McNealy's final roar from the IT jungle

You know it's the end of an era when Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNealy steps down as CEO after 22 years at the helm.

McNealy's taken the "chairman's option" and says he will focus on developing Sun's international customers and partner relationships.

In the IT industry, it's almost like being put out to pasture where you spend the rest of your days playing golf with the CEOs of the company's top customers.

Not a bad gig if you can get it, and certainly better than constant beatings from the financial analysts.

The company has struggled to turn a profit since 2001 and its stock has been stagnant. And this is despite Sun's recent savvy move aligning itself with Google, Wall Street's pet. But McNealy has left the house in relatively good order after overseeing some drastic changes in recent years.

Sun has settled a long-standing legal dispute with Microsoft, released the Solaris operating system under an open-source licence, handed over most of the development of its UltraSparc processors to Fujitsu Computer Systems, embraced commodity systems based on AMD's microprocessors, and bet on a whole new line of "CoolThreads" multi-threaded servers. Put simply, the company has worked hard to reinvent its product line.

McNealy said he has been grooming his replacement, former COO, Jonathon Schwartz for years and analysts are confident Sun will regain some of its old swagger and profitability under the new leadership. But he's going to have to show some real mettle to kick-start a turn-around and this includes making the tough operational cuts such as further layoffs - moves McNealy had avoided.

Announcing his heir apparent, McNealy praised Shwartz's bravery claiming, "He's got something very rare, and that's courage."

And true to form, Schwartz wasn't slow to pick up his sword and start espousing his new battle plan which includes acquisitions in the open source market.

"Are there acquisition opportunities out there? Absolutely," he said. "We will be one of the consolidators in the open source industry."

Go forth and be brave Jonathon Schwartz, because it's going to take a lion to lead Sun in the IT jungle.

Are you a Sun customer? What changes would you like to see under the new leadership? E-mails to sandra_rossi@idg.com.au

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