Dear Mr. Schwartz,
I was recently reading your blog and found the series of videos you created explaining Sun's strategic direction with respect to systems, software, and open source. Purely from standpoint of presentation, I'll tell you that the video format works well for you. The fireside-chat-like atmosphere comes across quite well.
In listening to your presentation in video 3, I was also excited by your statements about the coming fusion of networking and servers. You specifically said:
As I've said before, general purpose microprocessors and operating systems are now fast enough to eliminate the need for special purpose devices. That means you can build a router out of a server - notice you cannot build a server out of a router, try as hard as you like. The same applies to storage devices.
To demonstrate this point, we now build our entire line of storage systems from general purpose server parts, including Solaris and ZFS, our open source file system. This allows us to innovate in software, where others have to build custom silicon or add cost. We are planning a similar line of networking platforms, based around the silicon and software you can already find in our portfolio.
We believe both the storage and networking industry's proprietary approach, and their gross profit streams, are now open to those us with general purpose platforms. That's good news for customers, and for Sun.
Wow! That's great validation for what Vyatta has been saying for a few years now and I'm glad to see Sun joining our cause. I wholeheartedly agree with your overall analysis. In particular, I agree that if there is to be a fusion of networking and servers (and I think it's now obvious to the industry that it's going to happen), it's definitely going to happen on server hardware, not the other way around. I also agree that the gross profit margin of the proprietary networking vendors is exceedingly high and will be the subject of a forthcoming correction, and that it's good for both customers as well as the new vendors exploiting the benefits of open hardware and software (notably, Vyatta, and perhaps Sun as well as you begin to execute to your strategy).
That said, I think you're probably optimistic that it's going to happen on Solaris or Open Solaris. Sure, you guys have invested a lot into Solaris, and it is a pretty cool system, but the reality is that most everything Solaris has, Linux has also. What few things Solaris has that Linux doesn't (Crossbow and ZFS, for instance) will have rough equivalents in Linux shortly. The converse is not true, however; the main thing that Linux has that Solaris doesn't have is market momentum, and that can't be added to Solaris quickly. Because of this, I believe that the networking systems of the future are going to be built on a Linux foundation, not Solaris, as cool as it is.
Further, these Linux-based networking systems will not be managed like a Unix system, but rather will be built to familiar interface standards for the target audience. Put another way, in order to speed the adoption of this new model, we'll have to deliver more than high performance and a great cost structure; we'll have to deliver these systems with a network-appliance-like interface rather than a traditional Unix-like interface. You cannot simply take Solaris, run a routing stack on top of it, and call it a router, even thought it fundamentally may be quite capable of routing packets well. Any management paradigm that involves a user editing a plethora of configuration files in vi or emacs and then restarting daemons is doomed to a niche position at best because it simply won't fit into the existing management workflows prevalent in the industry today. Because of this, Vyatta has spent a lot of time creating a management paradigm for our system that delivers a standard network appliance look and feel.
So, Mr. Schwartz (and Sun), in summary, welcome to the party. Let's go get 'em.
Vice President, Strategy and Marketing
PS: Can you give me any confirmation of the IBM buyout rumor floating around? Is it going to happen or not? If you could lay out the rationale from the buyer's side, that would also be interesting for a lot of people. Some of us still don't get it, but I'll admit to not having a seat at IBM's latest corporate strategy executive summit.