Tuesday Dec 02, 2008

Microsoft's Modular Datacenters Look Familiar

Call me crazy, but if Microsoft's vision of the future data center is all about packing servers into one of these...

Isn't it a lot like the vision that Sun articulated (two years earlier) to pack servers into one of these?

Incidentally, Sun's vision is now a real, live product. And Microsoft's is a cool cartoon.

Of course, I'm biased. And I'm no expert in this space. And I realize that our industry is all about building on the ideas of others.

But still... Couldn't they at least give a little credit where it's due?

Thursday Nov 06, 2008

Sun Co-Founder to be First CTO of the USA?

Would you trust this man to be CTO of a country?

It might just happen, if President-Elect Obama listens to the advice of Silicon Valley legend John Doerr.

I think it'd be a great choice. And it's a nice reminder of Sun's impressive roots.

Tuesday Jul 17, 2007

Coca-Cola Breakfast Beverage Suite, Citrus Edition

A Minute Maid Juice Carton, with name changed to "Coca-Cola Breakfast Beverage"

Imagine that Coca-Cola followed the tech industry's lead for product naming. Since they bought Minute Maid in 1960, you could have ended up drinking out of this thing each morning.

Tech companies love to mash a bunch of stuff together under a top-level brand and then slice things up with sub-naming, suites, and special editions. Here at Sun, this approach has has given us product names like:

The argument for this approach goes something like this:

  • It concentrates our efforts on building the strength of a few key brands (such as Java and Sun).
  • It yields descriptive names which people are likely to understand from the first time they're heard.

Even if we concede these points, I would argue that they're far out-weighed by negatives:

  • The names are too long.
    • There is a reason that "Beautiful Child, Genius Edition" never makes the list of popular baby names. Parents may think it perfectly describes their child, but they're still pragmatic enough to realize that it won't fly as a name. People just don't talk that way. They don't even write that way. So if someone does mention one of these products, chances are they'll do so using their own incorrect abbreviation or permutation of its proper name. Every time that happens, we miss an opportunity for real brand reinforcement. And with today's search-driven information access, it also makes it hard to learn about the products. (Do I Google for "Access Manager" or "Sun Java System Access Manager" or "SJSAM" or "OpenSSO" or ...?)
  • They're stretching to tie products to a top-level brand where there is little natural connection.
    • What's so Java-ish about the Sun Java Desktop System? The windowing environment certainly isn't written in Java. The majority of the apps you'll use in it aren't written in Java. Java is a great brand which represents great technology, but is it really applicable here? Or are we doing the equivalent of slapping a soda brand onto a juice carton?

Of course, not all tech products follow this pattern. Open Source software projects and Web 2.0 service offerings tend to use names composed of just one or two unique words (often inventing new words or spellings in the process). And Ina Fried of CNET reports that even Microsoft is rethinking their naming strategy. The company has already simplified the name of one major new offering (from "Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere" to "Silverlight"). And they have a team working to reeducate the entire company on branding. Among that team's favorite tools is a poster they're plastering around Microsoft's buildings. It shows a box of Band-Aids and the caption: "You wouldn't call it Wound Healer 2.0."

Hmm... Wonder if they printed any extras.

Friday Jun 08, 2007

Deep-Linking Into The Pink Dots

The "pink dots" maps have been getting some special attention lately. First, Jonathan referenced our original Solaris registrations map to make a point about how Sun's embrace of free software is driving adoption of our technologies. Then yesterday, Eduardo mentioned our new GlassFish adoption map on The Aquarium.

Both Jonathan and Eduardo asked readers to look at a particular map view to get an illustration of their point. One thing worth mentioning is that it's actually possible to link directly to such views.

For example, Jonathan (who wanted his readers to look at the map with a blank background) could have referenced this URL:

http://sysnet.sunwarp.net/maps/?lat=39.75&lng=-105&zoom=2&mtype=Blank

Or Eduardo (who wanted users to look at how GlassFish usage had increased in Brazil) might have referenced this URL for February:

http://beta.glassfish.java.net:81/maps/?lat=-12.89748918375589&lng=-51.50390625&zoom=4&mtype=Map&otype=gf_admin_hits_2007_02_exclusive

...and this one for April:

http://beta.glassfish.java.net:81/maps/?lat=-12.89748918375589&lng=-51.50390625&zoom=4&mtype=Map&otype=gf_admin_hits_2007_04_exclusive

But wait, those are complicated URLs. How could anyone possibly know which one to use?

