Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Total Eclipse of Sun

InfoWorld chronicles the technological brain drain at Sun Microsystems after it was gobbled up by Oracle:

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.

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.
In his blog, Gosling even notes that he needed a lawyer to resign from Oracle:
Between all this [answering emails] 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).
It is a sad commentary to say that Oracle is more bureaucratic than Sun, given Sun had become one of the most bureaucratic, least entrepreneurial tech companies in Silicon Valley.

It’s also telling that Oracle shareholders got a lot less technology than they were promised from the acquisition.

I wonder how much of a loss it really is to Oracle. First, while these were very capable people, they obviously weren’t enough to make Sun successful anymore. Was it because of a bad strategy? Lack of marketing? Or have the returns to innovation disappeared in the mature enterprise IT segment? I don’t know, but if the strategy had been working, Sun wouldn’t have needed to sell itself off.

Also, what use does Oracle have for innovation? Their focus is service, support, scope, reach, control, perhaps reliability. Again, the entire segment seems to be rewarding turnkey solutions — or successful lock-in strategies — rather than new technology.

Finally, I can’t say I’m all that surprised. Big acquisitions nearly always add revenue and destroy value.

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