Can Open Source Really Save Sun?

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Sun Microsystems isn't exactly celebrating as the end of the year approaches. The company that open sourced Java and Solaris and then surprised everyone by acquiring open source database company MySQL for $1 billion recently reported a $1.7 billion loss and will be restructuring its business over the next year.


IT Business Edge blogger Rob Enderle hasn't been shy about calling the situation as he sees it. His last two posts on Sun have talked about the company's failure, and one even included the words "death spiral." Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz, however, appears to be remaining optimistic. A Computerworld article posted Friday recalled Schwartz's comment last month that the company was "preconfigured for the downturn," and then noted that Sun's leaders are looking to its open source strategy to "pull it through:"

Schwartz said in a statement that the software realignment was designed to "accelerate our delivery of key open-source platform innovations." Sun's announcement added that the new organizational structure "is a recognition of the comprehensive role software plays in the company's growth strategy."

Sun has been tooting its open source horn for awhile now, though, and apparently it's not working as well or as quickly as company leaders once thought. Otherwise, wouldn't the company be able to better weather this storm?


That's not to say that the shift toward open source is to blame for the company's perilous position now. There are certainly several forces at work, but part of it may be a failure to properly monetize the open source code currently in the company's portfolio.