It's easy. Just find the map view that you want and then copy the link referenced by the "This View" anchor in the map page. It's the link which I've highlighted in yellow below:

The JavaScript code in the maps page dynamically updates this link to always reference a URL which would recreate the current view.

So there you have it. If you want to have people look at some specific view of these maps to illustrate your point, you can send them there with just one click.

However, there is one caveat...

These deep-linking URLs guarantee that everyone will see the same map view at a given center point and zoom level. However, the actual amount of territory visible in the map (and thus summarized in the sidebar stats) will depend on the user's window size and screen resolution. So they won't necessarily see exactly the same image and figures that you do (though it should be close, assuming that most people have reasonably-sized screens and windows).

Thursday Apr 26, 2007

Building "SDN Share"

If you read my entry from earlier today, you know that we've launched a new program called SDN Share. It's a place where developers can share technical information with other developers and, in the process, earn some nice rewards (Amazon gift certificates).

Well we've now received our first bit of outside feedback. It came from Alan McClellan, who posted this comment on our SDN Share blog:

This is a cool site. How did you build it? It it home grown or did you use purchased or open source discussion/forum software?

Thanks, Alan. I'd been looking for an excuse to talk about this. :)

We implemented SDN Share by skinning and slightly modifying an existing piece of software called Slynkr. It's a Java implementation of a web-based service which allows anyone to submit items and then lets anyone else tag, vote, and comment on them (collectively forming what's often called a Social News or Social Bookmarking service).

Going back to the original question of whether this is home-grown or open source software... It's both. Okay, that isn't quite true--but I think it's safe to say that it will be soon. We're well into the process of getting Slynkr released as open source software. So you might want to keep an eye out wherever great open source Java software is created.

Sharing "SDN Share"

Developers are changing. Every day, it seems that interacting with the outside world becomes a larger and larger part of the job. We interact via open source projects, mailing lists, forums, blogs, journals, and more.

As developers change, it's only natural that tech companies' developer programs also change. In our case, that means the Sun Developer Network (SDN). It's always been a great program, providing a ton of information to developers. But one place where it could improve is in getting more information from developers.

That's why we're starting a new branch of this program, called SDN Share. In short, it's a place where developers can share technical content with other developers. Have a snippet of code that solves a common problem? Share it. A script which lets you avoid mundane tasks? Share it. An article which takes the mystery out of some new technology? That's right: Share it.

Once a submission has been accepted, anyone can add to it with some sharing of their own. They can comment on it, tag it, and vote on whether they think it's great or needs some work. This makes the best stuff float to the top, the Java stuff clump together with other Java stuff, and the occasional error get pointed out and corrected. You know--standard Web 2.0 and Participation Age stuff. Kudos to the Diggs, del.icio.uses, and Wikipedias of the world (and others) who came before us in popularizing and evolving these ideas.

I almost forgot the best part--the rewards. You receive points when your submission is accepted and when people vote for it. These rewards can be exchanged for cash which is deposited into a communal account shared by all SDN Share members. Then someday when enough cash has accrued, we will fulfill the longstanding dream of buying the world a Coke.

JUST KIDDING. This touchy-feely sharing stuff has to end somewhere, right? The rewards are Amazon gift certificates, and they're yours to hoard or spend in any way you like. The "How it Works" page provides details on how you get rewards points, and the "Redeeming Points" page explains how you can use them.

So what are you waiting for? I know you have little tidbits lying around that make you a better developer. You might as well share them and earn some free stuff, right? Also, keep an eye on the SDN Share Blog for more information on the program.

