to whom.

    On NetBeans front, there are two competing products – Netbeans visual web pack and Sun Java Studio Creator. Both offer similar functionality, but some functionalities are unique to each – like AJAX support!

    Again on the solaris front, quick tell the difference between – Solaris 10, Solaris Express, Solaris Express Community Release and Solaris Nevada! When I tell a customer to use something, it takes them several hours in frustration to just locate what I told them to download. Nevermind explaining them the differences!

    Jonathan, please set the branding straight, at least for software products. When I lose a customer because they got confused by your product offering – it is actually you who’ve lost a customer, and may be in future – an evangelist!

    Your truly
    – Akhilesh

  4. Sanat Gersappa

    A CEO who blogs is rare.
    A CEO who publicly admits a mistake is priceless.

  5. olanrewaju

    you are very interesting. most start-ups don’t use sun products. as an entreprenuer I’d like to see you gear your products for start-ups because I know sun makes great products. nice interview with scoble.

  6. Jason

    With respect to the comments Chris made above:
    You can purchase a DVD set from Sun for $30.00 (Comes with the UltraSparc and x86 versions)
    https://www.sun.com/download/sdl.jsp?5005588c-36f3-11d6-9cec-fc96f718e113=1
    Also, a $400.00 system shipped immediately sounds like a very tall order to me. I found this system for $745.00:
    http://shop.sun.com/is-bin/INTERSHOP.enfinity/WFS/Sun_NorthAmerica-Sun_Store_US-Site/en_US/-/USD/ViewConfigurations-List;pgid=Ljhoa7SWrIFSR0Uo1qu2uEHi0000dTH_4TGn?ProxyProductRefID=A75-LYZ1-N-512-AL8@Sun_NorthAmerica-Sun_Store_US&CatalogCategoryID=s75IBe.dFaMAAAEP6OUsLTLw&ShowAllProducts=false
    Of course that ships within 6 days.
    For Johnathan:
    I am starting a business to, and I will be looking to Sun to power my enterprise. I have working in big and small businesses. I too have noticed the lack of follow through from the sales / customer reps. in the field.
    Some people want a dog and pony show, before committing to something. I would recommend that call ins get a call back within 24 hours by someone that can set dates and times for technology previews.
    I think that you will find there many different people in this world, and not all of them want to work with VARs or buy things off of websites.
    I would recommend reading the management book:
    “From Good to Great”.
    I think Sun is a good company (I am an investor), but I think it could be a great company.
    Thanks.

  7. Tom F

    In response to the 1st comment. It will really be something if the CEO of Sun dedicates resources so their free OS (that competes with other free OSes) can run on ancient, used Intel boxes.

  8. Terry William

    Jonathan,
    I was never a Sun fan until very recently. I was simply blown away by the kind of product line and innovation in your hardware systems and Solaris.
    Without going into the nitty-gritty details that your own people seem to know only too well, this is how I would summarize my experience: Terrific Technology that is made unusable by tiny things. There are a million little things you need to fix in your system, tiny things that matter for usability. From your website to branding to your software stack there are SO many things that irritate and confuse users so much that it over-shadows the brilliance of your innovations. What is surprising for me is that these things should be trivial to fix.
    There is one other thing I want to point out. Christopher in his comment talked about Java and why he thinks it is bad. I partially agree. Use Java for the enterprise segment on the server side. I know its unparalleled in that segment. For heaven’s sake NOT on the damn desktop. Do you realize how much people hate bloated java on the desktop ? (atleast in the world I live in). Use something like python or ruby.
    And being friendly to startups is not just a marketing term. Web startups will find solaris difficult to use in its default form. You need to do about twenty things after you install solaris to get it running as an Apache + mod_php + mod_python webserver. The mysql that ships by default is an old version. Compare that to how linux distros work out of the box. Why not make it simpler for us sir ? Is that too much to ask ?
    You are a role model for your entire company. If your products, website, strategy and sales can convey the kind of confidence, clarity and synergy you deliver in your blog, the golden days might come back … to stay

  9. Jason

    Sun is a good company, but it could be a great company. I would recommend that you and you management team read “From Good to Great”.

