Sun's Schwartz finished under Ellison?

Too many CEOs 'round here


Jonathan Schwartz is reportedly getting ready to quit Sun Microsystems, four years after being given the job of putting the giant on a course for success.

According to All Things D, Sun's chief executive will "soon" resign from Sun, leaving the company in the hands of new owner Oracle.

Oracle would not comment. But it would be difficult to see what role the former CEO of a major acquisition target like Sun would play inside the you-must-justify-your-role kingdom that is Oracle.

If Schwartz does go, he'll be leaving with plenty of cash: His severance package is worth $12m, according to a Sun Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing last year.

News of the exit comes as Oracle Ellison and team, along with some of Sun's executives, are scheduled to announce their strategy for Oracle and Sun products on Wednesday. The unveiling comes after European-Union regulators finally decided they were satisfied with the industry's largest database company owning MySQL.

An exit would come 14-years after Schwartz joined Sun through the acquisition of his company, Lighthouse Design. He ascended to the role of software executive vice president, and in 2006, he was named Sun CEO as co-founder Scott McNealy stepped aside and into the role of chairman.

It was meant to signify a new era for Sun around software and the acceptance of open source.

Schwartz's appointment certainly represented a victory for the rise of software inside a heavily hardware and systems oriented company that - at one point - had fought against Microsoft, Linux, and open-source. Under Schwartz, Sun became pragmatic towards all three, shipping and certifying systems that ran the first two while releasing its own code to the latter.

The talk from the top became of software, ecosystems, and floating community boats on a common tide from a pony-tailed executive with a taste for wearing blazers and jeans.

But Sun could never convert the philosophy of community and ecosystems into actual dollars. It was MySQL, the already popular database bought by Sun, that lent a crucial hand.

And with the philosophy, came the fluff. Sun was notorious for becoming fixated on the baubles and memes, for making statements it couldn't back up, and apparently setting policy in the wheelhouse without seeing something through to conclusion.

Among the ideas that seemed to go nowhere during Schwartz time as head of software and as CEO: getting Google to distribute Sun's StarOffice with its Google Pack, the sale of PCs at running Sun's Linux at Wal-Mart to bring Linux to a "volume" market, the purchase of SeeBeyond's enterprise application integration code for $387m and its subsequent release to open source in an attempt to under cut closed-source EAI vendors, the embrace of utility grid and cloud computing, and the effort to jumpstart Java programming on consumer devices.

There were also symbolic gestures and strange statements: changing Sun's stock-market ticker from SUNW to JAVA as proof of a new direction, and Schwartz blogging that Oracle was using Sun's NetBeans IDE - a statement that provoked a slap down from Oracle's head of tools.

Ultimately, while Sun's Java and MySQL business grew and did help Sun, it did not do enough to change quarter-after-quarter of losses and flat performance as Sun remained overstaffed and unreformed.

It's not clear what will happen next to Schwartz, should he leave. The dominant theory in Silicon Valley is that Schwartz - and ex McKinsey & Co. Schwartz alumni - will join a venture-capital firm, run his own fund, or sit on company boards. ®

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