Friday Apr 20, 2007

Dell Leader Endorses Ubuntu; Ubuntu Leader Endorses NetBeans

The latest Ubuntu release has lived up to its name, with things getting just a bit feisty in the last couple of days. First came the news that Michael Dell is using Ubuntu on his personal laptop. That's an interesting endorsement (as is his use of OpenOffice).

Then yesterday came the news that a complete Java stack was being made available in the Ubuntu Multiverse. Hidden in one of the many articles on the subject was another celebrity endorsement--with Ubuntu leader (and civilian cosmonaut) Mark Shuttleworth calling NetBeans his "preferred Java development environment."

Pretty cool stuff. Of course, being a member of the GlassFish Project, I'm a little jealous that we didn't get an unexpected celebrity endorsement of our own. I certainly don't think it's due to a lack of product quality or innovation. I'd say these articles and discussions just have more of a desktop focus (which Ubuntu, OpenOffice, and NetBeans all fit nicely).

No matter. Our day is coming. Just be sure you're registered.

And in the meantime, be sure to check out Harpreet's notes on GlassFish in Ubuntu. He was Sun's lead on the effort--so he certainly knows his stuff.

Wednesday Mar 21, 2007

Sun Related Trends

Dan Farber has a post talking about some Q&A with Jonathan Schwartz at a recent "Mashup Event" at a Sun campus.

His last paragraph is what caught my attention:

Sun's stock price has been trending upwards, and would seem to correlate with what Schwartz said he found in checking Google Trends for keywords associated with Sun–such as NetBeans, GlassFish and Niagara–are up and to the right. "Word of mouth is a way more efficient than buying ad words," he concluded. Based on the Google Trends chart below, it's unclear just high and to the right the keywords are trending.
Google Trends Graph for Sun-related Terms in 2006

(The chart that Farber references.)

I think his chart is a bit misleading. For one thing, it only covers 2006. We're almost a full quarter into 2007. So I think it's worth looking at that data:

Google Trends Graph for Sun-related Terms in 2007

(Same chart, but covering 2007.)

If you look closely at the 2007 picture, you'll see that the Sun-related terms (NetBeans, GlassFish, and Niagara) do all trend up. That's better, but this chart still suffers from a second problem: combining so many terms with such different search volumes makes it hard to see the trends. In other words, you shouldn't have to look so closely.

So let's look at charts for each of the Sun-related terms individually. (Also note that these charts use Google's "All Years" time period, since I don't want to run into the afore-mentioned issues with just seeing 2006 or 2007 data.)

Google Trends Graph for "NetBeans"

(Google Trends Chart for the "NetBeans" term.)

Google Trends Graph for "GlassFish"

(Google Trends Chart for the "GlassFish" term.)

Google Trends Graph for "Niagara"

(Google Trends Chart for the "Niagara" term.)

That's better. Both Niagara and GlassFish clearly do demonstrate "up and to the right" trend growth in these pictures. The Niagara picture might be seen as showing a stagnant overall trend, but I think that too can be addressed if we dig a little deeper.

The "Niagara" term is too ambiguous. While we at Sun (and hopefully any of you reading) think of it as the code name for our UltraSPARC T1 processors, most of the rest of the world thinks of it as a waterfall (or, as the dictionary tells us: a river, a fort, or a variety of grape). Searches from people seeking those kinds of "Niagara" are going to clutter up the trend chart (from our perspective).

So, let's instead look at some less ambiguous terms related to this Sun product. How about the actual server models which use the Niagara processor--the Sun Fire T1000 and T2000?

Google Trends Graph for "T1000"

(Google Trends Chart for "T1000" term.)

Google Trends Graph for "T2000"

(Google Trends Chart for "T2000" term.)

A bit better, perhaps. I realize that any true skeptics out there will argue that these show stagnant or even declining trends since 2006. But I think there are a few reasons to give this product line the benefit of the doubt. For one thing, it's likely to have people's searches be spread across many different terms (such as "Niagara," "CoolThreads," "UltraSPARC T1," "T1000," and "T2000"). Second, a throughput server such as this might appeal most to people who will already be familiar enough with Sun that their searches for it will take place directly on sun.com sites more often than on general search engines such as Google. And finally, Sun has publicly released sales figures which do demonstrate a lot of traction and momentum for these servers. For a hardware product, revenue probably trumps Google Trends as a momentum indicator.

By digging deeper, we have seen that there definitely is an up trend for two of these offerings (NetBeans and GlassFish). You may or may not feel that we've also established momentum for the Niagara offering. But even if you do discount that one, two out of three isn't bad. I'd say it's pretty supportive of Jonathan's original statement that we're seeing good momentum for Sun-related offerings.

Thursday Feb 08, 2007

Open Source and Employee Passion: Avoiding "Employer Lock-in"

I agree with Kathy Sierra's argument that employers need to worry less about finding employees with a passion for their company and more about finding employees with a passion about their work. Having a primary passion for your work means you'll always look out for the interests of it and its users. In the long run, that will be in the best interest of your employer (since they commissioned your work in the first place). The opposite doesn't always hold true--having a passion for your employer above your field and profession can sometimes result in choices which are detrimental to your work (and thus, in the long run, detrimental to your employer).

Things get more interesting when an employer provides the freedom to take your work with you. That's what open source licensing does. If you're at Microsoft, I hope your primary passion is for general fields such as operating systems or GUIs. Because you certainly won't be able to take any of your specific project work with you some day when you walk out the door. But at a company like Sun, that's not the case. You don't have to be afraid to put your full passion into our application server project. If you leave some day, you'll still have full access to the work that you and others have put into your project, plus the option to continue contributing (or fork it and start your own competing effort, if you think the original has gone far off course). The same is true in areas such as operating systems, programming languages, and even hardware. Instead of "passion for your work" having to remain at an abstract level, it can be at the level of specific projects and efforts. That's a good thing.

I realize that Kathy had a bad experience working at Sun (and she even infers that Sun is an example of "what not to do" in one of the comments following her post). I don't know any further specifics of her situation, but I do think it's safe to say that Sun has evolved in this area (and continues to do so). As a recent European Commission study shows, Sun is the world's leading open source contributor. That's a big change. And in this context, I think it also means a big change in how the company thinks of its employees' work.

When talking of allegiances, some people say "love it or leave it." Perhaps a better saying would be "love it because you can leave it." That's a good measure of freedom and values in any setting. And in the setting of tech employers, I think it's a measure that Sun is leading.

Friday Feb 02, 2007

Sun: Your Stealth PR Firm

In Chapter 4 of Naked Conversations (which many would call the "Bible" of corporate blogging), Robert Scoble and Shel Israel call Sun "the bloggingest of companies." True, they wrote that a couple of years ago--but since the number of Sun bloggers has trippled since then, it's probably safe to assume that the label still fits.

Cool. But what can it do for you? There is, of course, the obvious benefit of reading the blogs. Whether you're wondering how our kernel geeks plan to top Solaris 10 or how one of our accountants' kids did in a dance recital, we've got a blog for you (if not ten of them).

But I think there is also a less obvious benefit. If you're smart, we'll even do your PR work for you--free. Just tell us how you're using one of our products, and one of us (if not ten of us) is bound to blog about it. Even if you could find a PR firm with 3,000 agents (and counting), they certainly wouldn't beat our price. And if you believe in the "new media" ideas being advocated in works such as Naked Conversations, you know that the right blogging really can trump traditional marketing.

So if you're comparing technologies, don't forget to include the "free marketing" benefit in your list of pros and cons. The technology comes first, of course. But in the case of a tie, why not go with the company that can handle your technology and PR needs?

For an example of this kind of blogging, see our new Stories blog, where we profile users of GlassFish and related technologies. We think it's a win/win situation, with positive exposure for everyone involved: Sun, the GlassFish community, and the profiled users. It's nice when interests align, isn't it?

Friday Jan 19, 2007

Where to find affinity badges?

Is there some centralized source for affinity badges?

Jonathan has a few nice ones on his blog:

Download Java Download Netbeans Download Solaris

And Deepak has a nice tutorial on using affinity badges, providing these examples:

I like that each set has a consistent style (with complementary dimensions, colors, and fonts to the degree possible). So back to my original question... Is there some centralized source for finding such sets? A "badge directory" of sorts for Sun-related projects (or beyond)?

