From Sun's destruction, new ventures may bloom

The old Sun Microsystems is no more, as its stars flee Oracle's marketing-driven culture. Could that be good in the long run?

My fear that Oracle would buy Sun only to let it die are becoming reality. I can't help but envision the corpse of Sun lying inert while a cloven-hoofed Larry Ellison dances around it, cackling -- such a tragedy.

Obvious questions arise. The first is simple enough: What will happen to the billions of dollars of Sun hardware out in the world right now? From my own experience, the quality of tech support has plummeted. More important, Oracle doesn't seem to give a damn about retaining Sun's hardware and software engineers and visionaries, so the prognosis can't be good for the maintenance and development of Sun hardware product lines.

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When technologists like Adam Leventhal, Bryan Cantrill, Mike Shapiro, and Brendan Gregg are heading for the door, there's something horribly wrong. Attrition is a consequence of any acquisition, but these fellows have no overlap with their Oracle counterparts. They're the only ones of their kind, and they've now left a gaping hole in what used to be Sun Microsystems.

I've been an advocate of Sun hardware in the past, and I run and maintain several different Sun server and storage deployments to this day. But it's getting hard to rationalize the purchase of new Sun hardware, given the apathy displayed by Oracle toward that side of the business.

Worse, Oracle appears to be hacking out vital parts of Sun and throwing them away wholesale. It's getting rid of SunSolve and the Member Support Center and moving everything over to My Oracle Support. (Among other disasters associated with My Oracle Support, it apparently requires Adobe Flash, though other sections of the FAQ state there will be an HTML-only version as well. How about ditching Flash altogether?)

Also, for what it's worth, I've tried myriad ways to sign into the new support system with existing credentials. The FAQ states this is possible. Unfortunately for me, I get stuck in a circular terms-acceptance loop that I can't escape and that has apparently broken my access to the existing MSC. Brilliant!

Ask any longtime Sun cusomer; they know such mini-disasters are commmonplace. Given what's happened so far, there's no reason to expect anything will change.

Rather than dwell on that sorry state of affiars, however, I would prefer to speculate about where all the talent from Sun is heading. My fervent wish is that these gifted people are heading into their garages and starting new companies with some of the soul that once made Sun shine.

The kinds of minds that developed DTrace and ZFS aren't readily adapted to non-engineering work. I don't see them heading into high finance or politics -- they'll wind up either starting their own companies or providing existing ones with a wealth of deep knowledge. The other end of the Oracle/Sun brain drain leads directly to Silicon Valley startups that conjure some of the most important and technologically advanced computing tools we have. I don't doubt that some number will head to Google and other large corporations as well.

We may see that Oracle's mishandling of Sun actually brings unexpected advancements in a variety of areas. Obviously it's far easier to fork software than hardware, as has already been shown with the formation of LibreOffice and such projects as SkySQL and MariaDB, along with the Illumos Project that is attempting to resurrect OpenSolaris. Several of these endeavors may succeed. Then again, they face an uphill battle, competing with the ghosts of their former selves. Only time will tell.

It didn't have to be this way. Sun didn't have to be razed like this. Yes, the flight of fine minds may spread more and better technology development than Sun under Oracle could ever have yielded -- but I still can't get over the senseless desctruction of one of the most advanced, creative technology companies that ever existed.

This story, "From Sun's destruction, new ventures may bloom," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at InfoWorld.com.

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