What happened to Sun Microsystems?
During the first Internet boom of the late 1990’s, Sun was everywhere. Startup companies bought Sun hardware for their data centers, back when building your own data center was still a thing startups did. People who developed in Java bought even more Sun hardware, for no discernible reason. Sun hired like crazy and was still making money.
Sun Microsystems never recovered from this, and never adapted to the era of open-source software and commodity hardware. (Let alone the cloud.) But they tried.
For years afterward, Sun bled money. They had too many people, and too many projects. I joined as part of an acquisition in 2004, and the organization I was in, which built x86-based servers, went from practically nothing to a billion-dollar business. Sun found more than a billion dollars of revenue to lose in other areas during the same period.
They spent billions on decaying StorageTek for no reason I could understand—- instead of focusing on the open systems where Sun was strong, they bought a proprietary storage platform.
Sun tried lots of things. They sold cloud compute for $1/CPU/hour in 2005, but it was basically impossible to use if you weren’t already a big company. They made Solaris open source, but it was very clear that Sparc came first. They were a software-focused company that still made most of its money on hardware. (I should dig out my little green “What we must do” book to make sure, but I’m pretty sure Sun didn’t.) There was no compelling vision for what Sun was, when it wasn’t the Sun of the 1990’s.
Anyway, in 2009 Oracle bought Sun Microsystems. For a while they kept the Sun brand on a lot of products. In 2017, though, Oracle essentially pulled the plug on the Sun product lines and laid off the bulk of the remaining “systems” teams. They decided it didn’t make sense to be both an application company and an infrastructure company, and Sun had failed at being the winner in the infrastructure market.
A lot of Sun innovations were tied to Solaris. Their containerization technology is great. Sun couldn’t become Docker, though.
So: Linux killed it. Oracle killed it. Management killed it. Intel killed it. The dot-com boom and bust killed it. The cloud killed it. It took quite a bit to finally put Sun to rest.
The Sun campus where I worked, in Menlo Park, is now Facebook’s headquarters.
The sister campus across the Dumbarton Bridge has been broken up into a bunch of smaller facilities; Sun moved out in 2007. Oracle still occupies Sun’s Santa Clara Campus, and I think even put up a new building there.
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Originally answered on Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-happened-to-Sun-Microsystems-Why-do-you-not-hear-about-it-anymore/answer/Mark-Gritter