On Wednesday, I spent a few hours at the Sun Analyst Summit, which was sure educational for me, so I hope the analysts got something out of it too.
The idea is, we import a few hundred analysts for three days on-campus at Sun. They fall into two baskets: “Financial Analysts”, who want to know whether they should recommend buying or selling SUNW, and “Industry Analysts”, who advise anyone who’ll pay as to what’s hot and what’s not in the computing business. All of our execs were there to make their pitches, and I listened to some of that by webcast. The only thing that would have been new to a student of Sun was the heavy focus on our grid offerings; which will be a game-changer if they take off.
But there’s no point me telling you what we told the analysts, it’s their job to decide what’s important and distill that and pass it on. So I’ll describe what they said to us, and I bet this the first time one of these has been blogged from the company side. (News Flash: All of the analysts read blogs.)
My part in the show was small; Greg Papadopoulos hosted a “CTO Panel” on which there were 11 of us: Jim Baty, Andy Bechtolsheim, me, Whit Diffie, Balint Fleischer, Graham Hamilton, Tim Marsland, Mike Splain, Hal Stern, and Marc Tremblay. We each took a minute to say what we thought was exciting, then the analysts got to pop questions, every one of which was intelligent, to most of which we had good answers; except for the first one.
The Hard Question · A guy from Deloitte whose name I didn’t get put up his hand and asked (I paraphrase) “Why am I looking at twelve middle-aged white guys?”
We have some defense on the “white” part of the question; another random slice across senior Sun people could easily turn up a dozen none of whose genes are out of the European pool. Same for most high-tech companies I know about.
But the gender thing hurts. Obviously, it’s not just Sun; I get to sit in a lot of rooms-full of senior people trying to do industry leadership, whatever that means, and there are lots of times when there aren’t any women, or just one or two, and THAT SUCKS. Even if there weren’t the ethical issues, in case you hadn’t noticed we’re still suffering from a general talent shortage in this business, and it’s not very smart to only draw from half the population.
So Greg and the rest of us expressed pious hopes that in another generation or so the picture would be a little more diverse, but frankly I’ve never heard a real convincing explanation of what the root cause is and what we can do about it. Greg’s more optimistic than I am, and I hope he’s right.
Other Questions · There were lots of questions, most of them good; here are the ones that stuck in my memory, some of them asked informally over dinner.
How Long Are Your Time-Frames? · The answers were all over the map. The silicon guys are working on products for delivery years and years out, while the Java-heads try to keep their release cycle under two years. I was the loser on this one; as a Web-head I feel lucky if I can see three months ahead.
Why Do You Do Java Anyhow? · That questioner couldn’t see how it made us any money. This has been addressed before by smarter people than me, but I will point out that if Sun wasn’t doing Java, we probably wouldn’t be open for business today.
Why Doesn’t Sun Do a Database? · Well, it would be nice to have one, but does the world need another?
Does Jonathan Really Write His Own Blog? · Yes.
Are the Security Specialists Winning, Or Are the Hackers? · You’ll notice Sun doesn’t get hacked much. Whit thinks we’re gaining.
Do the People Building the Web-Services Stack Know the Net Has Stochastic Behavior? · Ooh, good question!
Should We (the Analysts) Do Blogs, and Can We Charge For Them? · Yes (lots of decent bloggers out there already in analyst-land), and I don’t know.
The Analysts’ Future · Obviously, this whole blogging thang has to be changing the playing field these guys are on. Which way? I have no idea, although I think we’ll still need a community of interpreters. But if there’s still an analysts’ summit in five years, I bet it’s going to be a different kind of thing.