The old Sun blog

This blog is the compilation of the writing I did during my last 2 years at Sun when I led Sun’s Global Government, Education and Healthcare sales and marketing organization.  I still need to put the graphic links back in but that’s a low priority.

Researchers – This one’s for you.

Working with educational institutions for most of my career, I have seen quite a shift in how technology has helped and hindered those of you making amazing breakthrough through research.  

Not everyone has the ability to do research but we should all revere those who do as today’s breakthroughs are addressing some of the biggest challenges we face as a human race.

With that, we have seen a huge shift in focus as life science researchers are thinking less about samples and experiments and more about data analysis and sharing.  Preserving the output of data in manageable and sharing formats is the foundation of new industry phrases such as ‘Science 2.0’ or ‘Open Science’.  With either phrase, the concept is the same.  Data is the true productive output of research where value from billions invested in research must be realized.

The inherit value of data will likely last beyond its initial intended use.  So finding a way to store, share and reuse this data is critical to the success of this research.  Sun and its partners have solutions where the storage preservation aspects of the storage platform are decoupled so that you can customize an archive solution that best meets your specific requirements.  Research teams can now fully utilize their digital information while reducing cost and complexity.

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Respect the POTUS if not the Man

When my Grandma was alive she’d get mad at my loud criticism of the president in office at the time.  She was as apolitical as they come, but she’d always say, “Joe, you need to respect the office of the president, even if you disagree with him.”

I thought the controversy surrounding a speech by the President of the United States (POTUS) was just that – a tempest in a teapot by a lunatic fringe fearing socialistic brainwashing by Obama.  Then I received a notice by our school district that reads,  “A few parents have expressed concern about their child viewing the President’s address.  Parents/guardians who do not wish their child to view the broadcast should send in a note with their student on Tuesday.  Alternate activities and assignments will be provided for those students. ” Like what? Watching Fox “News”?

It is a sad commentary on the state of public discourse if parents preclude their children from listening to the POTUS.  We need our children to become more engaged in their community and understand the real controversies of our day.  They need to learn how to constructively influence the political process where they can.  The first step in that process is learning how to listen and learning how to think.  Perhaps even learning the difference between the office and the officeholder and a real versus a contrived controversy.  Our children need to learn about the “Big Lie” rhetorical tool that is used often through the internet and political commentators across the political spectrum  to frighten people.  The email from our school states, “Students will not be asked to sign any sort of “pledge”related to Mr. Obama’s speech.” So apparently, the “Big Lie” is working.

Our schools do not teach civic responsibility for fear of this kind of backlash.  I guess my grandma was right, and she’d be very unhappy observing this sad state of affairs.

Open Source for Education is a Win Win

I was thinking about the changing tides in software buying trends and how these changes can be such a huge win for education.  Education professionals have always known the value of collaboration and sharing of ideas.  It just took the technology industry a bit of time to catch up.  The good news is it is happening. The days of expensive, proprietary software packages are ending.  The new way of collaborative, standards-based open source technology is here.  And with it comes, more development, more innovation yet for less money and much easier.

All IT professionals, especially those in education are being asked to do a lot:
• Do more with less
• Lower risk and achieving greater interoperability
• Ability to access more advanced, better quality technology
• And meeting compliance requirements

Sun and its open source partners offer a number of solutions designed specifically for the needs of educational institutions. Sun Open Network Systems offer open data storage, which leverages standard technology that enables IT departments to mix and match components from different providers. Sun also offers its Open Solaris operating system as well as Open Archive, a cost-effective, scalable, sustainable infrastructure for storing one of an educational institution’s most valuable assets—its data.

Additionally, there are some excellent ISVs offering open source applications to help education IT professionals achieve these lofty goals.
•    Kuali/rSmart offers a platform solution for financials and administrative needs
•    Moodle provides a learning management platform
•    Sage provides a math platform solution for both SPARC and Intel
•    MySQL and PostgreSQL offer open source database solutions

These technology solutions are real and working today.

