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Sun was founded Andy Bechtolsheim, Vinod Khosla, Scott McNealy and Bill Joy in 1982. Sun went public in 1986 and was raking in $1 billion in annual sales by 1988.
Sun was founded Andy Bechtolsheim, Vinod Khosla, Scott McNealy and Bill Joy in 1982. Sun went public in 1986 and was raking in $1 billion in annual sales by 1988. One of the brightest lights in Silicon Valley for more than two decades, Sun’s bread and butter was high-performance workstations and servers running Sun’s SPARC chips and Sun’s Solaris operating system. The company was also a staunch open source supporter. Among Sun’s many innovations were NFS (network file system) and Java.
The recession that began in late 2007 pummeled the financial industry, which accounted for about a third of Sun revenues. The company never recovered and was sold to Oracle in 2009 for $7.4 billion. While Sun is gone, memories linger for former employees. Sun exec Mike Dillon says, "Although it has been three years since the sale to Oracle, not a week goes by that I don’t speak to some former employee or Sun partner. Most of the people have significant jobs and careers, but when describing those other jobs, they always stare wistfully away and say something along the lines of: 'but, it’s not like Sun.'”
Andy Bechtolsheim was Sun’s chief system architect. He was responsible for industry standard server architecture and the birth of the workstation (one of Sun's greater successes, based on Bechtolsheim's work at Stanford). Bechtolsheim said he was frustrated and tired of waiting for computer time on the University's central system. So, he created his own computer running the Unix operating system.
Today, Bechtolsheim is co-founder (2004), chief development officer, and chairman of Arista Networks in Santa Clara, Calif., responsible for the overall product development and technical direction of the company. Arista delivers data center and cloud networking solutions. The Extensible Operating System (EOS) is at the core of Arista's platform, with more than a million cloud networking ports globally.
In 1982, Vinod Khosla had a vision of a powerful workstation that would replace minicomputers. Combined with Bechtolsheim's network, Bill Joy's genius for developing the Unix operating system for the prototype, and McNealy's business and manufacturing experience, Khosla's vision became Sun Microsystems.
Today, Khosla is a successful venture capitalist and considered one of the most influential people in Silicon Valley. Khosla Ventures supports and funds "next-generation energy projects, new materials, mobility, the Internet, and silicon technology." He is one of three billionaires of Indian origin and listed as one of America’s richest 400 people.
Scott McNealy was Sun’s CEO for 22 years. During that time, he strongly supported free, open source products such as the Java programming language. Sun general counsel Mike Dillon says of McNealy, "At Sun, we had a founder, CEO, and chairman in Scott McNealy, who played hockey and constantly implored employees to 'have fun and kick some ass!' He also kept employees focused on what was most important—innovation and customers.’’
Today, McNealy works full time as chairman of Wayin.com, a Denver-based mobile and web engagement platform. Founded in 2011, Wayin clients include large corporations, agencies, sports franchises, and entertainment enterprises. McNealy is also a board member and one of the founders of Curriki (curriculum + wiki), a kind of "open source" arrangement for global education and the learning community. Contributors are always welcome and all the materials on the site are free to use for teaching or self education.
In 1977, Bill Joy released Berkeley UNIX under the official title BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution). BSD was available to anyone who wanted to use it. This invited an entire realm of developers to modify and tweak the operating system, which resulted in many new improvements. After Joy's filtration process, these improvements became upgrades, which later became new releases; a remarkable software distribution known as open source where the raw source code is available and accessible for anyone to upgrade, append, or change. Joy also created the Berkeley UNIX VI editor.
Today, Bill Joy is a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in the firm’s green tech practice section. These areas include wind, solar, and thermoelectric power generation. Other green areas include efficient electrical energy storage, which includes more efficient tanks and containers; green chemicals from non-fuel sources; and renewable fuels like energy that's generated from natural sources such as sun, wind, rain, and tides.
Eric Schmidt was at Sun from 1983 thru 1997. He started out as software manager, then became director of software engineering. Later he was promoted to general manager, then vice president of the software products division, then vice president of the general systems group. He was president of Sun Technology Enterprises from February 1991 to February 1994, then promoted to CTO (chief technology officer) from February 1994 to March 1997.
Schmidt left Sun in 1997 to become CEO and chairman of the board at Novell. He joined Google's board of directors as chairman in March 2001. In August 2001, he became CEO. In addition, Schmidt is a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council in the U.K. Other associations include membership at the National Academy of Engineering (2006), fellowship in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2007), chairman of the board of the New America Foundation, and a trustee at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. (2008).
John Gage completed his doctoral work in mathematics and economics at the University of California, Berkeley, then left in 1982 to join Bill Joy at Sun as its fifth employee. Gage was the chief researcher and vice president of Sun’s Science Office. His responsibilities included public policy; governmental relationships; alliances with the world’s leading research institutions; and Sun's associations with the various global scientific and technical organizations. He became the public face of Sun.
Gage left Sun in 2008 and became a venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Gage has an impressive résumé before, during, and after Sun, which includes NetDay, an educational volunteer project he created, and Schools Online. He was a Clinton appointee to the Web Based Education Commission; and was named one of five distinguished journalists and scholars by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy.
In 1989, Jonathan Schwartz co-founded Lighthouse Design, which built software for Steve Jobs's NeXT Computer, Inc. When NeXT failed, Sun bought the company. After working his way through the ranks, Schwartz became president and CEO. After the recession of 2007, he was unable to turn Sun around and began searching for a buyer for the company. Oracle bought Sun in 2009 and Schwartz resigned as CEO of Sun in early 2010.
