I Don’t Believe in Walled Gardens

For those interested in Sun’s organization charts (which are, in effect, an expression of my priorities), what’s below is the message I sent to all of Sun earlier today. Keeping everyone up to speed on where we’re headed is a big part of my job (I’d argue, one of my biggest) – so if you’re interested in such things, read on. (And yes, I thought about simply posting this on my blog this morning – but I didn’t want folks inside Sun finding out about an organizational change via an external source – thus, the courtesy of an internal email first.)


To: All of Sun
From: Jonathan Schwartz
Subject: Announcing a new business, and a new leader (or two)

I announced a few organizational changes this morning, and I want to be sure everyone hears directly from me about my motivations and expectations.

As you know, we’ve opened a world of opportunity by ensuring Solaris is available on Dell, HP and IBM hardware. We can now talk to what were traditionally non-Sun customers. Similarly, our moves to build an x64 systems business, and bring Linux to the SPARC platform, have made us relevant to non-Solaris customers. As of today, I’m seeking to repeat that effect with our Microelectronics, or silicon investments. I’d like to see our chip business grow beyond Sun’s own systems, and more broadly in the marketplace.

So I’ve formed a Microelectronics group, which will be led by Dr. David Yen (yes, that David Yen). David and team will focus on building Sun’s Microelectronics business – embedded within, and beyond, Sun’s systems.

Why now?

Because we have innovations (in platforms like Niagara, Rock and our Neptune project) that companies beyond Sun are interested in embedding in their devices. And I want to have a focused, independent team driving those opportunities and monetizing Sun’s innovation – from networking and cryptography, to the future of power management and high performance computing. Our Niagara platforms, on their way to delivering their first billion dollars to Sun, prove silicon investments deliver competetive advantage. This change puts more fuel in that engine.

What happens to the Storage business? Two things.

First, I’m elevating Jon Benson to my staff to run our Storage group. He’ll be responsible for all products and solutions purpose built for the Storage marketplace. These include our SAN, Tape, Archive and OEM products and partnerships. Having worked alongside Jon for the past year, I have every faith he’s got the energy and innovative insights to bring new value to all of Sun. So congratulations, Jon, and welcome to the Executive Leadership Team.

Now, looking to products like Thumper (aka, the x4500) and Solaris/ZFS, it’s clear the rise of general purpose systems running open source software open a new opportunity in the network attached storage (or NAS) market. NAS vendors who aren’t joined up with a Systems (read, Server) company are finding it difficult to differentiate in hardware – via power efficiency, systems management or packaging. Still other storage vendors, unable to leverage a volume open source operating system, are feeling the strain of using proprietary OS’s – which can’t attract developer communities.

So with this shift, I’m also transferring ownership and resources for our NAS hardware offerings to the Systems group. I expect the teams to collaborate, and compete based on different approaches. And I expect us to have the kinds of insights the market wants, as customers use our offerings and innovation to manage their own information lifecycle.

Although transferring the NAS hardware team to Systems is a very small move in terms of people, it’s a substantive one strategically, which I wanted to highlight. We’re doubling our focus on storage – by broadening the teams with a stake in our Storage success.

We continue to see our customers’s storage environments as loosely coupled, but highly aligned – those within a bank responsible for archiving teller surveillance videos have little in common with those running real-time trading systems. But they both buy and manage storage, they both worry about security and economics, and they both expect value from Sun. In recognizing the distinction and synergies, in every industry we serve, we’re hoping to build an even stronger world class storage business.

So in summary – I’m creating a new Microelectronics Group, headed by David Yen. I’m elevating Jon Benson to lead our Storage Group. And I’m asking John Fowler and the Systems team to drive our NAS roadmap, leveraging Solaris and our Systems expertise.

With that, here are some of my favorite internal questions:

When is this effective?

Immediately. There are still some small organizational issues to be resolved, but the substantive transitions are effective immediately – and we’re talking to new Microelectronics opportunities as I type this! Stay tuned for “interesting news.”

Does this mean you’re setting these businesses up to spin them out?

