Sunday, February 7, 2010

Oracle + Sun: All the Wood Behind Application to Disk

Being one of the Sun faithful for nearly 20 years, my title for this blog plays off a phrase that's not only near and dear to me, but has a long history at Sun -- "All the Wood Behind One Arrow".

In 1989, CEO Scott McNealy coined the phase when he made a radical decision to consolidate Sun's products on a single processor architecture -- not Intel, not Motorola, but it's own SPARC chip. In fact, Sun even aired a short-lived TV commercial around the esoteric phrase that showed an arrow flying through the air, hitting a bulls eye pinned to a sturdy tree trunk followed by a voice-over of the key phrase.

For over a decade, Sun's scrappy CEO, innovative engineers, and specialized sales force went the distance, hitting their targets, as they defiantly focused on making SPARC/Solaris platforms the "gold standard" for engineering and enterprise IT departments alike. Like Sun's TV commercial, Sun's $200 Billion market cap at the height of the bubble was short-lived. After the bubble burst, Sun's valuation and market share steadily declined, as the 'cheap' revolution overtook the 'solid gold kit' era on which Sun had bet its entire business.

McNealy's successor, Jonathan Schwartz, invoked the "All the Wood Behind One Arrow" phrase on several occasions during his CEO tenure in hopes of reinvigorating Sun's fortunes, first as a software company (SunONE), and two years later, as a systems company (Sun + StorageTek). We know how that turned out.

So in 2010, with Sun now under the stewardship of Oracle, we know the
Sun and Java brands, as well as the many engineering innovations will live on. But it's a good bet you won't hear Larry Ellison invoke any of the McNealy mantras, circa 1989 - 2000. After all, Larry has made it clear he wants to model Oracle + Sun after T.J. Watson Jr.'s IBM of the 1960's. This is the future "gold standard" Larry envisions.

Since I'm too young to remember the IBM of the 1960's, I'll poignantly think of the Oracle + Sun strategy as "All the Wood Behind Application to Disk".