Sun's Layoffs, Anil Gadre, and What happens to Java now?

By Timothy M. O'Brien
November 14, 2008 | Comments: 14

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Sun is all about JAVA. While they might try to tell you that they have a diversified portfolio of strong products in the server market, you should also know that the server market evaporated along with the economy. Sun realizes this and has expanded the software division into three components. I'm most interested in the Application Platform Software division, which will oversee Java, MySQL, and Glassfish.

Sun announced massive layoffs today, and shuffled some executives around to new positions. Most relevant to the Java platform is the selection Anil Gadre to head the Application Platform Software division. Before serving as Chief Marketing Officer, Anil Gadre was general manager of the Solaris effort. Anil Gadre is also named as co-inventor on a Sun patent for the per-employee pricing model Sun uses for Java Enterprise support. Gadre is also largely responsible for repositioning Solaris to compete with Linux, most notably managing Solaris' transition from proprietary to open source.

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Time to Refocus the Java Platform?

Sun has also announced that Rich Green is leaving the organization. This year's JavaOne was noticeably downbeat and Schwartz's mood at the blogger press conference was noticably glum as the conference happened to coincide with the announcement of layoffs. It is certainly no surprise that Green is leaving the organization, but one has the question why it didn't happen much sooner. Sun has hemorrhaged GUI experts to Adobe ever since it decided to start pushing JavaFX as the answer to everything interactive; I wonder if it is time for Sun Microsystems to disengage from the JavaFX effort. The PR team continues to trumpet the technology as the next big thing, but the demonstrations are underwhelming at best. With Green's departure, Gadre has an opportunity to refocus on the core platform and reconnect with the developer audience. The center of this community is still server-side development, not mobile GUI or Bluray.

While Java retains a large developer base, the Java brand has been in a free fall for a few years, and I'm constantly surprised to keep on seeing the same marketing executives in the briefing rooms year after year. To the Sun employees who find themselves jobless, good luck. Know that the magnitude of this layoff would have been smaller if your management team had been making more rational decisions about direction over the past few years. To the employees who remain, you should take no solace that you remain in the employment of a company that has so badly mismanaged the Java platform. Gadre might be just what the doctor ordered, but it will take bold strokes to resuscitate this platform.

Opportunity to Break a Log Jam

The transition to open source Java was prolonged and rocky, and the JCP is currently paralyzed over the continuing disagreement over the TCK. Sun has preached openness while using TCK licensing as a lever to protect its revenue from licensing Java on mobile platforms. Open source communities see the restructuring as an opportunity to reengage Sun to see if they are ready to break this log jam. It will be interesting to see if there is any shift in TCK licensing strategy with the management change. If Sun wants to protect the Mobile revenue by precluding a JVM implementation under a BSD-style license, they will not budge. If Sun realizes that the viability of the platform is more important than the Mobile revenue, they will capitulate and remove conditions from the TCK license. (I predict no progress.)

What Happens to Java When...

Although the press release positions this as an "opportunity" for Sun to align itself with the market. This isn't a restructuring to take advantage of favorable market conditions, this is a round of layoffs precipitated by the worst economic conditions in decades and serious talk of a multi-year recession. This could very well be the last gasp of a company trying to rearrange business units for a sale. The coming multi-year recession will claim a few large companies, and Sun's operating costs were already very high before the current global crisis. Maybe they will survive the coming storm, maybe they won't...

...but if they don't, what happens to Java?

PHOTO CREDITS: Tim O'Brien


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14 Comments

Let Google lead Java future development. :)

Forget java. Let google hire them and let guido van rossum lead the java developers to work on making python an even better language.

Give Java to the Apache Foundation.

IBM or Oracle could take over Java, since they are heavily invested in Java related technologies.

Also because now Java is open source, the community could take over development.

What if M$ acquires sun and intentionally stalls development? Is that a possible event?

What if M$ acquires sun and intentionally stalls development? Is that a possible event?

