Saturday, August 26, 2006

SeeBeyond was acquired by Sun a year ago. What changed?

It's been one year now since Sun Microsystems acquired SeeBeyond. What did it mean for SeeBeyond employees like me? What did and will it mean for customers?

What didn't change. First of all, Sun didn't come in and turn the place upside down. Instead it left it pretty much untouched. There were no major reorganizations. Nobody got fired. We didn't change the way we develop software. We didn't change the plans of the products that we were working on.

Culture shock. The old-SeeBeyond was a company of secrecy and need-to-know-only. But the Sun culture is one of openness and transparency. For the first time ever, employees at all levels now had some insight in plans and directions. We could find out what other groups within Sun are doing. We were invited to participate and to share our plans. Even our openness to the outside world changed.  For example, this blog would have been unthinkable a little bit over a year ago.

Integrating products and what that means to customers: there's some overlap between SeeBeyond's product offering and Sun's. We're trying to integrate both offerings as much as possible. That means that in some cases we'll invest less in products that have a better counterpart in Sun. It surely makes the release of a product a lot more complicated: we now need to make sure that all the parts that we depend on and are produced by other groups within Sun are all ready at the same time and work together properly. But for customers it means a better product offering. And it also means a wider product offering because customers now get easier access to products that SeeBeyond didn't offer. Big wins for customers.

Information overload. The interdependencies with other groups within Sun requires us to keep track of many developments. What are the release plans of the Glassfish team? What is the road map of the Message Queue? What is the Tools group up to? What groups are working on NetBeans? And so on. Conference calls several times a week. Wikis and internal sites by the hundreds. At times I get a distinct feeling of information overload and wish I could ignore everything.

Opportunities for SeeBeyond employees.  SeeBeyond has definitely become a more interesting place to work since it became part of Sun. Also a place with more opportunities: smart people, cool products and a good environment means more opportunities. Last week I talked with a long-time Sun employee and he mentioned career paths within Sun. "Career path" is a word I had not heard for many years.

Changes to come and what it means to customers: Sun's new approach to software is that of open source and radically different revenue models. The old SeeBeyond had a revenue model based on license fees, and a sales model in which the first contact with the customer was through an RFP. That will change. Software will be downloadable by anybody and can be used by anybody free of charge. That should draw developers to try out our software. The first contact with customers will be right there. Through more open communication with the end-user, we'll be able to build products that better meet customers' requirements. Since the developers we are targeting have the freedom to choose, we'll also be forced to change and improve our products quite a bit compared with previous versions.


Charles Beckham said...

Frank.....nice post...kudos

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