Java Champion / JavaOne Rockstar Adam Bien (adam-bien.com) is a self-employed consultant, lecturer, software architect, developer, and author in the enterprise Java sector. He is also the author of several books and articles on Java and Java EE technology, as well as distributed Java programming. adam has posted 59 posts at DZone. View Full User Profile

Sun Moves In Strange Ways... Or "If I Were Sun"

07.18.2008
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It happened, even though I hadn't expected it to do so anymore: software produced by Sun doesn't only work, but is really usable. It is easy to install and highly regarded outside of Sun as well. Sun's "Software Division + Open Source Community" has really caught on. A few samples:
  1. VisualVM - useful troubleshooting tool.
  2. JavaDB - powerful, lean embedded / distributed Java DB
  3. openDS - easy to install (even with WebStart) ldap server
  4. Wonderland - no comments, just cool.
  5. Glassfish - from "nothing" to killer appserver. V3 comes with some significant usability improvements like easy embedding etc.
  6. NetBeans IDE - before 5 it was unusable (sorry - hardcore NetBeans lovers :-)). NetBeans 6.0 > really improved in orders of magnitude. NetBeans IDE 6.5 could become the hub of different languages (Groovy, Scala, JavaScript, Ruby, Java). Although "IDE" is a religious topic, there is no doubt about the significant improvements in this one's quality, performance, usability, documentation, and features (I use it all the time).
  7. openesb - really interesting "Enterprise Service Bus" the new version is even OSGI based.
  8. virtualBox - really amazing: a 20 MB, free and powerful virtualization tool
  9. openSolaris - I only installed it in VirtualBox, during a really boring (almost funny), sponsored JavaONE's General Session. The installation is really easy, the UI nice. I heard only good things about ZFS and Dtrace
  10. Hudson - easy to install, and configure (without XML), continuous integration tool.

Sun's strategy (what I understand of it from the outside), consists of giving away great software, thereby selling more hardware. But it seems like it isn't really easy buying hardware from Sun. That, or only a few people know what Sun's offerings actually are. From my perspective, Sun is not leveraging the potential here (perhaps with the exception of SunSPOTs). Some samples:

  1. I bought and assembled a linux server, and recognized one year later, that the T2000 entry server wasn't much more expensive.
  2. I wondered at a fair/tradeshow in Germany about a nice workstation (aluminium finish), similar to Mac Pros, and recognized it is Sun's product... with AMD or Intel Chips and available Windows, Linux, Solaris options. No one at the booth could tell me how to get one. I bought different hardware half a year later...
  3. I found the workstation on Sun's homepage. There is only a small image available. There is no possiblity to enlarge it. Just compare this online product presentation with e.g., Apples Store, and their workstation.

If I were Sun, I would try to sell more hardware and offer more hardware-related services :-):

  1. I would try to create a Java-Branded Workstation, just for developers, and place it somewhere prominently, or at least make the existing one more visible. With virtualBox, Ubuntu / openSolaris / Windows this could probably take off. I would actually buy one. I think there are enough Java-enthusiasts out there, so that this could pay-off.
  2. I would offer Glassfish, Grails, Rails on EE, etc. hostings / services / clouds. Sun has a Grid, which is rather a generic solution. But Amazon has EC2 and Google the AppEngine. This is actually strange.
  3. Sun servers are not really visible to developers. I would try to change that and offer some entry point servers to play with. I know many developers building their own systems (I'm one of them), which are actually not that cheap.

The hard work is actually done. I'm only missing a few remaining pieces, like a nice online store, straightforward marketing, and more visibility.

From: http://blog.adam-bien.com/

Published at DZone with permission of its author, adam bien.

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

Comments

Evan Summers replied on Fri, 2008/07/18 - 5:56am

and OpenOffice! :) and MySQL!
but JavaDB is repackaging of an Apache Derby project tho (originating from IBM), altho i'm sure Sun engineers are contributing to it as well. Similarly they contribute to and support PostgreSQL. Well i guess sun contributes to very many opensource projects that are "external" to Sun.

Demetrios Kyriakis replied on Fri, 2008/07/18 - 7:21am

> straightforward marketing

That's a good joke :) : SUN and marketing :) .

