McNealy extols open standards at FOSE

Scott McNealy, chief executive officer of Sun Microsystems, used his FOSE trade show keynote speech today to extol the virtues of open standards.

"All of our technology has the shelf life of a banana," he said, referring to all technology firms. For that reason, customers are better off choosing products based on open standards that can be upgraded, modified or abandoned as newer options come out without severely disrupting an enterprise infrastructure.

Many government agencies, by contrast, have used best-of-breed solutions -- tying together proprietary systems from a multitude of vendors -- that McNealy compared to Frankenstein's monster.

"This has created a mess," he said. "Where do you come up with these configurations? You've got body parts from everyone in the market, [whether they are] ongoing, deceased or acquired by Oracle."

On the other hand, the situation among desktop PCs is more akin to Dolly the cloned sheep, McNealy said. "We've gotten to the point where we've lost innovation, and we're all very vulnerable."

One problem is that engineers like to tinker with things, he said. An engineer is someone who will pay extra to have a new bicycle delivered unassembled for the pleasure of building it, he said.

When agency leaders try to agitate for a move to a more standards-based environment, they often encounter resistance from engineers, who say, "I don't want to give up my bicycle. I built it myself," McNealy said.

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