Today, Jonathan Schwartz is the CEO of CareZone.com, a service that provides parents with a safe place to organize, share, and coordinate information about their kids, parents, and themselves. Schwartz and Walter Smith founded CareZone on Valentine's Day 2012. "I am firmly planted at CareZone," says Schwartz, "And loving every minute of it. We're building a service that matters with customers that love us, we have an unbelievably great team, a great board, and I cannot possibly explain how much better our coffee is than what I had at Sun.
Tim Bray worked for Sun as director of Web Technologies from 2004 to 2010. He co-authored the initial specification XML 1.0. Bray is adamant about his place in the XML chain; he wants it known that he was only one of a dozen in the group that developed this Extensible Markup Language. Later, Bray became the 'unofficial' XML chief marketing officer.
In 2010, Bray became the developer advocate at Google, focusing on Android. In July 2012, he moved from Google’s Android team to Google's Identity group to work on OAuth, OpenID, etc.
Simon Phipps joined Sun in 2000. He managed social media and community programs and initiated the corporate blogging revolution at Blogs.Sun.Com, which allowed all 1,200 employees to share and collaborate on projects. In 2005, he was appointed chief open source officer, in which he managed and coordinated all of Sun's free, open source projects including Java, MySQL, OpenOffice, OpenSolaris, SPARC, etc.
Today Phipps works as a consultant for the open source communities worldwide for both private businesses and government facilities. He's president of the Open Source Initiative, director of the Open Rights Group in the UK, and holds membership on the advisory board of Open Source America. He has open source columns at both InfoWorld and Computerworld and contributes to various other publications including O’Reilly Radar.
Charles Oliver Nutter is one of the core developers of the JRuby project. He was added to the Sun roster in September 2006 and has continued to work on improving and advancing JRuby and other dynamic language support on the JVM. Nutter worked on JRuby full time at Sun with co-lead Thomas Enebo.
Today, Nutter is a senior principal software engineer at Red Hat; co-lead for JRuby; and owner of Headius, Inc. After Sun, Nutter was a JRuby Architect at Engine Yard (from 2009 to May 2012) and an Adviser at Rubinius (from 2006 to 2012). Nutter says he works every day to make JRuby the best JVM-based Ruby possible.
"Charles Nutter and I have been leading the Open Source project JRuby for nearly 10 years now. Sun Microsystems had decided that more than just the Java programming language was important for the Java platform. Charles and I were hired to work on what, at that point, was our nights and weekend hobby. Later, they hired two other people to work on the Jython project. With the popularity of polyglot programming today, I thought Sun made a wise decision," says Enebo.
"Right now, I am working on JRuby at Red Hat, and I am also trying to help promote polyglot programming on the JVM. I am very happy at how much Red Hat invests in fostering open source (OSS) communities. Red Hat is helping JRuby reach its next level of maturity and performance. In fact, all these companies have made all the difference in the world in allowing us to make a great language runtime. Their support of OSS is to be commended," adds Enebo.
James Gosling was with Sun from 1984 to 2010. He was lead engineer and co-author (with David Rosenthal ) of the NeWS window system (Network extensible Window System). Gosling's fame came from his development of the Java programming language. He was also a contributor to the Real-Time Specification for Java and, as a researcher at Sun Labs, his specialty was software development tools. Later he was promoted to CTO of the Developer Products Group and Sun's Client Software Group.
Gosling left Sun in 2010; was hired by Google, then joined Liquid Robotics as chief software architect. Liquid Robotics developed the Wave Glider, "the first wave-powered marine robot."
Tim Marsland was a Sun Fellow, VP, and Software CTO in the Systems Organization. "During Solaris 10, I designed the Solaris Express release model, contributed to the early design work on Zones, aided with the revival of Solaris x86 platforms, and served as architect and technical lead for 64-bit Solaris on x86. I also helped make the OpenSolaris project a reality. Subsequently, I led the OpenSolaris on Xen project, and drove the Innotek acquisition that brought VirtualBox into the Sun portfolio," says Marsland. "Towards the end, I was driving the systems software architecture and implementation for both OS and Hypervisor on Sun's cloud computing project."
Marsland left Oracle in April 2010, then worked for Apple with the CoreOS team on the xnu project — the iOS and OS X kernel. In October 2012, he founded a small consulting company called In-Depth Labs, LLC. That same company published his book LEGO Holiday Decorations. In addition, Marsland is consulting at Liquid Robotics, and is a technical adviser to Gridcentric, Inc., an interesting Canadian startup. Marsland notes that in April he joined Skytree Inc. as VP of Engineering.
Mike Dillon worked for Sun twice. He joined the company in 1993 as an attorney supporting the micro-electronics business. During the next six years, he moved to other parts of the company that supported software, Java, and the Sun-Netscape-AOL business. In 1999, he left to become general counsel of ONI Systems. In 2002, he was recruited back and in 2004 became Sun’s general counsel, a role he maintained until the sale to Oracle.
"After the sale to Oracle, I unplugged in a serious way. I took my bicycle and some camping gear, flew to Florida, and bicycled across the United States by myself.’’ After that, Dillon joined Silver Spring Networks, where he worked for two years preparing them to go public. Six months ago, he left Silver Spring and joined Adobe Systems as senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary.
In 1996, Bryan Cantrill migrated to Sun as an engineer and then became the lead developer and co-inventor of the Sun project DTrace, a performance analysis and troubleshooting tool that's included with Sun operating systems. DTrace won the Wall Street Journal's top prize, the Technology Innovation Award in 2006, and Cantrill received recognition as one of 35 Top Young Innovators by Technology Review for developing DTrace.
Cantrill left Oracle on July 25, 2010 and became the senior VP of engineering at Joyent. In this position, Cantrill manages Joyent's worldwide development of the SmartOS, the SmartDataCenter platforms, and the Node.js platform. His daily blogs show great enthusiasm for his work and for his association with fellow Joyeurs at Joyent.
Emerging Leaders 2019