Sun's stars: Where are they now? And why did they leave?

The key forces behind Java, JRuby, and more have all left Oracle

Oracle, which spent $7.4 billion to acquire once-high-flying Sun Microsystems, has been losing prominent Sun technologists since shortly after the deal was forged. The acquisition was supposed to give Oracle control not only over such technologies as Sun's flagship Java implementation and Sun's Sparc hardware, but access to engineers and developers who were nothing short of celebrities in their field. But it has not worked out that way.

Tim Bray
Tim Bray
Simon Phipps
Simon Phipps

It was not unexpected that Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz and Sun chairman and former CEO Scott McNealy did not make the switch to Oracle. Those high-ranking positions were already taken at the database giant. But the number of former Sun personnel residing in Oracle's top executive offices is sparse.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Paul Krill details Oracle's ambitious plans for Sun's technology. | Relive the rise and fall of Sun in our slideshow. ]

In fact, the only Sun alumni found on Oracle's Web listing of top executives are Executive Vice President John Fowler, who had dealt with Sun hardware; Senior Vice President Cindy Reese, who was a worldwide operations executive at Sun; and Vice President Mike Splain, who also was involved with Sun's hardware systems operations.

Key departures have included Java founder James Gosling, XML co-inventor Tim Bray, and Simon Phipps, Sun's chief open source officer. After serving as CTO of client software at Sun, Gosling worked for a couple months with the same title at Oracle before leaving in April under what appears to be acrimonious circumstances. Bray, who was director of Web technologies at Sun, also quickly left Oracle, becoming a developer advocate at Google. Phipps, never offered a job at Oracle, is open source strategy director at integrator and identity platform vendor ForgeRock.

Charles Nutter
Charles Nutter
Thomas Enebo
Thomas Enebo
Kohsuke Kawaguchi
Kohsuke Kawaguchi

Other departures include Sun engineers Charles Nutter and Thomas Enebo, who shepherded the development of the JRuby programming language at Sun but joined Engine Yard last summer several months after the Oracle acquisition of Sun was announced. A key developer on the open source Hudson continuous build project, Kohsuke Kawaguchi left in April to form a company to continue working on Hudson.

James Gosling
James Gosling

Sun's tech leaders say why they didn't fit in at Oracle
In a blog post, Gosling noted his need for a lawyer after resigning. "I've spent an awful lot of time reading these [blog and other] messages and answering as many as I could. Between all this and spending quality time with my lawyer, resigning has been a full-time job (before I quit, several friends said I'd need a lawyer because 'this is Oracle we're talking about' ... sadly, they were right)," wrote Gosling, who has not indicated where his next employment would be.

Oracle's offering, at times, substantial salary cuts to former Sun personnel was likely to result in the development of many small businesses as Sun alumni leave, according to Gosling. In a blog post last week, he offers praise for ForgeRock and consternation for Oracle: "They're another great little company spinning out of the rubble that Oracle created out of Sun. They do service, support, and development on what used to be called OpenSSO (among other things)," Gosling writes.

"While Sun had open-sourced the code, Oracle still owns the name, so the ForgeRock folks picked a new name: OpenAM (Open Access Manager). OpenSSO is another case where Oracle [ended] the superior product and then sent salesdroids to OpenSSO customers with term sheets that were truly frightening. They did a great job of creating a business for ForgeRock," he adds.

"Sun and Oracle are very different sorts of companies, not necessarily in a bad way," says Nutter. Oracle has not been as committed to open source as Sun was, he says. "Sun was basically all open source. That's basically what they've been doing for the past four or five years," Nutter says. (Oracle declined to be interviewed for this article.)

Nutter cites uncertainty about JRuby as reason for leaving: "We were still excited to work on JRuby and we didn't have a lot of negative indications, but we didn't have a whole lot of positive indications that the project would continue. It seemed like a good time to move on to someone willing to fund JRuby."

1 2 Page
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies