Robert Worrall, Sun Microsystems

By Brian P. Watson Print this article Print

In what ways are today's innovative CIOs exploiting today's emerging information technologies?

Sun Microsystems' Robert Worrall: Pushing a new model for I.T. organizations.
Worrell was appointed CIO of Sun in July, 2006. He says that although the job has given him more gray hair than any previous job at Sun, where he has worked for 17 years, he's still having fun. Baseline's Debbie Gage spoke with Worrall.

Baseline: What's an example of how Sun uses technology to solve problems?

Worrall: We have a data center in the Netherlands, and because of investment deferrals, service levels were declining. We looked at it earlier this year and said, the world has changed, let's look at technology for driving down cost. This is a shameless commercial for Sun, but with Sun's new product offerings we were able to take the same applications and service levels, refresh the technology—and machines are now faster and cheaper—and were able to close the data center and move a smaller set of new servers into an existing facility in the U.K. So there was a 70% to 75% reduction in footprint requirements in servers and an 80% power reduction.

As CIO of Sun, are you required to use Sun products?

We have a fairly rigorous program for using our own equipment. [We are doing an Oracle enterprise resource planning deployment] on Sun hardware and middleware. We try to showcase Sun's products and services. It's maybe a little harder on me as an I.T. shop—I'm an early adopter, and I might be running alpha or beta and there might be bugs—but it's better for customers. We get an early version of hardware and software, kick the tires and do final QA (quality assurance). If there are challenges that customers run into, we have a direct line back into the product team.

How important is innovation to you? How do you balance innovation against keeping Sun running day to day?

Innovation is very important. It's an interesting time for us. Transformation is coming in I.T., and I think at Sun we have a road map for how to steer the transformation. It's a simple vision. Whereas an I.T. organization today is building applications and running servers, that model is not sustainable. You have spiraling energy costs, low utilization of servers, continuing complexity of applications, and we say, stop the madness.

Our vision is that I.T. organizations will evolve into the role of an aggregator of services to buy over the Internet. Most shops, take e-mail for example, they run their own mail server like we do today. But if you go buy mail as a service, I can run it over the public Internet. So do that for every business application you do today. We're doing it today inside Sun—there are a handful of services we buy today and run them over the public Internet. We continue to push that model with Oracle and others. HR [human resources] services are delivered that way—stock option management, 401K, and we're now in discussions with our outsourcing partner to deliver HR transactions as a service over the Internet, not an intranet. A big target will be ERP applications. We're working closely with Oracle to demonstrate running their applications on a public grid and what are the security concerns, so, as the industry matures, we at Sun are right at the leading edge of adopting those service and evolving our own I.T. shop.

This article was originally published on 2007-06-07
Associate Editor

Brian joined Baseline in March 2006. In addition to previous stints at Inter@ctive Week and The Net Economy, he's written for The News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla., as well as The Sunday Tribune in Dublin, Ireland. Brian has a B.A. from Bucknell University and a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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