Tim Bray (Sun employee) just blogged about what he thinks Sun needs to do to reinvent itself. I think his analysis of Sun's strengths (DTrace, ZFS, HotSpot, Solaris and Storage) are right on, but I disagree with the conclusion:

To my ears, these technologies scream “Deployment time!” In particular server-side deployment, in particular of Web applications.

Therefore, Sun should adopt a laser focus on building a Sun Web Suite and becoming the Web application deployment platform of choice. It’s a large space, a growing space, and one where we can win.

The rest of this piece assumes this strategy and considers how to get from here to there.

Yes, it's true that Java (and maybe PHP, Ruby, etc) web applications might work better on Sun infrastructure, but in the Unix world, hardware and the OS is pretty commoditized. I worked in a Linux shop writing very big web-based Java apps before I joined Atalasoft, and we never had any issue that would be worth moving to Sun. The performance of Linux on commodity hardware was just never an issue for us. Sure, DTrace is awesome, but it's by no means the only way to monitor and debug a runtime service, and I'd just wait for it to come to my OS before undertaking a major project like moving to Solaris.

If Sun wants to prove that their deployment is better, they need to start showing us what they can do with it. Tim talks a bit about the cloud, sort of as an after-thought, but that would actually go a long way to showing me that the Sun deployment story is better.

And they need to start delivering useful enterprise applications on top of their infrastructure. Look at Microsoft as an example -- Word and Excel sold their desktop deployment framework (Windows) and SharePoint is driving sales of their web deployment infrastructure (Window Server+SQL+IIS+ASP.NET). Look at the sales numbers for SharePoint, and tell me that Sun wouldn't want even a fraction of that business. Look at how Apple is driving iPhone sales.

The easiest way to get there:

  1. Acquire Alfresco (Java-based open-source competitor to SharePoint)
  2. Make it scream on Sun hardware/software and especially MySQL
  3. Use their storage expertise to bring it to another level
  4. Put an on-demand version of it up in the cloud
  5. Build a marketplace around creating add-ons to it, and make them easy to buy and activate (like Apple's AppStore or SalesForce's App Exchange)
They can talk about a web suite all they want, but if they won't show us how they use it (to deliver business value to me), then I won't believe it.