Maybe this shows better the situation of SUN :) : http://www.bileblog.org/2008/05/the-six-sun-sins/

 

Frode Stokke replied on Sun, 2008/07/20 - 3:51pm

Don't forget Open MQ (https://mq.dev.java.net/), a superb JMS broker. Comes bundled with Glassfish but can also be installed and used stand-alone. Rock solid, feature packed and plenty of high quality documentation. It's strange that it isn't marketed better...

Rory Marquis replied on Fri, 2008/07/18 - 12:47pm

There used to be Java branded computers, about 10 years ago i remember seeing them.

Siamak sarmady replied on Fri, 2008/07/18 - 11:40pm

Completely agree. If you look at SUN's stock it's total value has degraded to around 7.5 billion from 20 billion in less than 1 year.

This is a disaster not only to SUN but also to the open source (and also enterprise) software industry. I guess we developers and users (Java, J2EE, MySQL, OpenOffice, Solaris, ...)  who get these invaluable software from SUN should help them in some way.

I guess they could even sell normall (I mean AMD for example) based PC and Laptops. Their brand name is of great value. I do not wear Nike,... but I definitely love to have a SUN pc, laptop or even mouse and keyboard. However they are not easy to find in local shops and when you find them theyr are sometimes too expensive (a SUN mouse is 3-10 times more expensive here in local shops, if you can find one).

They have (specially after making Java open source) a high respect in IT industry, and the same as you said, they do not seem to use it as much as they could. 

 Mac

 

Demetrios Kyriakis replied on Sat, 2008/07/19 - 5:41am in response to: Siamak sarmady

> I guess we developers and users (Java, J2EE, MySQL, OpenOffice, Solaris, ...)

> who get these invaluable software from SUN should help them in some way.

Agree, but the problem is that I'm afraid nobody from SUN (who is in the decisional position) reads java.dzone.com to see such posts and understand what the real problem is :(.

Dell introduced the so called http://dellideastorm.com/ where the community can contribute (and vote up and down and comment) ideas for Dell products. Many users contributed great ideas, and it looks like Dell is listening and already started to improve their offert. Their marketing department was very surprised to find out that many things were not what they thougt, and the reality of products described by thousands users looks different (it looks like many marketing teams live in a parallel reality :) )

I think a similar community brainstorming site would be for SUN products a great help, and the software to power such a thing is open source too, so it shouldn't cost much.

I think with such an approach SUN would get even more and valuable feedback than Dell since there are way more Java developers out there that would really like to help SUN somehow (compared to the number of Dell fans).

Demetrios.

 

 

 

Mikael Grev replied on Sat, 2008/07/19 - 9:02pm

Sun has a lot of excellent engineers. The problem is just that they seem to promote these engineers to management and upwards without mixing them with bussiness and marketing people. This creates a chasm between the departments leading to bad understading and bad communication.

The engineers creates things that make sense out of a technical point of view but fail to understand the real users. This is reasonable when they target other good developers but not optimal when targeting casual/coorporate developers. API after API tells this tale. JSF, EJB, Swing and so on. Technically brilliant by hard to use.

A telling example of this is that they do not seem to have Graphical Designers or GUI Designers (not the same thing!!) in house, they just have developers that creates GUIs, of which some are decent. Just look at all GUIs created by Sun's engineers...

Cheers,
Mikael

Dmitri Trembovetski replied on Sat, 2008/07/19 - 4:28pm

> A telling example of this is that they do not seem to have Graphical Designers or GUI Designers (not the same thing!!) in house, they just have developer that creates GUIs, of which some are decent. Just look at all GUIs created by Sun's engineers...

 

We do have a UE/UI team(s), it's just spread very thin, and it takes a while to get their resources.

Dmitri

 

Siamak sarmady replied on Sat, 2008/07/19 - 8:36pm

> Dell introduced the so called http://dellideastorm.com/ where the community can contribute

 

Yes. this is a good example of how people can help.

However... I have read a few marketing books. Internet marketing books warn that working based on the advises of activist groups can sometimes be dangerous.For example, its known that linux currently has only around 1% share of the PCs (looking into web statistics of high traffic sites proves this. I have access to logs of a website with 0.5 million members, some of them technical, all of them educated). 