I previously wrote about Bradford schools in southern England who are using open source software from Sun and others like Moodlerooms.

The Mission Heights New Zealand school has deployed SunRays and only open source software for the classrooms.

Another example is, the Roman Catholic diocese of Boise, Idaho who were looking for a cost effective software/storage solution to preserve their historical records, student information, employee data, and their financials.  The organization needed to increase their capacity, minimize their costs and simplify the management and administration while increasing their server utilization.

They ultimately chose a Sun Open Storage solution built on OpenSolaris and two Sun Fire X4500 servers.  The diocese IT group installed one Sun Fire X4500 server and used Solaris ZFS in OpenSolaris to configure each drive as an iSCSI target in a virtual storage pool. The whole process took about 15 – 20 minutes.

Today, not only does the diocese now have the power and 24 terabyte of storage to enable new projects, but it is also saving money.

These are just a few of the examples of how open computing is a game-changer for education and how we can change how education is designed, delivered and supported…together.

On Scientific Literacy and the Educational System

There was a great interview in the Spring 2009 Converge Magazine with Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson. Some key quotes are: 

- What is scientific literacy? "When you hear information, you have to understand: What is the context in which that information is being delivered?"

- "Creativity is seeing what everyone else sees, but then thinking a new thought that has never been thought before and expressing it somehow."

- With science, creativity means "Since everyone has nature to answer to, you’re creativity is simply discovering something about the natural world that somebody else would have eventually discovered exactly the same way. They might have come through a different path, but they would have landed in the same place."

- "The best educators are the ones that inspire their students."

- The problem with schools is "There remains a culture that equates high grades with success in school and correlates success in school with success in life."

– Most talented people did not get straight ‘A’s. "The education system is deeply flawed because it’s only trying to get straight A’s out of people. There’s got to be some other way to measure who’s going to succeed and who isn’t."

Cell Phone Holiday

Just before traveling to India a few months ago, my iPhone was stolen from the dinner table at a winemaker dinner at Merryvale Winery in St. Helena.  (Probably the wait staff conspired with my stupidity when I left it on the table for a last dance.)  It was a Saturday night and I was leaving for India and Malaysia on Monday morning and didn’t have time to replace it before going.

So, I had a two week holiday from the cell phone.  I highly recommend it.

What you quickly realize when you don’t have a cell phone is how much and how frequently other people use the cell phone.  It seems when people are not talking on it they are texting, reading emails or browsing the web.  Especially in developing economies where the cell phone is the computer.  You also realize how many people quickly jump on their cell phone as soon as the flight attendant says its ok to do so.  Everyone eagerly powers up and immediately checks what’s happened in flight.  As if to communicate to all those around their self importance.  What it probably commununicates more is our addiction to immediacy and the tyranny of the urgent.

I’ve sinced replaced my iPhone with a Nokia E71 - so I’m back in to the self-important addictive behaviors as well – but highly recommend a cell phone holiday.  Try it for a week or day.  You’ll be amazed as I was as to how much of the world and the people around you are missed while engaged with your device. 

What does Sun do right in Education? What should we change?

I just suffered through my first American Airlines flight.  Its amazing how they make United look like a friendly airline.  I don’t know why these old line airlines take their frustration out on their customers.  My favorite domestic airlines are JetBlue and Southwest.  They get you where you’re going on time and they actually don’t resent their customers.

This started me thinking that I’d like to get some direct feedback from our customers about your views on Sun.  Surveys are one thing.  We get feedback from surveys – but those always seem too general.

I’m not sure this blog is the best way to document best practices and if I don’t get sufficient input, I’ll seek other avenues as well.  I’d like to ask for your feedback though, simply respond with a comment to this post or email me directly.