No, we’re not setting them up to spin them out. Let me say that again, just in case you’re asked – or a competitor suggests as much to our customers. No, we’re not setting them up to spin them out. We’re setting them up to focus their energy and attention.

By combining NAS Storage with your Systems team, aren’t you defocusing them?

No, we’re actually focusing them. Do customers want storage blades? NAS platforms built and managed via a common operating system and provisioning environment? A virtualization approach that spans data and apps (and the network)? The answer’s yes to all the questions – and we’re uniquely positioned to deliver all the answers.

Does this imply the decline of Tape or SAN storage? The dominance of NAS?

Quite the opposite – growth in storage won’t decline for as long as we’re on this earth. Our ability to innovate across primary and secondary storage, across SANs and NAS (and DAS), positions us to grow, not shrink. We run businesses to grow them.

Will there be any changes in Sun’s field organization – in Sales, Service or Support?

Nope. Changing how we build something has no bearing on how customers buy it.

I want everyone to know I take reorgs very seriously – I know they absorb time and energy, and run the risk of defocusing teams. I also know they’re necessary if we want to lead the market, vs. follow it. Now’s the time to lead, in Microelectronics, Systems, Storage, Software and Services.

In closing, there’s one message I’d like to convey to those involved in this shift: we are a business driven by innovation, and our ability to deliver it faster than the competition. A time to market advantage is among our most important – please work with your managers and their management to ensure we stay focused on the deliverables at hand. Your peers, our shareholders, and our customers depend upon it. Pace matters.



Filed under General

30 responses to “I Don’t Believe in Walled Gardens

  1. You know, as I read the email today, I wondered “Why doesn’t Jonathan just blog this?” 🙂

  2. Thanks for that excellent piece of communication.
    As part of my position to ‘educate’ my organisation around better communications I have passed this to my team with the following:

    Two things to note:
    1. The actual message: quality, talking with the readers, relevant to those that receive it …
    2. *I* got to read it: this ‘internal email’ was posted on the Sun blog by the author (CEO) as it was both relevant to me (I subscribed for updates) and applied their transparent values
    I applaud both points and would use this as (prepare yourself) an exemplar for excellent corporate/client/customer communications

  3. One of the things that would be nice to see is an easy to install embedded-like version of a solaris storage system, based on something like FreeNAS or Openfiler. Combined NFSv4, Samba, iSCSI and zfs into one easy to install and use package.
    Make zfs-based storage into an appliance, push it on to an rPath like platform. Get it running on bare-metal, on Xen or Vmware. Make it easy for people to leverage additional functionality on top, with a plugin system.
    Even more interesting would be porting rBuilder to Solaris.
    At the moment Solaris is too monolithic, feels like you need a PhD just to install and use it. Even if you only want one feature. Compared to Linux, my mum could almost install Ubuntu now.

  4. Ewen Chan

    I am very interested to see what you would have store along the lines of Thumper (albeit perhaps not quite as big or costly), for more SMB/SME applications. I still believe that you definitely have something to offer towards that area, and that now is prime time for Sun to reach out further and see how far they can take that idea and run with it.

  5. I read your email to the internal list this morning and I am really glad to see that you have posted it on your blog. I’m keen to see what David comes up with and where Sun can take its products in the embedded space in particular.

  6. D Lewis

    Dear Sirs,
    It is great to hear your organisational changes and wish you luck with the changes .
    I have been keep hearing large adoption of Solaris in various platforms, however I always face one problem – User adoption to Solaris Desktop . I personnaly feel SUN is not doing anything about making sure the Actual Users of Desktop gets familiar with the OS . Personally involved in number of Thin Client Deployments on Solaris users do face problems and we cant direct them to right Training material & institutions.
    Would Like to see SUN taking lead in practicing what they breach – there is still large % SUN employees using M$ in their Desktop . This would ensure Solaris Desktop is 100% user friendly and minor issues resolved quickly .
    Third , would like to see atleast all SUN Products are 100% Compatible and usuable without a Windows Desktop and IE (if you need a reference try using SUN N1 system manager from JDS 3). Atleast we dont have a skeleton in our cupboard .
    I do hope you will put someone incharge of making sure Solaris Desktop is a Reality and end of the Day Sys-Admin is forced by End users to run a Window$ and M$. And my humble opinion , what is lacking is Training .

