Sun : Open source Java due in late '06, '07

Sun's executive vice president discusses executive shift and open-sourcing decisions

Rich Green is in his second incarnation at Sun Microsystems, returning in May as executive vice president for software at the company. He is responsible for the Solaris Enterprise System, including the Solaris OS, the Java Enterprise System suites, N1 management software, Sun Studio and Java Studio developer tools. Green also heads up a variety of industry-standards efforts and open source communities. InfoWorld Editor at Large Paul Krill met with Green last Friday at Sun offices in Menlo Park, California to discuss the open-sourcing of Java and Solaris, as well as a number of other topics pertaining to the company, including the recent changing of the guard at the CEO level at Sun.

You had left Sun and returned. What was that about?

Oh gosh, it seems like such old news at this point. I left Sun in 2004, after wrapping up the Microsoft litigation, and went off to try my hand in the startup world and joined up with Bill Coleman at Cassatt Corporation and worked there for two years pulling together the whole product and product strategy program and getting that business off the ground. Then had the opportunity to come back to Sun to run software, and once Sun is in your blood it's hard to shake it and I couldn't resist the opportunity. So I returned in May of 2006.

What was your role at Sun in the previous incarnation?

I was the head of Java and developer tools and programs.

So, this has only been a few months that you've been back?

Yes, about five months.

Did your return have anything to do with Jonathan Schwarz taking over as the CEO?

Well, the events weren't timed. Certainly, having Jonathan move to the CEO post, I think, has been a healthy thing for Sun. But they were separate events.

What's been the difference with him as CEO as opposed to Scott McNealy as CEO?

Well, I just think after 20-plus years, we have a new fresh set of eyes working on it. And actually the good news is we now have [two] sets of eyes looking at it, with Scott as Chairman and Jonathan as CEO, it's a pretty powerful group of folks looking out for the company and driving our success. So it seems like a win-win task for both [of the guys]. In addition to the change at the CEO level and my return, there's been folks like Andy Bechtolsheim returning about two years ago, which has had a huge impact on our systems business. And we had Mike Lehman return two or three months before I returned. Mike Lehman is CFO.

So what are your goals for the software group at Sun?

Well, there's two categories really. We have a growing middleware-based solutions business, fromWeb 2.0 to other technologies. And we're focusing a lot of our energy on growing the solutions business significantly in the market. And with the acquisition of our SeeBeyond technology, which is now called Java CAPS (Composite Application Platform Suite), as well as our identity management solutions leading the solutions phase, that's one of the two big areas of activity. The other big area of activity is all around Solaris and Solaris 10. We open-sourced Solaris about a year ago. We've had enormous uptake on Solaris in terms of more than six million licensed downloads, a growing community of developers and contributors, and that whole program is accelerating very nicely, sort of coupled with our entire open source program for all of Sun Software.

Do you see any other areas where you might want to do any acquisitions?

Well, if we do, you'll ultimately find out.

Are there any other areas where you're pondering it?

Well, we really have four businesses or four distinct focal points in our software business. We have our developer programs and business, we have our mobile and embedded business where we've been really successful with Java on handsets. We crossed a one billion handset mark a couple of months ago. We have our whole Web and middleware business and the Solaris business. And in each of these areas, we look to figure out if there are growth opportunities organically or through acquisition. We're putting a lot of energy into each of them, and certainly the first two I cited are critically important to Sun's success. So I think that's the best way to look at the prioritization of that work.

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