Java is vibrant. Just look at Android. Client-side I would favor browser enhancements over JavaFX. Same goes for Flash. Browsers could standardize on WebKit and let it do all fancy client-side rendering stuff in a standard way. If JavaFX is ever to become as good as Flash, it will be just that, another Flash plugin. Not something to strive for I would think. Flash is really all about video. It was catapulted into super-stardom by YouTube, not by its RIAness. So if you ask me? I think browsers will get there eventually. It might take a while, maybe even an other 10 years, but it is the application shell

Java will live. But if Java is to become true open source, let Apache manage the Java Language specification, from Server to Standard, to Mobile to Embedded.

Sun must figure out how to monetize Java in other ways; there are other ways. Otherwise companies will continue to work around Sun; Google already has proven it can work around TCK and licenses issues...

ceo

I believe Sun will survive the coming storm as would some other companies too, but the problem they're having seems to be with their current alignment/focus. Nobody's telling them not to push JavaFX forward and also spend their whole revenue on that, but I'd suggest that the executives sit back and try to find out whre they've gotten it all wrong because I personally believe that something is wrong somewhere.

Very few people have had their appetite whet with the JavaFX demos out there, but let them take a look at Flex Showcase (www.flex.org/showcase) and Flex Tour (www.flex.org/tour) to see the kind of demos we're looking forward to getting enticed with, not with the poor looking JavaFX apps we've been seeing out there; and besides the note-worthy JavaFX apps being created are from their core JavaFX guys - Chris Oliver, Josh Marinacci and some others.

Swing can definitely match up, only if they were ready to push it further than they are currently doing.

I just hope they get back to their senses in time; but if the worst happens, technologies come, technologies go and some newer ones arrive, we might just have to opt for something closer and probably better


@ashishn....God forbid that happening.

I'd like to see Sun's Java unit spun off as an independant non-profit foundation, much like the Linux Foundation, Mozilla foundation, or the Eclipse Foundation.

Then Oracle, IBM, and Google (among many others) can all contribute.

And the Java brand, TCK, and JCP can still be maintained by this "Java Foundation".

This model has proven to be fantastically successful with Linux, Firefox, and Eclipse.

And yeah, it'd be great if JavaFX is tanked, and Sun, or this hypothetical "Java Foundation", can concentrate on optimizing and extending Swing, and improve speed, deployment, LnF, etc (which has been happening, albeit too slowly).

Nah don't worry about Swing is already mature it just need to be maintained and improved little by little. The importance of Java is in the server side and it is Open Source but as Jeff said we need a Java Foundation.

JavaFX is RIP. Anyway I never liked JavaFX and to get mature as Swing or Flex it needs 10 years by that time maybe I using Haskell in development or another environment or really I could go back to C++, C++ this days is looking great with closures and type inference.

It is very sad news because sun doesn't have much profitable business with Java. It's main revenue is from Solaris and it is hugely affected by the economy crisis. I think sun has to find a better business model to survive for long run. otherwise anyother companies like IBM or someone will buy them. I don't like anyone to acquire sun. they have to be independent so that the Java will shine for ever. hopw they will recover soon.

SUN has done nothing good in terms of making money on Java & same for future.

You have look at alternative as Ruby, Python & RIA + cloud as next technologies to rule.


The problem with Sun executives is that all any of them know is C and Solaris command line apps. Anything that looks graphical, at all, seems "great" to them. JavaFX is a silly thing. What the Java community should do is design a CSS and DHTML model to push into the Applet APIs so that the JVM was in charge of the web page rendering. Then we could push all the PHP and JavaServer code up to the client and just download the stuff and run it.

Yeah, we'd all like to have less verbose code and not download 1MB per web page just to get simple text. That's why all of the core infrastructure has to be in the Applet APIs, and web pages can still exist, but with DHTML visible to the applet, all that javascript and other infrastructure can be part of Applet and we can stop all this silly stuff that creates nightmarish application architectures.

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