However activisist of that website have asked/forced Dell to offer Linux option for all its PCs and recently have again forced them to upgrade to the latest Ubuntu version. These all have a lot of cost for Dell but effect only a small portion of the customers.

It is a very good idea, however the ideas given in such a website should be used with care.

 

Mikael Grev replied on Sat, 2008/07/19 - 9:01pm in response to: Dmitri Trembovetski

> We do have a UE/UI team(s), it's just spread very thin, and it takes a while to get their resources.

Which is unfortuate. I would say that they should touch up everything that comes out. Like Apple does. Apple's increadible success into a saturated market(s) really shows how important design and polish really is.

Dmitri Trembovetski replied on Sat, 2008/07/19 - 9:23pm in response to: Mikael Grev

Remember that Applet is a consumer company. Sun's audience in most cases is a completely different crowd.

Dmitri

 

Mikael Grev replied on Sun, 2008/07/20 - 2:25am in response to: Dmitri Trembovetski

Developers are consumers of developer related things too. They are just pleased differently. The problem is that there are so many different types of developers. I would estimate that most of them are not nearly as good as Sun's engineers, yet every API that comes out of Sun is targeted towards top 20% developers.

And, Sun is targeting "normal" consumers with JavaFX and the new desktop push. This means that everything related to creating UI:s for consumers must look like they are actually targeting consumers. One can not create ugly JavaFX demos and indicate that the end developers should make it beautiful. This also means that Sun must start to use Applets and such on their own sites. If they do not, why will?

If Sun wants to target consumers (not only relating to JavaFX) they must create stuff that looks consumer oriented. They can not create technically interesting stuff that looks ugly and expect the end developer to understand that THEY can make it more beautiful than the JavaFX experts. If Sun had excellent leverage in these matters they could get away with it, but sadly they do not.

Btw, compare http://flex.org/showcase/ with  http://javafx.com/  and tell me, which is fresh and inspiering and which is ugly, slow and 2002? :)

Cheers,
Mikael

Sergey Surikov replied on Sun, 2008/07/20 - 5:43am in response to: Mikael Grev

 http://javafx.com/  looks ugly, slow and 2002

8(

 

Behrang Saeedzadeh replied on Sun, 2008/07/20 - 12:23pm in response to: Evan Summers

JavaDB was actually originated from Informix (Cloudscape.)

Dmitri Trembovetski replied on Sun, 2008/07/20 - 9:54pm in response to: Mikael Grev

> And, Sun is targeting "normal" consumers with JavaFX and the new desktop push.

With JavaFX Sun is targeting _developers_ and _designers_ who would create content for consumers.

And I definitely agree on javafx.com being slow and fugly.

Dmitri

Tonny Kohar replied on Mon, 2008/07/21 - 12:58am in response to: Dmitri Trembovetski

[quote]

> And, Sun is targeting "normal" consumers with JavaFX and the new desktop push.

With JavaFX Sun is targeting _developers_ and _designers_ who would create content for consumers.

And I definitely agree on javafx.com being slow and fugly.

[/quote]

I think something nice/pleasant/pretty is a must for any kind of products/service. And the suggestion related to the UE/UI engineer/designer that should touch those products/service is good idea. Although it is Sun who know their target market better, it is nothing wrong by putting nice/pleasant UI right ?

Nice UI/Front end will complement the underlying good technology employed by Sun. It does not hinder, if designed carefully and nicely, it will help to market those good underlying technology.

Cheers

Tonny Kohar

 

Fuqiang Zhao replied on Mon, 2008/07/21 - 5:38am

I think SUN on the right way, though she is slow, she is reforming. Somethings include "Java SE 6 Update 10", "Glassfish server", "Open Solaris", "Derby and MySql", it have a bright future, we plan to switch from Linux to open solaris, we also recommend the glassfish server to our customers in several large web projects, though they tell us they don't know that server, they cannot believe it(marketing problem).

>Mikael Grev: If Sun wants to target consumers (not only relating to JavaFX) they must create stuff that looks consumer oriented.