  7. Anantha

    I’ve one comment on the Thumber piece. Whatever you do it must easily mesh with the Microsoft Windows environment as easily as NetApp does. Until that is achieved the success of Thumper will be artificially stunted; yes I know about Samba and it doesn’t cut it. Best of luck on v2 of Microelectronics.

  8. gil

    Excellent hardware moves. In light of this from an investors stand point it would be nice to see Sun chip away at Oracle and Google’s business. In the OS, Service and Hardware areas Sun is solid for years to come but in the Database and Search business Sun is still not a player. Hardware, OS, Database, Search, Service and SOA all are right up Sun’s alley. Best of Luck

  9. Hi Mr. Schwartz – I got a chance to hear you speak in person at the beginning of Sun Mashup event last week. Being a business major being a part of a startup up with all technology buddies in Davis, I’ve been following Sun for almost a year (since July 2006) and I love your blog and the moves you are making at Sun. My friend and coworker, Joshua, keeps me informed with some of the technology greatness of Sun. Understanding the history of Sun over the last 4-5 years and mistakes that were made, I think you are making great moves (outlined in your e-mail) that are most definitely going to pay big dividends in the near future and Sun will finally get the respect that it deserves. From your e-mails and insights on your blog, I strive to have the vision and strategic direction you are implementing thus far. I plan to attend more events that Sun hosts and look forward to the next set of updates. I’m already getting ready to listen to the upcoming quarterly earnings report. The movement is happening. – Steve
    P.S. I blogged about my experience at Sun’s Mashup if anyone cares to read here.

  10. WhatNeedsToBeDone

    Great post, Jonathan. I can’t wait for the “stay tuned” part but your record of getting back to that particular station is not good as evidenced by a google search of “+Jonathan +Schwartz +tuned”. Many things to “stay tuned” for that are not referred to again. Nevertheless, hope springs eternal for the channel and SUNW.

  11. SKI

    jonathan :: a most excellent post. again. well actually, it shows great insight into your customer oriented focus… and your parting words, “pace matters” suggests respect for John Boyd. -ski

  12. Anonymous

    Although I posted several negative messages to your blog, I have to admit that you are an excellent communicator. Unfortunately, I don’t see many in the Silicon Valley.

  13. Jonathan,
    “Welcome news,’fair winds ahead!”

  14. Software Guy

    Dear Mr.Schwartz,
    It’s really pleasure to see how Sun as a company and You as CEO are open in communications with customers, partners, the market. Announced hardware moves are logical on the current stage of business development and you are on time with making that. Congratulations!
    At the same time Sun’s software business seems being in the crisis and on the dangerous intersection.
    The first direction – it could be transformed just to appendix for the hardware business as a most probable scenarious, unfortunately. Why unfortunately? Because it’s about loss of business. On the Analysts Summit it was pushed a statement of monetizing software. But where is the major release of JCAPS? Why you invest into the open source competitors for your commercial products like Open ESB? And there are a lots of questions in the set…
    The second way is to build the real business around software. It’s just about focus on business value instead of the technical evangelism, and execution of course.
    Being “just” hardware company in the times of solutions and platforms is not for Sun as The Innovation Company. Hope to see next big move for the software practice as well.
    You are the best-of-breed CEO with a strong Vision and unique Team. Please, listen to market and be first as many times before. Don’t forget that software as a platform is a brilliant piece in the corona of Sun. And SW could be a key for SunW for the long shining on the market.
    Sincerely yours,
    “Software Guy”

    [Within my 15+ years in IT I haven’t been and I’m not Sun’s employee or partner, but like to see what Sun is doing for innovations.]