Thursday Jan 04, 2007

See Java from Space

Question: see anything strange in this picture?

Satellite Image of a Building's Roof

Time's up. It's a satellite picture of Building 14 in Sun's Santa Clara campus, which just happens to be decorated with a huge Java logo. Don't believe me? See for yourself with this view of our Solaris Registrations Map.

Next question: what's it doing there? Has Sun been getting marketing tips from The Colonel?

Nope. I got the real story from Steve Wilson: "It's been up there since Java Software moved out of [Cupertino] to [Santa Clara]. There was a big all hands with a gag that had Rich doing a video feed from the roof of SCA 14. It's still up there."

Last question: where can I rent a big ladder next time I'm in the Bay Area?

Wednesday Jan 03, 2007

Sun's Role in the Jakarta Project Conception and Name

Did you know that the Apache Jakarta Project is "named after the conference room at Sun Microsystems where the majority of discussions leading to the project's creation took place." I'd hadn't heard this until recently I found that quote in the Wikipedia's Jakarta Project article.

Interesting tidbit. Unfortunately, it looks like that room was in Sun's old Cupertino campus. If so, I wonder if anyone thought to keep the its name plate. Seems like it should go into a computing museum somewhere (or at least a memorabilia sale on eBay).

Saturday Dec 30, 2006

Bribery 2.0

A lot of people are talking about Microsoft's recent giveaway of fancy new laptops (preloaded with Windows Vista) to influential bloggers. Some are calling it a terrible breach of ethics by both Microsoft and any accepting bloggers. I don't agree. Instead, I think Robert Scoble's take is right on. In short, he says that Microsoft is smart to try to get bloggers talking about its product, and that bloggers can ethically choose to accept such an offer so long as they disclose it in their writing. Sounds right to me.

That does not mean, however, that Microsoft couldn't do a better job of executing on its intentions. For a model, I would recommend Sun's "Try and Buy" program. (Yes, Sun is my employer and that makes me biased--but it doesn't necessarily make me wrong.) This program allows anyone to receive a variety of Sun hardware products for a free 60-day evaluation. Sun even pays the shipping costs in both directions.

Now obviously these are different programs. But at their core, I think both are forms of loss leaders intended to help products gain increased exposure (and, the companies hope, subsequent increased sales). Where I think Sun gains the high ground is with its true grass-roots approach. Participants don't have to be on any special prescreened list. Some will turn out to be IT pros with big budgets, some will turn out to be bloggers with large audiences, and some will turn out to be friendless and living in their mom's basement.

That's okay. I would argue that it's better to be too broad with special treatment than to narrow; better to give everyone access and rely on probability to catch the movers and shakers than to try to identify them up front. I'm not sure what to call it. Maybe it's the difference between a shotgun and a sniper rifle. Maybe it's the difference between top-down and bottom-up thinking. Or maybe it's just better use of new media concepts in product marketing.

Whatever it's called, I think Sun's approach has more "get it" factor than Microsoft's. Like open source ideas are doing for software and Web 2.0 ideas are doing for content, this kind of modern marketing should be about enabling a bubble-up meritocracy. No one can guarantee ahead of time who the key influencers will be for a particular product. So the best thing a vendor can do is to improve access for everyone and then let the market of ideas do the rest.

Again, I'm not suggesting that Microsoft (or anyone else) is wrong to provide special access for targeted influencers. I just think it's better to start by providing open access for all and treating targeted add-ons as an afterthought than to do things the other way around.

Thursday Dec 14, 2006

Jonathan Hits Madoogle Status?

Some people say you've really made it when you only need one name--like Madonna. Interesting theory. Some people say that top placement in search results is quickly becoming the most valuable real estate in the world. Interesting fact.

What happens if we combine these ideas? I think we get an updated version of the One Name Phenomenon: you've really made it when you're atop the results for a Googling of just your first name. And so I hereby acknowledge that Sun's own media star of a CEO has joined the exclusive "Madoogle" club.

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