  10. Christopher Mahan

    Jason, the box you spec’ed had no hd or optical drive. Add 1 80 gb SATA hd (cheapest) and the dvd (only option) and the price is $965. Still too much. And it’s rackmounted and loud (try to put one of those in the bedroom next to the desk).
    Also, on purchasing DVDs, no thanks. I download. The debian etch RC1 netinstall cd is 150MB.
    I can d/l that, burn it, pop it in the destination box, reboot (bios to cd) and install the system in under one 1 hr flat. Then I apt-get install the software I want, and that takes another 30 minutes. A little more with apt-get upgrade, and under 2 hours I have a fully working system.
    I want Solaris to be that easy.
    Jonathan, how come the url for the server is that long? (294 chars)

  11. Startups like me would love a Solaris version of that old faithful LAMP. I’ve been relying on Apache/MySQL/PHP for years. It would be great to see a Solaris flavor that came preconfigured – a la SAMP – just like Ubuntu server. Maybe make it a simple click to choose to run PostgreSQL instead of MySQL (since you provide PostgreSQL support), and include a recent version of Ruly On Rails with preconfigured FastCGI in the Apache conf. I’m sure you’d want to bundle Glassfish too, but I get the feeling most startups don’t use JEE that much. That might change with JRuby adoption.

    Personally I’d love a version of Solaris that pretended it was Red Hat, so I’d find things in places I’m familiar with. I believe your old foe Microsoft used to call this strategy “Embrace and extend”. This would greatly reduce my Solaris learning curve. Or maybe you could provide a “Red Hat to Solaris” Wiki for migrations?

    Kevin

    PS I can relate to your near-death experience.

  12. P-

    Talking about iPhone, is this the cusp to the wave of the future that will undo and limit the NC’s(network computer) lifespan? The first commercial sustainable sign of mass appeal in untethered computing? It used to be it would be hard pressed to not believe that 3Coms Palm WAS the one. It is like the device name just totally disappered from the face of marketing handheld gadgets to some extent to their fault of their own(in not aggressively developing applications that would procure their sustainability and what about windows CE? i hear) It could also say that there’s just too many choices of electronic gadgets out there mobile or not for the consumer to stay on top of in race with the Smiths’, segments have become smaller, short-lived, more competitive if not fickle(as in difficulty in satisfying what consumer really want).
    P-
    Where An Idea Starts… & A Revolution Begins.
    keyword search “invest_mavin”

  13. Jason

    In general I think the law of diminishing returns should direct Sun toward what types of resources they should allocate towards what. For example, if there only say 1000 people running 386 systems and they want to run Solaris 10. I am not so sure there is a huge argument to break into that segment. Another example, is there a market for $400.00 Sun boxes? I would think those boxes would have to come with sub-par components in order to come any where near $400.00. Then we want them to ship it overnight immediately. That sounds like a very small market segment. If I were running Sun, I probably would be very worried about losing a ton of money going down that road in addition to soiling my brand by constant failures of sub-par parts.
    However this does not excuse the fact that the sales / customer reps at Sun seem to be sleeping at the wheel,according to anecdotal evidence and my personal experience.
    I do think the right direction for Sun is to cater towards startups. Because this will be the keys to the kingdom for Suns future. They simply can not afford to screw up sales opportunities to this segment. That doesn’t mean that they should ignore the “big” players either. This needs to be a balance. Sun cannot be all things to everyone. That is a direction for disaster.
    It takes time for large companies to charge. They are like big oil tankers. However, I believe that Johnathan is the right captain for this ship, and I believe he is making the right turns in the right directions. Once the ship get through the rough waters, and finishes making all the right turns. The ship can increase its speed, building on all the previous good work. I see that coming by the end of this year personally.
    Thanks again.

  14. RE: Christopher Mahan on Java – calling Java “old” is tantamount to calling C/C++ “irrelevant” or “Jurassic”. Each language/platform is well suited to address certain problems, brings a certain set of features and (sorry for the buzzword) corresponding ecosystems with it. While I hate to be bothered about dereferencing null pointers and *_cast()’s, I’d still use C/C++ if I were to author a Linux or Solaris device driver. So, its horses for courses, there’s room for everyone, and hardly any time for language zealotry. We’re here to solve problems – not to promote world domination by a single language.

