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Good riddance

By Michael J. Smith on Saturday January 30, 2010 12:42 PM

I'm so glad to see the end of Sun:

Scott McNealy, the co-founder and long-running leader of Sun Microsystems, has penned an email to staff who are set to become part of Oracle.

Under the subject line "Thanks for a great 28 years" McNealy said that it should have been Sun that was the great and surviving consolidator and not been eaten up by a bigger outfit.

However since he loved the market economy and capitalism more than he loved his company it probably did not matter.

Sun was a horrible company, and it's quite fitting that it should be devoured by Oracle. Orakaka -- as we always used to call it -- is the Jabba the Hutt of the tech sector, its clunky top-heavy cobbled-together product overconsumed by hive-minded corporate bureaucrats with a deep love for the conventional choice and the path of least resistance -- the same class of people who kept IBM in the oxygen tent so long, with gear that was ten years out of date and software that was twenty years out of date.

I had a number of occasions over the years to do battle -- always on the losing side -- with pilotless remote-controlled drones from Sun, in the IETF. Sun was always like a Microsoft wannabe. McNealy's paeans to "the market" are the usual managerial bullshit -- Sun's whole game plan, like every other tech company's, was to become a monopoly as quickly as possible, and they were very happy to manipulate the standards process to that end.

Oh, and Java really bites the big one, with its pinch-faced type-checking Inspector Javert compiler and its Plato's Beard of abstraction layers. How many new abstraction layers can you fit between any two existing abstraction layers? Answer: we don't know yet.

But don't get me started.

Comments (9)


"I am way into personal responsibility to the point where I would probably build a lot more jails than the normal human would. If we ran out of jails, then maybe we would have to get more extreme."


Right on, Smiff.

Y'know, us legions of Web users out here don't call 'em "crapplets" for nothing.

Withheld by request:

Enjoyed your comments about Sun. I have worked in hi tech for nearly thirty years and for Sun for about one third that time.

Never have I worked for a worse company. The grunts were OK, but above the turtles there were, count-em, seven layers of management each more incompetent, more ignorant, and more powerful than the layers below.

This was bolstered by a "professional management" ideology which held that managers didn't really have to know what was going on below them and regularly watered by a game of managerial musical chairs.

Every six months the company was reshuffled and we had to read another memo from some panting whore of a manager who was so "excited" to be spreading in
a different organizational bed. I almost regret not saving all those memos, though, really, one would have done.

As for Java: The CTO at my current gig, a scholar and a gentleman, is convinced that the entire India outsourcing effort derives form the infinite ditch-digging tail-chasing that Java is.

Sudden thought: perhaps the exasperating layers of abstraction mirror the layers of management? You think?

What is actually fascinating about the situation is to see what happens next. Will Oracle be able to profitably digest Sun, or will they choke on the rotten carcass? Or will they fall prey to the Sun toxins? If any company is ruthless enough to cut through the shit, it would be Oracle. So, it should be interesting.

In the thirty years I have been in this business, I have never once heard one good thing said about Ellison. Not once.


IBM used to have that "professional manager" idea too. It was thought ill-advised for a manager to know too much about the actual product. What a manager was supposed to know was... managing.

It's an interesting concept -- even thinking becomes banausic, and the only way to be a gentleman is to be a manipulative scheming ignoramus.

And not just a natural igoramus, either, but the possessor of a sturdy artifical highly-cultivated ignorance, the polar opposite of Wilde's description: "Real ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; only touch it, and the bloom is gone."


I too work in Oracle databases for the past 4 years and also a longtime reader of this blog. What the third commenter says here is true.

Only antisocial jerks like Ellison survive and go up in this dog eat dog capitalism. There are so many layers of management even in small companies that it is just silly. There are definitely different,saner, less and less hierarchical methods of running companies. But they won't be tried and perfected under capitalism.

Multiple layers of management serve a few practical purposes that are critical to top directors.

1) Makes it very easy for a CEO to have very limited knowledge of the company's business. This means it is also very easy for the CEO to issue unrealistic demands that are really just whimsical ideas with no grounding in reality, and rely upon the multiple layers of management below for the ways to "discover" or "envision" the ideas of the CEO.

2) Insulates CEO from unwanted reality buffers, otherwise known as the sorts of data that would make a sane, aware and less self-centered person question his or her prior mandates. Each layer above the hands-own product developers (who find the problems and are always hammered by the from-above-issuing deadlines that are completely unrealistic) means a layer where the manager must juggle reality from below, against fantasy from above. Clearly this is a cousin of (1) or maybe even its inverse.

I've watched these dynamics play out in many bureaucratic settings, some private corporate, some fed govt, some state govt. They are one of the end points of meritocratic organizational thinking. Resume over practical demonstrable knowledge of the process or product. Puff over substance.


great symptomatic comments

i've heard this lowerarchy paradidm
invoked since clown college in the high 60's

seems you IT carps have a special nerd cowboy gig goin

never a part of such a sub culture
it always strikes me as legendary

some day they'll make pastorals about you guys

ronin hackers

righting nano wrongs
by illicit code mods
on a planet of 80 billion disspirited
substance dominated

Save the Oocytes:

So that's what you did for a living, Smith?


If you could call it living.

Actually, that's not strictly truthful. The Stupid Computer Tricks racket used to be kinda fun, and pay pretty well for non-managerial jobs. Neither of these desirable qualities is so much in evidence any more.

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