Normally, this is the time of year that we plan for next fiscal year, with our year beginning in July.  This, of course, is not a normal year with the announcement last week of Oracle acquiring Sun

Regardless, I’d like to hear from customers about what we do well and what you’d like to see change in the future.  For those of you who don’t know, Sun has had a dedicated sales organization for Education since 2000.  Over the years, our charter has grown to include Healthcare and Government around the world. (It varies from country to country.)  

Comments can included everything from the salesforce you enage with, our partners, our solutions, our communities, our events, our processes.  What do we do well? What do we not do well?  Even with the Oracle acquisition, the feedback can help improve our interaction. Thank you and I look forward to reading your commentary.

Oracle Deja Vu

It was a déjà vu moment in the Hartley household this morning as I learned about the acquisition of Sun by Oracle.

My wife worked at Peoplesoft when Oracle acquired it. That acquisition, as you may recall, was very acrimonious and lasted for a ridiculously extended period. Despite all of that acrimony, Oracle treated the Peoplesoft employees incredibly well. As I recall, everyone at Peoplesoft had an offer for their new job or a severance package within the first week the acquisition closed.

Oracle acquiring Sun is not going to be acrimonious. It’s done and agreed to with shareholder and regulatory review being the remaining barriers to completion. I expect, based on my personal experience and the fact that Oracle has had even more experience with acquisitions since, that the integration of Sun into Oracle will go even more smoothly than Peoplesoft.

The other thing I observed that came from the Peoplesoft acquisition was an unleashing of innovation and a spawning of new companies. Some companies, like Workday, were spawned to compete with Oracle. Others like Knowledge Infusion were created to provide professional services to Peoplesoft customers. Other companies in similar fields benefited as former "Peoplesofties" were hired into their ranks.

Sun’s acquisition was not acrimonious, but there have been rumors of our acquisition for weeks now that have created uncertainty and doubt among our customers. Now that uncertainty can be laid to rest. The press announcements, analyst calls and other press stories make it clear that Oracle is buying Sun and plans to retain and grow in key product areas. It also makes clear that there will be fewer job losses with Oracle buying Sun than another hardware company that may have overlapping product lines. This is not only good news for our employees but also the economy as a whole.

It’s terrific news for our customers and our partners too, who we all feel strong loyalty to as well. Many of the Sun employees have been selling to Educational institutional for years. We love that we help our customers run their organizations more effectively but equally we feel that we’re helping do important things for society as a whole, with the improvements in education and research that technology brings. Recently we’ve also been expanding into healthcare as well. Healthcare, like education, is an important business opportunity – but you can’t help to feel you are contributing in a significant way to the improvement of the quality of life or lifespan of society. Government typically addresses the challenges that the private sector cannot solve or at which they can make a profit. By definition, government challenges are then the greatest to solve. The people on my team love the customers and challenges they face and feel pride in helping solve these problems.

The Hartley household had a déjà vu moment this morning. The good news for my kids is that they know that these things don’t necessarily have a bad ending. I think our employees, customers and partners will see that too.

Participate in the Open Source Drug Discovery

Prior to visiting India, I happened to "StumbleUponBill Gate’s speech at TED regarding Malaria. In the speech, he lays out the economic challenge of solving health problems such as Malaria. The problem with a disease like Malaria is that it has been eradicated from rich countries - but not in poor countries. It’s a problem because the economies that still have the disease don’t provide sufficient economic incentive for the pharmaceutical companies to invest in a cure.

When I was in India, I "stumbled upon" a potentially innovative solution to this problem. India has a problem with Tuberculosis. Unlike Malaria, TB needs medicine not just bed nets, as is the case with Malaria. But the cost of TB drug development is high and the economic return low.

A solution? Apply open source techniques and technologies that are used in open source software development to the drug discovery process. The "Open Source Drug Discovery" initiative was launched and funded by the Indian government to the tune of $35 Million. Sun is a sponsor of this initiative and I’m proud to see our employees engaged in work that not only improves the lives of people through the use of technology, but helps expand the lifespan of people as well.

Check out Join. Figure out how open source approaches can solve other big problems facing us.