  15. Jason, I went to HP, went to “home/home office” picked everyday computing, picked sort by lowest price, picked the “HP Pavilion a1410e series”, selected View Details, clicked customize (price $269), upgraded the cpu from sempron to AMD athlon 64 3500+ (price $299), took the free 512 memory upgrade, kept everything the same (80 GB 7200rpm hd, 48x cd-rw, Windows XP home, sound, video, mouse and keyboard). There’s a $50 mailing rebate and a $100 instant off. I assume tax and shipping will not raise it above $400. This should be plenty for Solaris. I know it’s plenty for Debian. (I have Debian 3.1 running on a AMD K6 with 96 megs of ram and a 6gb hd compaq laptop from 1998 (no GUI) and it’s fast enough.) I have no doubt whatsoever that Debian Sarge and Etch would run on the $299 HP without any problem. Heck, Windows XP runs on it. I suggest Sun buy a few dozen from HP, install the latest Solaris 10 (no DVD allowed, do the CD install), put them back in the HP box, take orders and ship them next day. Then publish detailed (exact) instruction on how to install and configure the OS and the main components (apache, ftp, bind, sendmail, etc) on a wiki somewhere. That would get people realizing that Solaris can get in at the ground floor.
    Comment on adoption by kids: programming is an art, just like writing (novels, poetry, etc) and usually one is most comfortable in the mother tongue, meaning the language learned from childhood (although mine is French, but I’m not normal as my wife often says). Get kids using Solaris at home, and in 10 years you’ll have 30 million experienced Solaris developers in every city in the world. You don’t have to give it to them for free, but you do have to make it run on new, entry-level hardware.
    Is there anything in my proposal that cannot physically be done this week? Didn’t think so, except maybe fix Solaris to run on that machine. As long as Debian can do it and Solaris can’t, well, I’m not a Sun shareholder, and I don’t plan to be for a while.
    As far as my hating Java: I never said that. My all-time favorite text editor and 100% of all programming IDE is jEdit, and it’s a Java app. Love it, could not live without it (Yes I’ve told Slava). What I said is that I would never program in Java. I took a Java class, got an A, bought some books, installed NetBeans, tried, and tried, but it never clicked, never felt natural, never felt like I could get my mind and Java in the same trough. So I gave up. I stick with python because it just feels natural to me (even if django gave me nightmares with its funky orm). I’ve digressed. I’ll stop now.

  16. Jonathan Lin

    You’ve got a hard job, being a CEO. You need to satisfy customers, find new territories and new visions for computing, yet also keep existing Sun technologies relevant on so many different fronts (Java, Solaris, Servers, development). This blog amazed me enough to want to reply, to communicate, and that’s the first step in making me a customer.
    I admin servers for poor non-profits who don’t have the time or the budget to focus on technology. I rely on donated hardware, servers that we dug out of the junk pile from the local universities, and we’re running LAMP on them (actually FreeBSD, so it’s FAMP). I never even considered Sun as a possible vendor; it’s always a more of a “if we had money” pie in the sky scenario. I’d recommend the lowest tier Sun servers running Solaris w/ ZFS if possible. But it’s really comforting to have the resources of Sun at my fingertips. Your web pages have tons of technical information that’s fairly relevant to my everyday tasks, and I encourage you to push that front. To show a lowly admin like me how ZFS can help me, to show me best practices for running JDK 1.5. In one of the nonprofits, we run Confluence from Atlassian on JDK 1.5. It’s a magnificent piece of software, and I’m happy to say that Sun is doing its part. Without Java, we would never have such joy in our everyday lives in our efforts to make the world a better place.
    Sun is there in the background, always hanging around as the progenitor of certain technologies, certain techniques, certain ways of integrating computers into business that just makes sense. I’d be sad to see Sun fall by the wayside, and from the looks of the comments from Matt, et al, there’s work to be done.
    Today you’ve made one person more likely to become a customer. Keep up the good work.

  17. John

    Jon (or whoever reads & summarizes these comments for him),

    After watching this interview, I think back to myself back as an aspiring kid in highschool (I’m in my mid 20’s now, a few months away from ready to launch a startup… PS: extend startup essentials to Canada, please!)

    I currently use Solaris on a couple machines at home. In previous times I used Linux. One of the biggest things I can see driving Linux’s adoption in the enterprise market is not the price, or the openness (though that helps), but it’s the ability for any highschool geek to pick up and use.

    Back to my reminiscing about highschool, I was a 14 year old, using a “real UNIX-like environment”. Were I less experimental and more dogmatic, I’d probably still be using Linux.

    The desktop experience in Solaris is alright, but it leaves a lot of little things to be desired, not least of which being driver support.

    Ultimately my point is that for SUNW’s mid to long term prospects, Solaris has to be comfortable to use for your average highschool geek, because in 5 years, that young kid will move on to be either a customer of whoever was able to give him or her a good desktop experience while remaining enterprise grade.

    And that means drivers, ACPI, both desktop environments (KDE just got added as a project to OpenSolaris, which I’m happy to see), media, and a decent installer. Out of the box, easy to use.

