Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Sun Chair

When I was growing up in southern New Jersey, our school inevitably organized a trip to Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Among all the interesting historical edifices and artifacts in the area the one thing that made a lasting impression was not the Liberty Bell, or the copy of the Declaration of Independence, but a piece of furniture that George Washington sat on as he presided over the Constitutional Convention. The wooden chair has a relief of a half sun carved in the high back covered in gold leaf. As legend would have it Washington once pondered aloud if the sun on the chair was a "rising" on a new nation or "setting" on a failed social experiment. Last week I attended the Sun Software Summit and I've been thinking a lot about that "Sun Chair" image. The summit attendees are a mix of Sun software folks from the field and engineering as well as Sun software partners. The partners are typically not ISVs but implementation partners who take Sun's software offerings and create solutions for their customers. I run one of these partner organizations. I think there was a very positive vibe at the event. The Sun folks and partners I spoke to were very upbeat about business prospects. More importantly, the Sun software business is booming. We are very busy doing delivery work around Sun's Identity and Web products. How this will translate to profits for Sun is tough to auger but it's better than no business at all. Software is still a pretty small number in Sun's bottom line but it is growing. I expect it to grow a lot more as additional programs like opensolaris.org and Project Glassfish surface. It's an interesting time to be associated with Sun. They are making life interesting again on both the hardware and software side of the company. I think fundamentally Jonathan Schwartz gets it. A lot of industry people look at how open source and free software is changing the market place, and they panic. Schwartz answers by joining the fray. Instead of spreading FUD he's opening the crown jewels of Sun's IP coffers, simultaneously lowering the barriers to entry for anyone who wants to give Solaris or other products a spin. Every download, every install, is a potential new customer. And there are millions of downloads. So what about that Sun Chair? If you ask me its a rising sun.

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