Sun Followup

In the past few days since I wrote the post on my experience with Sun there has been a lot of interesting discussion spawned, and as much about Jonathan Schwartz’s response as my post. Mr Schwartz rightly got a ton of kudos in the blogosphere for his honest and personable response. Two others shared their experience trying to get boxes from Sun: Alex Muse applied for a different program and was rejected, but it sounds like he got pretty prompt responses on everything; Stephen O’Grady had no problem getting in Startup Essentials, but had a fairly bad experience with their store and suggests that they outsource that functionality to Ebay or Amazon. (I’m fairly surprised I didn’t hear from anyone else in the SE program.) François Schiettecatte shared a story from his experience at Sun while at Feedster, and why they made the decision they did for their systems.

The entry also drew in some interesting comments some of which seemed to conflate the issue I was talking about, namely the disconnect between the promises and follow-up in the Startup Essentials program, and questions of Sun’s financials, direction, technology, and more. To clarify, I have no opinion on the business side of Sun beyond what I’ve dealt with directly, and on the technical side they seem to be kicking butt lately and tackling truly hard problems. Their evangelism of such is the whole reason why I gave my info to the SE program in the first place. (Plus the overwhelmingly positive in-person interaction I’ve had with folks that work at Sun and at Startup Camp.) Their marketing is great — it created the desire — just the fulfillment was frustrating.

At one point in the Scoble interview Jonathan Schwartz says something to the effect of their startup program targets folks with more time than money, where their enterprise customers usually value time over money. I think this might represent a fundamental misunderstanding. While I think this argument could be made for the motivation of some segment of Open Source communities, the situation in startups is even worse — time and money are both scarce.

Where does that leave Automattic now? We just brought 20 new HP/Debian boxes online. David Comay followed up his comment with an email requesting to get together, and since he’s a kernel hacker and not a sales guy I’m very open to that. Likewise with Jeff Barr from Amazon, though their web services are so beautifully self-service I wonder what we’ll chat about. Another chance for Sun? Time will tell. For us it’s a pragmatic issue, not a religious one. If nothing else, I’m hopeful that the discussions spawned will help put Sun’s nascent startup efforts back on track.

12 thoughts on “Sun Followup

  1. I’m in the process of buying between 20 and 40 servers (depending on the spec we end up going for). We’re a UK startup. In the last year Sun has already lost a bunch of potential business from us because they just didn’t even try to compete on price (in the end, we chose Dell who came in about half the price of Sun).

    Our Sun reseller has asked for another crack of the whip for this order. I really want to do business with Sun! I’m a big fan of a lot of Sun technology. All they have to do is be competive on price, and to take my money in a timely manner!

    I’m keeping people posted on what happens this time around on my blog here:

  2. I am sadden to hear a lack of recommendations on how SUN can improve their Startup Essentials program.

    Didn’t you start your previous post about SUN disclaiming at the beginning:

    “Preface: I don’t write critically about a company unless I think they have some glimmer of getting better, however small that may be.”

    So how do you propose SUN to “get better”. (CEOs want to hear answers, not problems).

  3. Your link to the Startup Essentials program is broken (forgot the “http://”).

    But yeah, props to Schwartz for his response. Uncommon for someone in that sort of position in such a large organization.

  4. Sun had a recent promotion to mail out Solaris 10 install media, free of charge, and I signed up. I’m eagerly looking forward to trying it out.

    I myself wonder how much traction they are gaining with their recent efforts at giving away their operating system. I’ve got a few friends who seem to be very pleased with Sun’s efforts, and view it as a much more mature and stable alternative to Linux.

    Right now I think Debian/Ubuntu are running the best free OS show in town for general use. If Sun is able to match them in ease of use, administration, and stay reasonably up-to-date with their packages, they might be on to something.

  5. Sun and Apple have a similar history of producing the best possible software and hardware, at the end cost to the consumer. Dell, HP, Toshiba, Gateway and Fujitsu all took advantage of Microsoft producing an acceptable industry standard software, which allowed them to focus on hardware. HP and a few others have produced flavors of Unix, but not spent the marketing money Sun and Apple had to just to compete.

    Here is the issue, why charge for the operating system when it only runs on the dedicated hardware? Would you ever see Tivo charge for an upgrade? So you give away the upgrades, or sell them cheap so your customer base stays happy. As Sun has done recently with releasing Solaris. But now how do you cover the Research and Development Costs? Charge more for the hardware.

    How do you get customers to pay more for the hardware? Tell them it runs better with the software. Which is true, Apple’s OS is more stable due to the limited variations of hardware it could actually run on. So is it worth paying more for Sun and Apple? I personally think so, and have used a large variety of Equipment from both vendors, I even had Linux running on the Sparc system for a while.

    Bradford Knowlton,

  6. Jacob said…

    So how do you propose SUN to “get better”. (CEOs want to hear answers, not problems).

    I agree that constructive feedback is important. However, CEOs that rely on customers to solve problems for them will soon find their companies out of business.

    A smart company listens both to customer complaints and customer suggestions. Matt has his own company to worry about, and can’t be expected to spend his time brainstorming solutions for Sun (a smart CEO also budgets his time wisely).

  7. Wow! That really is quite amazing that he personally apologized in his blog.

    It’s unfortunate though that he didn’t really address the cause of the misfortune and didn’t outline steps that’ll be taken to correct it for future companies.

    Who knows though, maybe that’s all going on behind the scenes.

  8. Jacob said”¦

    So how do you propose SUN to “get better”. (CEOs want to hear answers, not problems).
    Sorry to burst your bubble Jacob, but here is the real world: Solving Vendor problems is NOT the Customer’s responsibility!

    1) CEO’s may want answers but they need to come *from
    their own people* – not the customer
    2) Any CEO who expects his Customer to solve the problems
    will not stay CEO for long… and his company may not
    outlast him.
    3) A customer is like a rider on an airline –
    a) The CEO is the pilot, not the customer. The customer
    can point out problems, but should not/ cannot be
    expected to solve them.
    b) The customer paid for a service and should get it!
    c) a good airline makes that experience so outstanding
    the customer will return
    d) any airline that cannot supply the customer’s
    needs will find the customer going elsewhere. period.