  15. Jimbo

    I’m sorry to point this out again, but Sun cannot seriously talk about “x64 systems business” (or should we say properly x86_64) without addressing this: http://bugs.sun.com/bugdatabase/view_bug.do?bug_id=4802695. It’s been over 4 years since this bug has been filed. If GCJ folks could came up with something that at least compiles and works some of the time, isn’t it about time that creators of Java and a company with “x64 systems business” do too? Surely, this should and could have been fixed long, long, looong time ago. Really sad 😦

  16. NN

    Congratulations on your open way of communicating. Most CEO’s think it would make them vulnerable, while in fact it would make them far more believable and agreeable. I wish my CEO communicated like this.
    It would be nice if you could add a ‘Subscribe to Google’ button as well. Maybe that is competition for your company, I really don’t know, but then I’d appreciate it even better.

  17. In response to Jimbo – very salient point, and a good part of the reason that neither my current company nor last one will touch Java. It appears that only _some_ of Sun is on the 64-bit track. Note that the bug report seems to indicate that the issue will be addressed soon, though.
    More topically, I’ve seen a number of posts here, supported to some extent by Jonathan’s email today, that Sun should get into ‘this’ or ‘that’ to cover more ground. As with the issue above, and my previous comments re the (incredible) disconnect between the ZFS filesystem and Sun’s storage offerings, I think Sun really should consider pausing to get its ducks in a row before tackling any more opportunities. The company is making superb progress in some areas, but the rest doesn’t seem to be pulling along. My guess is internal politics and inertia. Somebody ought to get nasty and trim some fat… :~

  18. Anonymous

    In the age of open disclosure and eliminating walled gardens – I was recalling a loan Sun made to you way back – I think to buy a house in valley and move.
    Wondering as a shareholder if you ever paid that loan back?

  19. Prince

    hello JOnathan,
    Congratulations on being the ‘Sun Luminary’ and ending up here : http://www.eweek.com/slideshow/0,1206,pg=0&s=25942&a=203749,00.asp
    I am sure SUN has a birghter growth path under your leadership.

  20. David M. Besonen

    thanks Jonathan.

    another great blog post. and a perfect example of being transparent in the way this article (in which you are referenced) describes:

    The See-Through CEO

  21. thomas laviano

    dear sun, I think going forward, you can now rep your company with the 5 s storage, software,service,systems,silicon.

  22. osproponent

    6 months left until the Java Swing desktop explosion…even if you are not reorging them, feel free to throw some resources at the various LAF projects to make it truly spectacular. (Not a true requirement, fortunately Karsten has your back).

  23. Paul O'Kelly

    This is, according to someone who sounds knowlegeable, an “excellent piece of communication”.
    Well, this is my first visit to the non-Microsoft world – the place where we break free of strongarm upgrades, bloated code and overpriced products.
    Would it be too much to expect that the CEO avoid an alphabet soup of acronyms? That Mr Schwartz hint that software exists to perform tasks, not to out-byte other software?
    The language, the entire message, is written in the kind of prose that only a geek could love. However, the best of that breed has always had at least a passing interest in the world beyond the screen. No evidence of that here. This communication, like the rest of the Sun site, reminds me of George Bernard Shaw’s depressing maxim, “All professions are a conspiracy against the laity”. Surely the spirit of Mr Linux himself would dictate that those who run in his slipstream try, at least, to clarify and to serve, not to obfuscate and self-congratulate.

  24. Peter

    Only those who have studied a companies customers, culture and workings, analysed its problems and understood whats really going on can iniate long term positive change. There are many of us who cannot gauge the outcome of your decisions yet. Some will criticise based on their observations of other turnarounds. Some will criticise based on a fear of change, some will just criticise.It’s easy to criticise, much harder to do, but you know your doing something right when people are happy working with you.
    There are three types of people in this world:

    Those whom make it happen.
    Those who watch it happen.
    Those who don’t know whats happening.

    So from where I’m standing, it looks like your making it happen.

