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Rich Green, Executive VP of Software, Sun Microsystems

Rich Green He's been back with Sun Microsystems  for only about three months, so it's way too early to say whether Rich Green's return is a shining example of the prodigal son coming home.

But Sun's new executive vice president of software, installed in May after Jonathan Schwartz vacated the position to become Sun's CEO, returned in time to announce that Sun would open source Java.

This is a big move for the company that, in the past, claimed it wasn't what the public wanted and acted as if the public would have to pry its cold, dead fingers from around the Java crown jewel before opening it up.

It's a play that hardly seemed realistic in April 2004, when Green bolted Sun to became executive vice president of products at server virtualization startup Cassatt.

This was a blow for Sun at the time. But it may have been a blessing in disguise.

Green learned to manage a business under the tutelage of Cassatt CEO Bill Coleman, a BEA systems co-founder and a fellow former Sun employee.

It could be that working at Cassatt provided Green with the chops to help Sun slip gracefully into its new open source software shoes. But only time will tell.

Green recently chatted about the changes at Sun with internetnews.com.

Q: How has the climate changed at Sun from 2004, when you worked there last, to now?

A great deal. I think what Jonathan and the new team have put together, in terms of a much more balanced view of the business between servers, storage software and service, is a change.

We're moving from "We build servers and yes we do some other things" to "We have four businesses that are of equivalent priority even if their contributions aren't all the same at any given point."

We're restructuring a lot of the operations, sales force priorities, and channel activities to underscore that.

We're also really getting a lot more focused. Focus is something that we really needed at Sun.

It's not as if we were doing imprudent things, but some things are more important than others, and that's where we're going to place our bets.

I think you're going to see evidence of that in the coming months with new products, new business models, etc. all happening very quickly.

Q: What are you looking at with regard to Solaris 11? Is it going to be a rehash of Solaris 10 under OpenSolaris, or something more substantial?

That's like saying the next version of Linux is going to be as boring as the last one. I think most people have acknowledged that Solaris 10 is an enormous step up in terms of technological value, and to some degree, of technological wonder.

The stuff that's in that, the things it can do from DTrace [diagnostics], to Zones [virtualization], is just quite remarkable.

The optimizations we've done for the x64 platform and the performance numbers we're delivering on AMD chips, as well as the Sun Niagara CMP [multi-threading] chips, are just amazing.

In terms of speeds and feeds, it's the best out there. In terms of features, functions and value, it's the best out there.

A year ago we launched the OpenSolaris program and we've gotten 5 million registered licenses.

The relevant question is: How do we go forward with the Solaris program given the energy that is being applied in the community, as well as the work that's being done at Sun?

We're engaging the community to figure what the timing should be for those things.

Before we see a next formal release of Solaris, there are going to be some more big changes in the platform with regard to other virtualization techniques; changes to be compatible with almost Linux application out there; and more capabilities on the Zone cluster performance. We're working all that out.

Q: There's been a lot of FUD created around the NetBeans Java platform because of the success of its biggest rival, Eclipse. Is NetBeans getting a little long in the tooth compared to Eclipse?

I believe the only people who want to have NetBeans go away are the Eclipse people. Not the Eclipse users, but the Eclipse people.

Although that's charming, that's a very small percentage of the total community of users. And, oh well, maybe just a bit biased, too.

Most developers like the fact that there is choice, and that having NetBeans and Eclipse is a good thing, not a bad thing.

Moreover, the NetBeans program is growing incredibly fast. It's anything but long in the tooth.

We're going to redouble our efforts in the community to ensure that developers have choice, including the ability to focus on a toolset that guarantees that generation 100 percent-compatible Java code.

Q: When you left Sun to join Cassatt, you had to deal with questions about Sun open sourcing Java. You come back and those questions persist. What is motivating Sun's open sourcing of the programming language?

Developers rule, right?

Breaking down any barrier out there to ensure that developers have access to the best and latest version of Java technology is the thing that will drive us.

So we announced at JavaOne that we do plan to do it, and that program is under way.

There is a lot of work that has to go on with the community and folks who have contributed to Java to make sure they are all in alignment and to make sure that all of the intellectual property has been screened and checked so that a full open source license can be rendered.

All of the code is now available in open source form. You can go to the Sun Web site and download all of Mustang, the next release of Java.

The only thing that is getting finalized is a change to license. It isn't as if we have played keep-away with the source code or the intellectual property. Everybody can get it.

Q: Sun has gotten beaten up by press and analysts for having a hard time marketing and putting a positive spin on its software. Do you come back to Sun thinking that you have to change some perceptions?

A lot has changed. The identity software and SeeBeyond integration software are both in the top-ranked quadrants of the Gartner charts. We have some of the leading-edge enterprise software out there, as viewed by analysts.

The perception of us having good stuff that doesn't seem to be well received is well behind us.

The model that we're going to is going to focus a lot more on the activities around developers and deployers participating with Sun over the network in relationships as a result of access to our product versus explicit standalone marketing.

As we change our software strategy to be one of an open source model, the numbers continue to grow.