Last week I accepted Aaron Houston's kind invitation to pop in and see him while I was in the area. Menlo Park is one of the campus's of SUN, and I haven't been up there for a long time, not since my Java Developers Days to interview James Gosling.
We chatted about various things, including what SUN are planning on doing in the cloud space. We'll no longer be using the term 'cloud computing' as some f**kwit in the trademark office have awarded Dell that term!. Work is going on regarding their www.network.com site, with a hope they will be offering Amazon EC2 like service but using Open Solaris as their platform.
This was good news to hear, because SUN really did miss the boat when they first offered their grid computing infastructure. They could have taken the lead from Amazon by offering this service, but instead, forced developers to completely retool their applications to conform to their very convoluted Grid API. I looked at it when it first came out, and it wasn't pretty.
Needless to say, not a lot of people rushed to use the service.
This seems to be a pattern that SUN continually make. They get so close to leading the computing industry into a new revolution, then back away, running away scared to complete. Open Solaris is another one. This should have been open sourced near on 10 years ago, and had it been, then maybe we wouldn't be all using Linux in the same anger we are now.
Of course, let us not talk of JavaFX, their Java RIA alternative to Flash and Silverlight. This is another example of where SUN took the eye off the ball when they had the lead, but through either miss management or incompetence, they let Flash steal the lead in the browser space. Too little, too late. 10 years too late!
But I still have faith in SUN. Still hope they can pull one out of the bag. And you know what, I think I seen the altar to which we should all kneel before.
There is a little room tucked within the buildings of Menlo Park, that makes James Bonds Q lab look like a childrens playroom. I am talking about the Sun Spot lab, headed up by Arshan Pourshi (or Area51 as it states on his business card).
As soon as you walk into Arshan's space you are taken away from the corporate world of cubicles and thrown into a chaotic mess of desks, bean bags, cables, and hell, even a Smart Car tucked in the corner.
Feeling a little like James Bond, being toured around the various gadgets/projects they are working on by Q, I was shown lots of cool stuff these guys are working on. Personally, there wasn't way enough flamer throwers; Q always has a flame thrower at some point in his tour.
There was lots of cool things being done with Sun Spots, and having played with the 2 spots I have, I do love the potential of these devices. The problem is of course, the cost per unit, makes it difficult to actually deploy them anywhere.
If any of the SUN execs want to know where their future lies, then get down to that lab and get the 'James Bond' tour. Pick something and turn it into a product. You have plenty of choices. Better still, license it to someone else, so they can at least do the marketing, and leave you guys to continue to innovate.
SUN is a hardware company first, software company a distant second. Java is just a tool to enable access to their beautiful kit, but I think they've lost sight of this and for a while fooled themselves into thinking their a software company. Software merely enables access.
I was reminded just how much of a hardware company they are when Aaron took me for a tour in their executive center that is like an inhouse trade show floor, showing off all the cool stuff that SUN produces. This is where their strength lies.
Seriously impressive stuff, yet as a Java developer, I have not a single piece of SUN hardware. While I don't think the SUN USB stick counts, why am I not using their powerful desktop system? Why am I not using their powerful servers to deploy? Problem of course, cost. SUN needs to be able to appeal to the masses so the cost of their kit drops.
I thoroughly enjoyed my few hours at SUN, meeting everyone Aaron wheeled me infront of and it served to remind me just how much potential there still is in SUN; if they can only go that extra mile when they actually innovate something that nine times of out of ten they are there first with.