Sunburst: The Ascent of Sun Microsystems

Sun has come and gone (recently acquired by Oracle) and this book covers their domination of the UNIX workstation market, so it predates their temporary domination of the UNIX server market and domination of enterprise development with the Java language. Nonetheless, it’s a very interesting and accessible look at how Sun came out of nowhere to knock IBM, HP, and DEC on their butts and steal virtually the entire workstation market from some of the largest tech companies in the world. It also explains where the savvy and leadership required to dominate servers and enterprise development would come from over the course of the decade after this book was published.

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I read this book a few years after it was published, and I LOVED it. It’s one of those rare technology history books that reads like part techno-thriller, part docu-drama. It’s a real page turner and sets the stage for the huge technology battles of the 1990s (the boom) and 2000s (mostly busts–particularly for Sun). Sun was so influential in their markets and demonstrated such focus and nimble maneuvering, right up until they realized they had transformed themselves into an exact replica of the kind of dinosaurs they had battled in the 1980s–loaded down by a proprietary CPU architecture, proprietary OS, and proprietary hardware. They tried some interesting moves like porting Solaris (their unix) to x86, then open-sourcing Solaris, and they deserve credit for licensing their CPU architecture to other manufacturers at a time when people were treating those things like gold.

Anyhow, fantastic book that encapsulates a really interesting time in tech history.

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