Tim Bray has an interesting post titled What Sun Should Do where he lists some suggestions. I have been thinking about Sun for a while and how my own image of the company has changed over the years. A long time ago I was working for Cambridge Technology Partners (later acquired by Novell). We did a lot of interesting projects, some of which were deployed on Sun hardware. At that time (around ‘97-‘98) my image of Sun was that it was a huge company selling huge hardware at huge prices.

That image stuck with me (and a lot of other people I guess). But interesting things have happened over the years that changed how I think about Sun:

  1. Bad: At one point I got the impression that Sun wanted Java on pretty much any platform you could think of. We were supposed to have java on the desktop, server, mobile phone, client, backend, both country and western as Mark Pilgrim would have put it. The Swing based GUIs really didn’t help the user experience in the early days.
  2. Good: Someone sent me an email sometime in 2005 saying that Sun was going to let people borrow a T2000 server for free. I checked prices and even though it was expensive compared to a grey box it was a major dent in the Sun-is-expensive image I had had previously. I know other people were talking about this as well even though we mainly did business consulting at the time. Must have been a marketing genious that came up with that plan. I didn’t even work with hardware and I still remember the campaign!
  3. Good: Sun open sourced Solaris. This was a major one. I downloaded the DVD image files as soon as they became available. I know a lof of other people who did this as well. Never used it since even though I have looked for it.
  4. Good: Zones. At one point I believe everyone I knew wanted to set up their own hosting business selling zones to Rails and PHP developers. Noone did. I don’t know why, but Linux virtualization was beginning to increase market share. Having tried both Xen and Zones, Zones felt a lot better. But everyone is selling Linux-based virtualization with Linux-based OSs anyhow (try filtering for Solaris in the list). Why?
  5. Good: And now the storage thing. Having seen the bill from a government agency for their current storage solution I am beginning to think that Sun storage will have a huge impact.
  6. Good: Glassfish. I know a lof of people doing Rails development and many are starting deployment on a tiny Linux VPS and then move it to a Glassfish instance once income is increasing.

So, in the end I guess Sun isn’t that enormous massively over priced giant anymore. But why aren’t people running their web apps on Sun hardware or on Solaris? I guess one of the reasons is about scaling down. There are many Linux-based VPS providers out there running on cheap hardware. The cost/Mb RAM for a VPS is tiny these days and maybe it is too costly to get even a small Sun server up and running you want to resell capacity.

So, why aren’t everyone using Open Solaris on beige boxes? Beats me. The community seems helpful. Maybe there just isn’t enough tutorials/blog articles about getting Rails, Django and Drupal installed and configured. Maybe it needs a better package system and/or setup tool for the command line?

What do you think?