Friday May 01, 2009

POssO - Use your iPhone to manage OpenSSO

Yesterday, my colleague Rohan Pinto unveiled POssO, an iPhone-based portable adminstration console for OpenSSO.  This application blends the visual coolness and portability of the iPhone with the industrial-strength Identity Management in OpenSSO.

As I viewed an introductory video available on YouTube and Sun Learning Exchange, I thought of three key principles of innovation demonstrated by Rohan's application:
  • The OpenSSO open source development model leads to true innovation.
  • The iPhone's appeal is due more to it being an innovative application platform than to it being a telephone.
  • Rohan's passion, not paycheck, drove this innovation.
Congratulations and many thanks, Rohan, for this outstanding contribution to the state of the art.

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Thursday Mar 05, 2009

Extreme Leverage vs. Common Sense

By any measure, our economy is facing enormous challenges.  My good friend Bala Subramanian sent me a link to an extremely sobering piece from The Market Oracle comparing the current economic meltdown with the last two decades of economic turmoil in Japan.  We're in for a rough ride.

I am no economist, but is seems to my simple mind that our current woes are linked to one major fact - that too much of the economy has been built on extreme leverage and personal greed, with too little emphasis on real production and common sense.  Now, the highly leveraged financial system is tumbling down like the house of cards that it really is.

Against that backdrop, may I offer a couple of illustrations:

Yesterday, the mighty Citigroup ($C) became a penny stock - trading under a dollar per share and closing at $1.03.  So, Sun Microsystems' ($JAVA) beleagured per-share stock price is four times that of Citigroup! Little old Sun's market cap is $3.4 billion.  Mighty Citigroup? Only $6 billion. 

Will Citigroup survive? Will it be nationalized? If it falls, what other domino disasters will follow in its wake? Only time will tell.

To be sure, these two companies are like apples and oranges, but I think this illustrates an important point.  Sun's worth and potential is based on innovation and real production. Citigroup, on the other hand, was built on extreme leverage and personal greed. Far too much risky debt.  Complicated derivatives that masked underlying weakness.  Growth at the expense of common sense.  Now the cards tumble.

Perhaps the smartest financial thing I ever did during the dot com bubble was to cash out technology stocks in my IRA and pay off my house.  People told me I was absolutely crazy then.  But now?  Perhaps high leverage is not all it was cracked up to be.

Yes, we have big challenges at Sun.  All is not rosy here.  But I invite you to listen to the insightful video blog Jonathan Schwartz shared this week:  Understanding Sun in Three Easy Steps.  Think about Sun's conservative financial management style that consistently generates positive cash flow. Think of $3 billion in cash on hand.  Think of Sun's enormous investment in R&D even in the face of extreme financial pressure.

I'd rather be at Sun than Citigroup right now.  Reminds me of paying off my house.

One other point ... is it any cooincidence that GM and Chrysler teeter on the brink of bankruptcy with their hands held out to Uncle Sam while Consumer Reports rates those two automakers dead last in its annual Automaker Report Card

Food for thought.

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Wednesday Dec 03, 2008

Courage From a Distance

AesopBack on November 11th, I posted a blog entitled "Innovation Requires Bold Courage."

Today, an interesting related quote attributed to Aesop crossed my desk: "It is easy to be brave from a safe distance."

I suppose this applies to all the armchair quarterbacks of the world and to all the folks who dream of innovation without really getting their hands dirty.  For football players, really bold courage means giving it all on icy Lambeau field in January.  For those who really innovate in technology, it means down-and-dirty, against-all-odds kind of innovation - a grind-it-out persistence in the face of criticism and doubt - not second guessing from the safe distance of the ivory tower.

I tip my hat to those who really innovate - and to those who brave the bitter cold of January football games in uncovered stadiums.

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Tuesday Nov 11, 2008

Innovation Requires Bold Courage

At Sun Microsystem's Customer Engineering Conference, Sun Vice President Hal Stern proposed that courage was essential for innovation. His challenge seemed particularly relevant as we seek to thrive amidst challenging times.

I enjoy exploring the meanings of words, so I turned to for assistance as I pondered this concept:
  • Innovate: "to begin or introduce something new"
  • New: "of a kind now existing or appearing for the first time"
  • First: "being before all others with respect to time"

Basically, innovation demands that we do something before anyone else does it - before "best practices" are known, before markets are proven, before all the "gotchas" have been experienced. To those who try to innovate, there always seems to be an abundance of people who point out potential pitfalls, pose a host of reasons things won't work and warn of impending doom.

In a Sun sales training conference last August, a featured speaker, Robert Kriegel, called this oppressive phenomena the "firehose principle" - where naysayers always seem to appear with virtual fire hoses to douse the emerging flame of any new idea ... which brings us to a second essential word - Courage.

  • Courage: "the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear"
  • Danger: "liability or exposure to harm or injury; risk; peril"
  • Fear: "a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined"
Because fire hosers seem always to emerge in opposition to new ideas, we must cultivate a courageous quality of mind or spirit that will enable us to face opposition without fear.  Then we can innovate.

In another recent dictionary discovery session, I found that "Valiant" means "boldly courageous".  I think that is the type of courage Hal Stern challenged us to foster.  This is not a call for rose-colored glasses or intellectual dishonesty, but it is the type of courage that drives us to overcome obstacles, find answers to tough questions, fight the opposition and persevere to win.

In these troubled times, we at Sun need that type of bold courage.  We need to leverage our culture of innovation, not just in technology, but in business practice and personal performance, to conquer the fire hoses and deliver results.

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Tuesday Oct 21, 2008

Innovation on the Beach

This week, I have the honor of speaking at the Sun Microsystems "Innovation at Sun" conference, held at the beautiful Seascape Beach Resort on Monterey Bay on the outskirts of Aptos, California.  It is a beautiful day here on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

The view out my hotel room window is spectacular!

Looking west from hotel room at the Seascape Beach Resort in Aptos, CA.

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Discovering Identity was founded on in May 2005 as a means of documenting my exploration of the field of Identity and Access Management. In February, 2010, I switched to hosting the blog at In March 2012, I began posting Oracle-related information in both places.

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