Sun's McNealy on company plans, role of CIOs

Sun Microsystems rolled out a slew of network computing products Monday, underscoring its strategic push to reduce data center complexity and supply a variety of managed services for customers. CEO Scott McNealy talked with Maryfran Johnson and reporter Jaikumar Vijayan about the company's direction and the changing role of today's CIO.

We're saying that if you must have your own data center, let us run the machines. The right answer is to go to the Sun Tone service provider, who will host the machine, put it in their data center, connect it to the network and run it on a 7-by-24 basis. Then we'll go to the service providers and say, "Let us manage the machines in your switch room." You manage the service, but just let our person touch the machine. That'll be a very small percentage of the head count in your data center. What IBM is saying is, "Let us just take the whole thing." They want to do the management consulting, the architecture, the hosting, the equipment purchases, all of it.

The big message here was for the systems administrators and the CIO. It's the applications developers who have to make the apps easier for end users. A good example is my cell phone, which is very easy to use, but I have no idea what's going on in the infrastructure, what's going on with the telephone switch. Now, the system administrators at Alcatel have very deep conversations about how all that works. Sun is having very deep conversations with the systems administrators about how webtone services get deployed, provisioned, utilized, made available, etc.

Sun's Bill Howard is an example of a new-wave CIO. He understands that his job is not managing data centers or the network for us. The CIO shouldn't be worried about assembling computers, or running data centers, or managing the network, or getting the printing stuff to work. So what does he spend all his time doing? He's building a world-class, LDAP directory registry implementation that will have every employee, customer, reseller, shareholder and piece of equipment in the Sun community in a directory with a profile for each one, across all our business processes. That job alone will keep every CIO on the planet solely focused on being chief information officer. The old-style CIOs were all mechanics. They tended to buy their 10-speed bicycles and pay extra to have them unassembled.

Oh, absolutely! I'm a CEO, I can relate to a credibility problem. But the analysts have a credibility problem. The press has a credibility problem. The IT folks have a credibility problem. The CEOs have a credibility prob. Everyone has one, because there's $7 trillion to $10 trillion out of the market right now. I don't feel like anyone is being discriminated against that there's a credibility problem. We're all feeling it. Everbody's dealing with it.

They just don't get it. But that's all right, they haven't gotten it for 21 years. If I managed the company by analysts, we never would have started Sun, and I'd have killed Unix every year for 21 years. Right now, HP and IBM are reading the analyst reports saying about how Linux is going to happen, and they're abandoning their Unix customers.

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