    Sun’s primary focus is not the desktop, but I just know from myself & colleagues, a good desktop experience & a free system is more effective than all the banner ads in the world

  18. viviangel

    well,sounds very good.

  19. Tony Bivona

    Good Morning Jonathan,
    I would just like to say hats off to you my friend…That interview was awesome…I have been working for a company for the past 20 years and like you, almost saw it go down the tubes…When I came on board, the company was floundering…With the hiring of a friend of mine, and then myself, they started hiring people that actually cared about there customers, who got them to listen to a new message, and stuck by that message…The message was, I care and want to help…Tell me what it was that we did wrong, and let us fix it…And if we can’t fix the past, then let us make up for the sins that our company made…If you truly continue to listen to past customers as well as potential new ones and here there message loud and clear, and fix what has been wrong for so long (Which you are doing), I truly believe that you and Sun will hit major home runs…After reading some of the comments posted after this web interview, it still sounds like you have a bit of work to do…But you are winning them back one and 2 at a time…And that I am happy to see…I wish you lots of luck, and hope that things continue to go well for you…This comment is from a long term investor who has stuck with you guys for approximately 6-8 years…You know the old saying from the honeymooners…To the moon Alice…That will happen to Sun’s stock over the next 3 years…(I guess we should change that slogan to To Mars Alice…:):)
    Take Care!
    Tony Bivona
    tbivona@copylite.com
    P.S. Jonathan, I hope to hear back from you some time in the future, as I know you are one busy dude…

  20. Scot Balard

    I have been a Solaris admin for almost 10 years and I think the fundamentals of the OS are unbeatable.
    The install, update and daily use are probably the worst in the field, OK maybe on par with AIX😉 … But almost every other Server OS out there is superior.
    If you compare Solaris to Ubuntu, OSX server, Suse (etc.. ) for the install, update or daily use you can’t honestly argue this point.
    This the only major place that Solaris has fallen behind, This is less of a problem for sys admins that have been doing it for a long time. It is great impedance the closer you get to the lowest common denominator you would find in a startup, small company, etc..

  21. When is Secure Global Desktop is going to be free again?

  22. Anonymous

    Maybe it was just cut strangely, but it seemed like you rescued Tim Marsland more than once from a seemingly flimsy grasp of technical details. Remind me again: who’s the CTO of Solaris and who’s the CEO of Sun (and who’s the aspring roboticist)?

  23. Rick

    You should read Good to Great. It seems to describe pretty well some glaring deficiencies in Sun that need to be fixed to get to the next level. Here’s the areas where you guys need to improve, and dramatically:
    * Focus on execution, create a culture of execution – it’s pretty obvious your salespeople aren’t executing. The overall strategy is there, they just aren’t getting their job done…. This leads to another point
    * Get the right people on the bus, get the wrong people OFF the bus
    * Hedgehog concept – zero in on what you can be best in the world at, and then go out and do that. Don’t try to be all things to all people. I don’t think you should be in the $400 hardware space, but you can certainly attack that with Solaris if it was friendlier.
    * Confront the brutal facts – I think you’re doing this pretty well

  24. Hello Jonathan!
    Unfortunately I did not have time to watch the whole interview by now but your response to Matt’s blogpost is really astonishing.
    I am a small service provider and consultant for small companies in my area and once more I know why I try to use as much Sun equipment as I am able to.
    As I work as a Solaris and Linux Sysadmin at an University, too, I can tell the difference between Sun and its competitors. Only Sun gave me the feeling they care about me and that they keep in mind the “real life use” of their systems and software. Some other products from other companies feel like they will just work within a test lab.
    Please carry on the good work.
    Kind regards,
    Thomas

  25. Jim H

    Yes. Solaris 10 rocks. I’ve been a sys admin type for 16 years. I get it and like to type. But, I must say… I just fired up a Mac with OS X. I needed to turn on ftp. I used NO man pages. I used NO google search. Simply went to the menu and a gui appeared. First, it asked me for my password – I have the rbac to make system changes. It was something I assigned to myself at the start and it was VERY simple. So, a simple gui appeared. I went to ftp and clicked it and there I saw ssh servers so I turned that on as well. In solaris… I have to…
    svcadm enable ftp ; svcadm enable ssh
    Not simple. As far as I know, there is a gui for this in Solaris, but just isn’t something you think about in Solaris. Desktop usefulness and ease of use is SO important it you want to win the masses. I hear all the time, I want Windoze servers because I know where to point and click. Sometimes I’m afforded the opportunity to show them JDS and they are impressed, but they still hate cli.
    I asked a dtrace guru at Sun about a gui to front end dtrace. The response was something on the order of – “Gui for dtrace, what for?”. I would bet as dtrace appears in Mac OS, it will have a gui and it will be nice.
    I have the idea of ideas. Convince Steve Jobs to make Solaris the base of Mac OS X in stead of BSD. Apple can do what they do best / Sun can do what they do best. No ONE could touch Solaris then! Apple would have all the OS rocket science stuff without porting of things like dtrace and zfs to Mac OS.
    Jim