  25. Hussein Dharsi

    Jonathan – thanks for the information. I think the time is approaching where Sun has to innovate an embedded OS. My company currently manufactures Industrial Hand Held IP54 compliant and we compete with symbol (motorola) and Intermec and we provide verticals and mobility framework (J2EE). We are forced to use WINCE. Look into it.
    HMD – CEO

  26. An Old Friend

    I must say that I was enthusiastic to see you reference in your employee memo the link between innovation and monetization of your investments. Innovation without market relevance is worthless. Stay focused on that simple premise and Sun will continue to rise to its proper place of dominance in the technology market! Keep bangin away !
    Bob from Boston

  27. What a difference a year makes. But knowing the life cycle of silicon design, I know the game is won or lost years before the first system ships. The success of the last several quarters was due to the hard work and leadership in the engineering and product management trenches in 2002, 2003, and 2004.

  28. Happy Tobuy

    One of the things I usually worry about when investing is whether I can rely on management to share information evenly with everyone. Having access to this blog, and all the others, gives me great confidence I’m not going to be screwed over.
    Just went long on SUNW and now please just keep doing what you’re doing.

  29. Happy Tobuy

    @Anonymous re: Loan
    If you read the proxy statement for FY’06, your answer is there. Paid in full on June 28, 2006.
    And your memory is failing you… it was not for a house.

  30. Craig Skinner

    Now Java is in the process of being opened up, as is Solaris, and in view of the above notes regarding “bring Linux to the SPARC platform”, why not ask for chipset docs? Jonathan Schwartz seems to be keen on opening up as much as possible to create sales. He constantly blogs here about how openness is the way forward. Why not call him on it WRT chipset docs?

    Since OpenBSD can manipulate data in a Sparc processor, is it not too much to ask to get the data from the processor out across the host adaptors/PCI interfaces to the network/storage?

    Hear: http://www.fetissov.org/public/nycbsdcon06/2.1.mp3
    See: http://www.thought.net/jason/sparc64-nycbsdcon06/

    Sun’s sales could be increased by opening up chipset docs to permit the world’s most secure OS (OpenBSD) to be deployed reliably in more data centres. In roles such as load balancing, packet filtering, DNS serving, spam rejection, mail processing, web serving,….. Services that tend to be risky due to the fact that they are facing the hostile Internet. Exactly the sort of environment that OpenBSD is designed for.

    Some additional relevant links are:


    …schizo(4), the host bridge, appears to be fairly buggy as evidenced by the Linux/OpenSolaris workarounds. Unlike Linux and Solaris, the only documentation or errata we have for these chips is the Linux/OpenSolaris source code. This is NOT documentation and has slowed progress. We tried getting documentation from Sun; might as well have been yelling at a wall, so we do the best with what we have.

    Docs reqd incl:


    Under previous generations of Sun management, an overtly hostile relationship was generated by Sun. As Jonathan stated: “For years we were called proprietary – a moniker that did more damage to Sun than any market downturn”

    Thus: http://marc.info/?l=openbsd-misc&m=113398111624138&w=2

    We don't need processor docs.  That stuff is trivial.
    We need *chipset docs*.
    Want to be clear with Sun?
    They are closed until we there is complete Schizo host-bridge documentation available for everyone.

    Compare: http://www.openbsd.org/sparc64.html

    History: “….Sun refused access to the necessary documentation
    for the (very bizzare) host bridge in the UltraSPARC III machines,
    so a few years were lost before some reverse engineering figured
    out the changes in these machines. OpenBSD 4.0 is thus the first
    release to ship with support for the UltraSPARC III based machines.”

    In an exchange of private emails, a senior OpenBSD developer wrote:

    "It is highly unfortunate that sun has traditionally been the most
    unsupportive towards us, of the entire industry.
    Nothing has ever really come out of Sun except words, which never
    really turned into action, documentation, or anything else.
    They are acting very rationally with regards to documents they
    won't give us, considering that our experience of reverse engineering
    has really taught us that the hardware is shipped with significant
    and serious bugs. Wish it was not true, but it is."

    Jonathan and David, the ball is in your court. The community is calling on Sun to stand up like men and become more open. The alternative is to behave like other companies that continue to cower, emasculated, behind legal teams.

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