Here Comes The Sun…

I read Matt Mullenweg’s post about his dealings with Sun, after just watching the same Scoble Show interview with Jonathan Schwartz that he watched.

And it all reminded me of the gyrations that Feedster went through with Sun early last year (2006).

But my story with Sun started longer ago than that. My first exposure to Unix was SunOS 4.1 on a SparcStation 1 on 1989, and I loved it. Until three years ago Sparc/Solaris (Sparclaris?) was my primary development platform, at which time I switched to Linux (though I had used Linux for about 5 years prior to that). And recently I gave away my trusty UltraSparc 1/200 which I had owned for 10 years. So I am a fan.

Anyway, back to our story. Sun approached Feedster with an offer to provide us with gear at a very advantageous price if we switched from “Intel/AMD/Linux” to “Sparc/Solaris”. The offer was very generous and we got schmoozed by both Jonathan Schwartz, and Scott McNealy who came to our offices to talk to us. Unfortunately I was out of town both times.

But when we took a hard look at the deal, a number of issues came up:

  • There were non-negligible switching costs. Even if you run on a LAMP stack, you need to make sure that everything works as expected on the target platform. In addition to the LAMP stack, we had a number of custom applications which would need to be ported and tested. The opportunity cost of making the move also needed to be factored in.
  • We would need to familiarize ourselves with a new platform, admittedly Solaris and Linux are both Unix variants, but I have spent enough time with both to know that there are big differences between the two.
  • There were also the politics of such a move, the offer from Sun came with strings attached, they wanted to make sure people knew that Feedster was running on Sparc/Solaris.
  • Looking at the longer term, say 12 to 18 months, there was nothing to indicate that we were going to get the same generous deal on future purchases, and Sun hardware is considerably more expensive than Intel/AMD based systems, even after deep discounts. Sun hardware also comes from a single source, which there are no end of sources for Intel/AMD based hardware.

In the end the deal was not consummated, for the reasons listed above and others too.

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