Joining Sun

I saw my first Sun workstation about 15 years ago, in 1992. I was a business student at Purdue University, and a childhood love for computers had just been reawakened. I was spending countless hours in the basement of the Math building, basking in the green phosphorescent glow of a Z29 and happily exploring every nook and cranny of the Sequent Symmetry upstairs. It didn’t take too long to discover, though, just a short walk away in the computer science building, several labs full of Sun workstations. Suddenly, the Z29 didn’t have quite the same allure. A few months later, I walked over to the registrar’s office and changed my major to computer science. (OK, advanced tax accounting had something to do with it too.)

Everything I know about computing I learned on those Sun workstations, as did so many other early Linux developers; I even had my own for a while, after I joined the University of Arizona computer science department in 1997. But within a year, the Suns were starting to disappear, replaced by Pentiums running Red Hat Linux. More and more people coming through university computer science programs were cutting their teeth on Linux, much as I had on Sun. Pretty soon, Sun was increasingly seen by this new generation as the vendor who didn’t “get it”, and Sun’s rivals did a masterful job running with that and painting the company literally built on open standards as “closed”. To those of us who knew better, it was a sad thing to watch.

The last several years have been hard for Sun, but the corner has been turned. As an outsider, I’ve watched as Sun has successfully embraced x86, pioneered energy efficiency as an essential computing feature, open sourced its software portfolio to maximize the network effects, championed transparency in corporate communications, and so many other great things. Now, I’m going to be a part of it.

And, so, I’m excited to announce that, as of today, I’m joining Sun to head up operating system platform strategy. I’m not saying much about what I’ll be doing yet, but you can probably guess from my background and earlier writings that I’ll be advocating that Solaris needs to close the usability gap with Linux to be competitive; that while as I believe Solaris needs to change in some ways, I also believe deeply in the importance of backward compatibility; and that even with Solaris front and center, I’m pretty strongly of the opinion that Linux needs to play a clearer role in the platform strategy.

It is with regrets that I leave the Linux Foundation, but if you haven’t figured out already, Sun is a company I’ve always loved, and being a part of it was an opportunity I simply could not pass up. I think the world of the people at the LF, particularly my former FSG colleagues with whom I worked so closely over the past year and a half: Jim Zemlin, Amanda McPherson, Jeff Licquia, and Dan Kohn. And I still very much believe in the core LF mission, to prevent the fragmentation of the Linux platform. Indeed, I’m remaining in my role as chair of the LSB—and Sun, of course, is a member of the Linux Foundation.

Anyway. Watch this space. This is going to be fun!

122 comments on “Joining Sun

  1. Robert

    As a longtime Solaris x86 user, and one who well remembers Sun dumping on us x86 customers in favor of Linux, it is certainly with some trepidation that I read this announcement. It is clear to me that Sun’s current position on Linux is that it ensures that it’s x64 servers run on the major Linux distros, and Linux in general, but that Solaris is the OS of choice. I can only surmise then that you want Linux to have a bigger role at Sun. Resources spent on Linux can only hurt Solaris, and users like myself. Why not leave Linux in the hands of the thousands of developers and leave Sun resources dedicated to Solaris? I urge you to leave the OS situation at Sun, as is. It took forvever to get Solaris x86 even on equal footing with Linux and Solaris SPARC at Sun. Now that it has come to the forefront, it would be a huge mistake to go backwards.

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  4. victor carreto

    i just open my eyes to linux, i was a guindows user, and before a mac user, but i just realize how cool and easy ubuntu is i like it very much.

    greetings from jacona, michoacan mexico.

  5. Pablo Barrera

    Best regards Ian, for your new challenge. Ill hope to see you some day in LA Sun Offices to give some talk

    Greetings from Buenos Aires, Argentina

  6. Mike Studer

    I wish you the best of luck improving the usability of Solaris. I hope you have enough clout to actually do something. But I fear you will be attacking the windmills like Don Quixote.
    If you could get KDE as a window manager option that would be a small start. And I mean as a OS packaged option that is fully supported by Sun. And how about some mime type support in Solaris web browsers? So when I click on a wmv file it will actually play? I may faint if that actually happens.
    Best of luck. I will be watching.

  7. Rogelio Rojas

    Hey! Why not selling beautifully designed Sun-branded big USB pen drives that boot any computer into botu Solaris or Linux at your choice. I’d love to have one of those always handy. You can make one yourself I guess but why not back the product with all the strenght of the corporation.

    Of course you should also make the images freely available so anyone can download a copy and install it onto any other capable USB pen drive.

    Hope you like the idea

  8. Rich

    Good to see more leaders in the Linux community admitting that “free software” and “open source” are dead concepts. Welcome to the real world.

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  11. Marcelo Leal

    I will repeat the Bryan words: “It looks like we’re going to be able to apt-get our cake, and DTrace it too!”. I think that will be the last great step to solaris OS. The operating system has already features and stability that any other has. But I agree with you, “Solaris needs to close the usability gap with Linux”… but i think it’s already competitive, because there are more pros than cons(apt-get). But know, i hope the system will be complete.

  12. Dark Phoenix

    Personally, I still feel that Solaris and Linux can coexist; after all, Linux and *BSD currrenly do, so why not?

    I don’t get all the people who act as if this is the worst thing ever. Complaints about Solaris-x86? I was under the impression that Solaris was originally designed specifically for Sun’s SPARC lines and that x86 was more of an afterthought…

    Despite stabs at both OS’es, they both have interesting and useful features that the other doesn’t have, and anything that brings them closer together is likely a good thing.

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  17. paolo del bene

    i was to presentation of opensolaris cross over the italian sun microsystems
    st benedetto croce 6 italy rome, they say that it’s a good operating system, for me
    not, it has many problems for example requires less 768 mb of hard drive to be installed. than sun microsystems said that gnu/linux requires 2 gb or more and this is false, it can stay on a card, on a floppy, on a pen usb, but it does not requires so
    many space. they want emulate gnu/linux on solaris, i think the time is not good to do this, and that there is many job to do again. they want use vmware or zen to use only 50 mb of space. 1 to have a native operating system it is not just an emulation
    vmware is not free software as it is not opensolaris, they continue to say that is free software free software is only software under the terms of gnu general public license
    it has again problems one of this for example is to the boot, if you want to install on a notebook where is windows and you want remove it, first you must overwrite with
    gnu/linux or it does not delete the hard drive. other problems no good support of
    bios and easy kernel panic. i founded many softwares of the project gnu installed on
    opensolaris but there was not the sources codes for example gimp, gtk2.0….. this is
    a violation of gnu general public license. if you want distribute cd/dvd/tapes… you need distribute the source code, why it is not said that what you put as packages could be in good conditions and then it is not said that you could find again on the http,ftp…. where you downloaded the softwares. so please invite the sun microsystems to respect the gnu general public license and to study the difference between an operating system and a kernel the kernel is linux the operating system is GNU/linux and this is a big difference. then they said that ‘what they ask linux’ is really GNU/Linux go cons opensolaris. is false they are using it as work for theirself. first they have given support to GNU/linux, now they are removing to install opensolaris. they are free to do what they want, but not to say that GNU/linux is going cons opensolaris. they was the first to give support and now they have changed idea. i solved them the problems and i have never received a thank a lot
    they come to our conferences ‘university’ doing funny as sponsor, but then they are different from that really say.

    awaiting your reply,
    paolo del bene

  18. David M

    Well done Ian, now dont waste any time making Solaris GPL so we can put ZFS in the linux kernel!

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