With the Solaris team gutted, it looks like the Sun skeleton has finally been picked clean.
The news from the ex-Sun community jungle drums is that the January rumours were true and Oracle laid off the core talent of the Solaris and SPARC teams on Friday (perhaps hoping to get the news lost in the Labor Day weekend). With 90% gone according to Bryan Cantrill that surely has to mean either a skeleton-staffed maintenance-only future for the product range, especially with Solaris 12 cancelled, or an attempt to force Solaris workloads onto Oracle’s SPARC Cloud offering. A classic Oracle “silent EOL”, no matter what they claim as they satisfy their contractual commitments to Fujitsu and others.
On acquisition, Ellison was scathing about Sun’s management and sure he was going to max out the opportunity. So just how good were Oracle’s decisions with Sun’s assets? I’m not really following Oracle’s business day-to-day, but here’s what seems obvious from reports:
- Java was described as the “crown jewels”, but the real reason for buying Java SE – trying to sue $8bn from Google – has failed twice.
- Ellison said Java’s role in middleware was the key to success, but Java EE is now headed to a Foundation.
- Oracle criticised Sun for “failing to monetise” Java (ignoring the fact Java made the market which Sun monetised with hardware in 1996-2000) and proposed a freemium model that’s not resulted in revenue.
- They embraced NetBeans, which is now donated to Apache (a good thing).
- Bureacracy over MySQL security fixes led to a decent portion of the user community going over to Monty’s MariaDB fork, enough to start a company around.
- Ellison said he would rebuild Sun’s hardware business, but its boss quit a month ago and the team behind it was part of the lay-off.
- Despite McNealy understanding that Solaris had to be open to win in the market, Oracle hyped it up and closed it down. The result was this week’s layoffs, foreshadowed extensively in January.
- Mishandling Hudson meant the CI business followed the Jenkins fork to CloudBees.
- Oracle abandoned Sun’s identity management projects and now Forgerock uses them in a business valued around a half billion dollars powered by the customers Oracle alienated.
- Oracle decided to cancel Sun Cloud and dismantled the ready-for-cloud features of Solaris, then the market went Cloud.
- Oracle renamed StarOffice and announced a cloud version but couldn’t make it fly. Sensing the impending EOL of the project and alienated by heavy-handed treatment the community jumped ship to LibreOffice.
- Just VirtualBox seems unscathed.
Instead of understanding the real failures at Sun – taking too long to open source Solaris and attempting a marketing-led approach in 2000-2002 instead of Sun’s traditional engineering-led approach – Ellison blamed the man who was landed with the task of rescuing whatever he could from the smouldering ruins left by McNealy, Zander, Tolliver and their clan and their complacent failure. Ellison never understood the pioneering approach Schwartz was taking, instead sneering at blogging and calling all the work-in-progress “science projects” while dismantling the partner channels and alienating the open source community.
The contrast with the approach HPE completed this week with its unwanted legacy products, doing a deal with Micro Focus to look after them, could not be more stark. Oracle said it was going to “reinvigorate the Sun brand” but instead has killed it more dead than any Sun executive managed – the “art of the deal” no doubt. Along with many former Sun staff today, that makes me very sad.
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