Sun Moves In Strange Ways - Or If I Were Sun

It happened what I actually didn't expected any more. The software produced by Sun is not only working, but is really usable, easy to install and highly regarded outside Sun as well. Sun's "Software Division + Open Source Community" really caught up. Just few samples:

  1. VisualVM - useful troubleshooting tool.
  2. JavaDB - powerful, lean embedded / distributed Java DB 
  3. openDS -  easy to install (even with WebStart) ldap server
  4. Wonderland - no comments, just cool.
  5. Glassfish: from "nothing" to killer appserver. V3 comes with some singnificant usability improvements like easy embedding etc.
  6. Netbeans: before 5 it was unusable (sorry - hardcore Netbeans lovers :-)). Netbeans 6.0 > was really improved in order of magnitudes. Netbeans 6.5 could become the hub of different langauges (Groovy, Scala, JavaScript, Ruby, Java). Although IDE is a religious topic - there is no doubt in signifcant improvement in the quality, performance, usability, documentation and features (I used it all the time)
  7. openesb - really interesting "Enterprise Service Bus" the new version is even OSGI based.
  8. virtualBox - really amazing: a 20 MB, free and powerful virtualization tool
  9. openSolaris - I only installed it in VirtualBox, during a really boring (almost funny), sponsored JavaONE's General Session. The installation is really easy, the UI nice. I heard only good things about ZFS and Dtrace
  10. hudson - easy to install, and configure (without XML), continuus integration tool.

Sun's strategy (what I understand from outside), is giving away great software, and sell so more hardware. But is seems like there is not really easy buying hardware from Sun - or only few people know what the offerings actually are. From my perspective Sun is not leveraging the potential here (perhaps with the exception of SunSPOTs). Some samples:

  1. I bought and assembled a linux server, and recognized one year later, that the T2000 entry server wasn't much more expensive.
  2. I wondered on a fair/tradeshow in germany about a nice workstation (aluminium finish), similar to Mac Pros, and recognized it is Sun's product - with AMD or Intel Chips and available Windows, Linux, Solaris options. No one on the booth could tell me how to get one. I bought other hardware half year later...
  3. I found the workstation on Sun's homepage. There is only a small image available. There is no possiblity to enlarge it. Just compare this online product presentation with e.g. Apples Store, and their workstation.

If I were Sun, I would try to sell more hardware and offer more hardware-related services :-):

  1. I would try to create a Java-Branded Workstation - just for developers, and place it somewhere prominently, or at least make the existing one more visible. With virtualBox, Ubuntu / openSolaris / Windows this could probably take off. I would actually buy one. I think there are enough Java-enthusiast out there, so that this could pay-off.
  2. I would offer Glassfish, Grails, Rails on EE, etc. hostings / services / clouds. Sun has a Grid, which is rather a generic solution. But Amazon has EC2 and Google the AppEngine. This is actually strange.
  3. Sun servers are not really visible to developers. I would try to change it, and offer some entry point servers to play with. I know many developers building their own systems (I'm one of them), which are actually not that cheap.

The hard work is actually done - I'm missing only few remaining parts like nice online store, straightforward marketing and more visibility.

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Hi Adam, thanks for sharing this. Lots of good stuff for my fellow hardware colleagues ;)

Just to add that we do monetize (at least parts of our) software directly too with subscriptions to cover for support, access to patches, and indemnification.

Oh, and maybe you meant OpenDS, not OpenLDAP ;)

Posted by Alexis MP on July 15, 2008 at 02:03 PM CEST #


to your "if i were sun" list.

1) java branded workstation? Come on. No one needs that. Most java developers are quite intelligent people with their very own prerfered hardware + OS. No one needs java powered emblems on hardware. Besides this, really smart developers use macs anyway (ok the last part is not that serious)

2) This is a smart suggestion. Not a killer but a solid approach to make money. My company would perhaps use services like that when testing software on existent glassfish installation servers.

3) The fact is, as a java developer you dont care much about hardware or OS. For testing purposes, a SUN is just overkill. We have a big no-name custom server which runs many VMs for development purposes. No need for sun or ibm hardware whatsoever.


Now my suggestion for Sun:

Make software products that make people spend money on. Glassfish Pro Edition or something like that. Companies like BEA or IBM succeed over years in selling appServers. Sun failed here big time. With Glassfish they could start again and try to make profit besides of support contracts.

Do the same with Netbeans. There is a market for commercial IDEs as you can see with IDEA or MyEclipse. To me Eclipse or netbeans are not good enough, so i spend money on IDEA. How about a Netbeans Pro with smart stuff like extended Spring or JPA features...

Posted by Marc Logemann on July 15, 2008 at 03:08 PM CEST #

Thank you for that post!!!
I could not say more - I am very happy about Sun's software activities, and Sun's hardware seems very interesting to me, too.
But for somebody living in Germany it is really not easy to get e.g. a Sun Workstation or an entry-level server. "not easy" means: not in my city, not at my vendor, only after searching for hours or even not at all.
Very, very sad ...
You could get really furious about good hardware so hard to come by ...

Posted by rob r on July 15, 2008 at 04:07 PM CEST #

I agree on everything, especially I'm puzzled about the lack of hosting on the Sun Grid. But if I remember well, I think I've read some post from Kohsuke about hosting Hudson on the grid (I don't know which is the stage of the idea, perhaps is still in Kohsuke's mind).

Posted by Fabrizio Giudici on July 15, 2008 at 05:05 PM CEST #

hi Adam. Do you know about GlassFish For Business [1]? I tried to capture the details of Sun's commercial support for the GlassFish server.


Posted by Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart on July 15, 2008 at 10:39 PM CEST #


I only know about "Unlimited":




Posted by Adam Bien on July 16, 2008 at 12:47 AM CEST #


thanks, yes you are right, I meant openDS - I corrected it already. In the first version of this post I forgot to mention hudson as well :-)



Posted by Adam Bien on July 16, 2008 at 12:49 AM CEST #


It seems like you like Netbeans. Regarding your points:

1) "java branded workstation? Come on. No one needs that.": I just need a workstation without bloatware with - if it looks nice - even better. I would have nothing against a Java logo. The workstation, which I saw was actually decent - but hard to buy :-).
2) Thanks!
3) I assembled a linux server, which probably consumes more energy, than a T2000 - and although it is no-name, it is not that cheap.

My point of the post actually is: hardware products are underpromoted and millions of Java Developers / enthusiasts not considered as potential buyers...



Posted by Adam Bien on July 16, 2008 at 12:55 AM CEST #

Infidel Netbeans-lover, you sinned again! Behold Eclipse glory! ;)

Posted by on July 16, 2008 at 11:48 AM CEST #

re: Unlimited & Sun's offerings - I've talked with many people that believe that "Sun commercial support" for GF just means "know-how", answering the phone. A number of the people at Stories [1], say: 'we don't need that now, we can browse the code
', or "we can google-it". But, when we explain there are sustaining (bug-fixing) releases available only to the commercial subscribers they are more interested in the subscription offering.


Posted by Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart on July 16, 2008 at 06:40 PM CEST #

do you forget MySQL, and support for PostgreSQL community, if i have some money i bet over Sun , but i don't :(

Posted by on July 16, 2008 at 08:40 PM CEST #

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