>Dmitri Trembovetski: With JavaFX Sun is targeting _developers_ and _designers_ who would create content for consumers.

 I think the problem is obvious, I think SUN should consider  consumers at first, then the developer will follow, if you have a great product or platform, you never be afraid to get developers, the iphone and facebook is a good case. The Java Desktop strategy is an example, there are some bugs need wait 8-10 years to get fixed, the system Look And Feel also get a long time to update, the Java Plug-in and Web-Start also need long time to update, and begin addressing the serious problems.

Lucky, then decide to change this strategy, I remember the Java 6 Spec Lead, he said should improve the quality of the Platform, instead of introducing the new feature, this is the right way,an article I read several days ago here, it said every product should fix the exist bugs at first, it's a good article.

Siamak sarmady replied on Mon, 2008/07/21 - 5:50am in response to: Fuqiang Zhao

[quote]I think SUN on the right way[/quote]

If you think so, then take a look at stock value history on finance.google.com

The  stock value of SUN has recahed 7.5 billion from almost 20 billion a year ago. No matter howgood the technologies are, they cannot make money out of it. 

Think what happens if their stock value comes under 5 billion and stock holders start to sell... I really really don't like to see SUN goes out of business or being bought by another company (like IBM, Oracle ...).

 

 

Fuqiang Zhao replied on Mon, 2008/07/21 - 6:00am in response to: Siamak sarmady

[quote=wmac]

[quote]I think SUN on the right way[/quote]

If you think so, then take a look at stock value history on finance.google.com

The  stock value of SUN has recahed 7.5 billion from almost 20 billion a year ago. No matter howgood the technologies are, they cannot make money out of it. 

Think what happens if their stock value comes under 5 billion and stock holders start to sell... I really really don't like to see SUN goes out of business or being bought by another company (like IBM, Oracle ...).

 

 

[/quote]

I agree with you, I think SUN need hire a  good market expert, let the customers to know their product, for the enterprise users, they need know "Glassfish Server", "MySql" is SUN product and support, the important is let the CEO or CTO or CFO know their product and service, not only the developers, the developers cannot decide to buy a "Weblogic" or "Glassfish", "MySql" or "Oracle".

If you are a stock holder, you need not like it, until they have a good profit in the future.

Fuqiang Zhao replied on Mon, 2008/07/21 - 6:10am in response to: Siamak sarmady

[quote=wmac]

[quote]I think SUN on the right way[/quote]

If you think so, then take a look at stock value history on finance.google.com

The  stock value of SUN has recahed 7.5 billion from almost 20 billion a year ago. No matter howgood the technologies are, they cannot make money out of it. 

Think what happens if their stock value comes under 5 billion and stock holders start to sell... I really really don't like to see SUN goes out of business or being bought by another company (like IBM, Oracle ...).

 

 

[/quote]

I don't think their technologies are good enough,  because their product always have some serious problem, the good news is they decide to care these problems than before, this is my point why "I think SUN on the right way".

Thom Theriault replied on Mon, 2008/07/21 - 10:18am

We are developing a large scale enterprise application that uses JavaFX to present the U/I. While the language is not yet fully baked, we've seen tremendous progress in the language and the tool set. The community is contributing and growing. The Sun executives are serious about reclaiming the front-end with JavaFX (not just on computer monitors either) and the team is working very hard to achieve the goal.

We are very encouraged with where the whole thing is going and think everyone else will too.

Thom Theriault, CTO

Malden Labs

James Selvakumar replied on Tue, 2008/07/22 - 4:08am

Ya,

I too feel Sun should focus on marketing and reach out people.

If Sun releases a PC or Laptop, I would be one of the first to line up in queue.

Similarly Sun should consider something like "Sun Java Developer Studio for Windows", "Sun Java Developer Studio for Ubuntu" etc..

Because we use almost only Sun technologies (glassfish, netbeans, openoffice, mysql, virtualbox) in our organization. Why not pack these things together and offer it along with hardware?

Wish some sun managers read this discussion and do something useful like a dell community ideas website.

Sun has a very good brand value. If only they can use that to make some good money.....hmm..

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