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Recession hits Sun hard...is it time to worry now?

11.14.2008
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Last week I had a chance to read a very troubling article highlighting Sun's perilous financial position and its eroding market capitalization. Something we developers don't think about too often, but it looks like things are pretty critical right now:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/11/12/suns_market_cap_below_3bn_dollars/

The company's reluctance to cut jobs is commendable, especially if you are a Sun employee, but analysts don't agree with it. They are saying the cuts are not enough. At a simplistic level the company needs to cut over a billion dollars from its costs - nearly $1.5bn in fact - if it is to break even this fiscal year. In terms of headcount that isn't a cut, it's a series of major amputations. Divide the average annual employee cost into $1.5bn and you come up with numbers that could make you feel sick. (Assume a $100,000/year employee cost and that's 15,000 who have to go.)

And unfortunately the bad news arrived sooner than expected, as Sun announced it would be laying of 6,000 employees (nearly 18% of its workforce). 

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/11/14/sun_slashes_jobs/

Considering that pretty much all of the core enhancements to Java and the JVM are done by Sun and those do not bring in any direct revenue to them, should we all be worried how Java can survive without Sun's corporate backing (or at least with a greatly reduced one)?

This is particularly worrying in light of how Java is slipping behind in terms of language features compared to its largest competitors and missteps in the RIA space.

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Jacek Furmankiewicz.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

Comments

Patrick Wright replied on Fri, 2008/11/14 - 1:44pm

See the income breakdown posted on Jonathan Schwatz's weblog from a couple of weeks back (http://blogs.sun.com/jonathan/date/200810)--Java revenue/billings is a little over $200 million a year, and 34 million for the most recent quarter. I don't know the cost breakdown, but it seems to me you should be able to maintain the current investment with that kind of income. It's certainly a lot more than the "nothing" that people often refer to. I think what's more likely is that experimental and research-style projects will get canned--which is too bad--but that "core" Java will continue to be developed without much impact.

 

Jacek Furmankiewicz replied on Fri, 2008/11/14 - 2:06pm in response to: Patrick Wright

That's good to hear...but it's those experimental projects (e.g. Da Vinci) that are what keeps the whole platform moving forward.

I guess we'll see soon...if no one at Netbeans or Glassfish or the core JDK team is hit, I think we can maintain a positive outlook.

 

Patrick Wright replied on Fri, 2008/11/14 - 2:49pm in response to: Jacek Furmankiewicz

Hope it isn't too unpleasant, that said, it's pretty harsh for those people at Sun hearing about 15% job cuts right before Christmas, in the worse recession in living memory....

As far as the Da Vinci project, it has IMO a clearer applicability to widening the market for the JVM to other languages, which means (in principle) widening the developer and deployment base, and enticing people to deploy on Sun hardware with Sun support contracts behind it. OTOH, what one always hears is that when the axe comes down, nothing gets spared, so there may be some surprises in store.

Geertjan Wielenga replied on Fri, 2008/11/14 - 4:29pm in response to: Jacek Furmankiewicz

[quote=Jacek]

if no one at Netbeans or Glassfish or the core JDK team is hit, I think we can maintain a positive outlook.

[/quote]

 

That's a good way of approaching it.

Otengi Miloskov replied on Sat, 2008/11/15 - 12:29am

If this affect Java this is the mistake of the Java community not Sun. Java is 100% Open Source and we should not worry at all, We have also the JCP, If some Sun engineers ware doing some projects development, another team or people can take over the projects and continue. IMHO I Don't see a problem now related with Java and Sun.

Java is Free/Freedom as Python, Ruby, PHP etc.

Phillip Jarito replied on Mon, 2008/11/17 - 2:36pm

Hi..I believe this is not the lowest market cap that sun has gone down. I thought they hit around just 2bn sometime ago. 

In terms of Java, there are big companies out there ready to be stewards in case Sun goes down. I just hope MS is not interested in Sun.

There are some reasons to be worried, but this is not the worst...yet.

Jeroen Wenting replied on Tue, 2008/11/18 - 1:35am

if it slows down the introduction of new nonsense "features" like closures (function pointers) and the like it's actually a good thing...
It's time the platform was left alone rather than flooded with "me2" things that are added for no other reason than to stroke someone's vanity or because some other language has them as well.

Osvaldo Doederlein replied on Tue, 2008/11/18 - 7:53am in response to: Jeroen Wenting

[quote=jwenting]if it slows down the introduction of new nonsense "features" like closures (function pointers) and the like it's actually a good thing... t's time the platform was left alone rather than flooded with "me2" things that are added for no other reason than to stroke someone's vanity or because some other language has them as well.[/quote]

Yep, perhaps Sun just sell out to Computer Associates so we can keep using obsolete but comfortable technology, without any further enhancements, until 2050. </sarcasm>

Most people that lobby for closures don't do that just now, and "because some or language has it". We lobby for closures since the first beta of Java 1.0 was announced, because it was an obvious and important hole, one that even the language's original creators were embarassed about and didn't put in the language in ~1995 because they didn't have time and because they were afraid to push too many modern OO features in a single stroke, to a marketplace then dominated by C/C++.

Andrew McVeigh replied on Tue, 2008/11/18 - 7:56am in response to: Jeroen Wenting

if it slows down the introduction of new nonsense "features" like closures (function pointers) and the like it's actually a good thing..

Aargh.  Closures are not function pointers.  Nothing like it.  They are a function which has access to any state in the lexically declared scope.  And they aren't "new-fangled" and they aren't needed just to stroke someone's ego.

I first used closures in Lisp/Scheme, and then in Smalltalk.  I think even when Java was called Oak, they were talking about adding closures. 

Andrew 

Oliver Plohmann replied on Tue, 2008/12/02 - 10:38am

As long as Sun can afford to have three teams that each defines its own approach for closures in Java they seem to have plenty of money.

 Regards, Oliver

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