I saw my first Sun workstation about 15 years ago, in 1992. I was a business student at Purdue University, and a childhood love for computers had just been reawakened. I was spending countless hours in the basement of the Math building, basking in the green phosphorescent glow of a Z29 and happily exploring every nook and cranny of the Sequent Symmetry upstairs. It didn’t take too long to discover, though, just a short walk away in the computer science building, several labs full of Sun workstations. Suddenly, the Z29 didn’t have quite the same allure. A few months later, I walked over to the registrar’s office and changed my major to computer science. (OK, advanced tax accounting had something to do with it too.)
Everything I know about computing I learned on those Sun workstations, as did so many other early Linux developers; I even had my own for a while, after I joined the University of Arizona computer science department in 1997. But within a year, the Suns were starting to disappear, replaced by Pentiums running Red Hat Linux. More and more people coming through university computer science programs were cutting their teeth on Linux, much as I had on Sun. Pretty soon, Sun was increasingly seen by this new generation as the vendor who didn’t “get it”, and Sun’s rivals did a masterful job running with that and painting the company literally built on open standards as “closed”. To those of us who knew better, it was a sad thing to watch.
The last several years have been hard for Sun, but the corner has been turned. As an outsider, I’ve watched as Sun has successfully embraced x86, pioneered energy efficiency as an essential computing feature, open sourced its software portfolio to maximize the network effects, championed transparency in corporate communications, and so many other great things. Now, I’m going to be a part of it.
And, so, I’m excited to announce that, as of today, I’m joining Sun to head up operating system platform strategy. I’m not saying much about what I’ll be doing yet, but you can probably guess from my background and earlier writings that I’ll be advocating that Solaris needs to close the usability gap with Linux to be competitive; that while as I believe Solaris needs to change in some ways, I also believe deeply in the importance of backward compatibility; and that even with Solaris front and center, I’m pretty strongly of the opinion that Linux needs to play a clearer role in the platform strategy.
It is with regrets that I leave the Linux Foundation, but if you haven’t figured out already, Sun is a company I’ve always loved, and being a part of it was an opportunity I simply could not pass up. I think the world of the people at the LF, particularly my former FSG colleagues with whom I worked so closely over the past year and a half: Jim Zemlin, Amanda McPherson, Jeff Licquia, and Dan Kohn. And I still very much believe in the core LF mission, to prevent the fragmentation of the Linux platform. Indeed, I’m remaining in my role as chair of the LSB—and Sun, of course, is a member of the Linux Foundation.
Anyway. Watch this space. This is going to be fun!