  26. Arnd Beissner

    As for the startup essentials program, which so far is not available in Germany:

    One of the things that’s really missing for most startups in Suns product line is reasonably priced entry-level storage. Without that, even ZFS is of little use. Let’s face it: almost no startup will shell out 30k just for a storage box when all they need is a server with 6 disks to run the database on. Using an external 3320 or even 3510(1) just drives the cost from “startup-compatible” to “no go”.

    If it were not for some (now cheap) used T3+ boxes, we wouldn’t have an X4200. 4 disk slots just doesn’t cut it for many people out here, especially if you’re using RAID1, which you will do.

    For people who cannot afford separating servers from storage (which is typical for startups), and also medium-sized hosted solutions, a 6-8 disk system with RAID5 option still is a must.

    Here’s my suggestion: build a low-end Thumper with 2 CPU sockets, 8 front loaded SATA disk slots, and sell that preinstalled with Solaris, bootable (!) ZFS, Samba and the AMP stack. Price tag max. 4K for 8 250G disks, 1 dual core CPU, 2GB Ram and 3 years HW maintenance. That should be doable. There’s your database or fileserver machine that fits startups!

    Added benefit: for hosted machines, it’s still nice to have everything in one box. Even if you have the money, it’s no fun worrying about what happens to fibre or SCSI cables during maintenance or other people accessing the rack.

  27. <= $400 Computer...

    You can buy a Dell Dimension or Optiplex from Dell Outlet for $300 or less all day long almost every day. http://outlet.dell.com The AMD based E521 and C521 Solaris runs really well. The only driver missing is the Ethernet driver. Note that the E521 has four SATA ports and has enough bays to hold four drives.
    I have an E521 with 4 500GB SATA drives for backup server.

  28. Johnathan,
    Great interview as I felt I was right in that Executive Briefing center with you guys. I’m so impressed with your blog and how approachable you are to your readers. You are one of the few CEO’s who are blogging in this space and that puts you ahead of the curve. Since you are clearly a visionary, do you have any bright ideas on how to get a sales audience (VP of WW Sales, Sales Directors, Managers, Field Sales and Inside Sales) who typically have a 3-second attention spans to read blogs as a lead generation tool?
    Josiane.

  29. I can’t agree more with Arnd – accessible storage for startups is non-existant at Sun. Where’s the direct-attached eSAS/eSATA JBOD with ZFS; and cheaper, flexible, net-friendly, progressive iSCSI/SoIP solutions, instead of pricey legacy FC? If Sun finds ‘startups essential’ then we need to see startup friendly storage. Most ‘Web 2.0’ (yuck) startups don’t need a lot of performant storage – but they need gobs and gobs of cheap volume. Thumper doesn’t cut it for this purpose – it has it’s place, but it’s still very expensive compared with numerous storage-only devices. The low end Sun Fire X boxes are fantastic – please make low-end storage to suit, and note everyone’s comments about how tough it is to buy Sun product as small company.
    Also, re Solaris: I’m in agreement with other comments here – the tech is fantastic, but the usability is a 2/10 for normal folks. The days of arcane commands are over – or should be. Spend time on fixing little things right, not adding features (I’ll make a _big_ exception for ZFS! But even there, what’s the use without a cheap JBOD?).
    BTW: am I mad, or did Sun not have a big splash on their homepage a few hours ago about a big Sun-Intel webcast today, due to play at 1 PST? Not the kind of thing to disappear without a dtrace…

  30. Anonymous

    The real time Java demo is awesome! It’s during the 2nd minute or so.

  31. I think Christopher (first comment) nails it, except where he goes off on the Java platform; Chris it’s about the _platform_ not the language, and your ruby and scheme will run on the jvm just fine… oh! those $400 machines have to be very silent too… i’ll personally order 10 in a heartbeat
    Cheers,
    — eokyere🙂

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