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Is it time to Resurrect Sun User Groups?

June 3, 2003 article by Zsolt Kerekes
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Zsolt Kerekes - Publisher
Zsolt Kerekes is editor and publisher
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View from the Hill: - Is it time to Resurrect Sun User Groups?

Is it time to resurrect the concept of Sun User Groups?

In the early 90s when Sun was a small but hot technology company, SUGs sprang up in almost every state and country that Sun workstations and servers were used. They provided useful information about a niche technology to dedicated enthusiasts who wanted to know how to support their systems better.

The 1996 version of the SPARC Product Directory had links to dozens of these organizations. But the writing was already on the wall for SUGs by 1997 as I could see in the dwindling pageviews for this subject...

Sun decided that if it wanted feedback from users it would get it in a structured form from focus groups, market research and analysts. Sun also decided that if anyone wanted to know about Sun's future direction they could get this information, unpolluted by interpretation, direct from www.sun.com. So it was goodbye to intermediaries who didn't wear suits or who weren't part of the dotcom generation.

In November 97, the US SUG went bankrupt, and Sun pulled its funding and support for SUGs in Europe. Some independent groups carried on for a year or so, but if you rely on photosysnthesis for life then you can't survive withdrawel from the sun for long.

As I write this in June 2003, there are a number of reasons why Sun should reconsider the idea of supporting and promoting user groups.
  • Sun's SPARC and Solaris are niche technologies, in islands of Windows and Linux, and have lost the glitz of former years. Less than 10% of systems administrators are familiar with Sun technology, and budgets for training and attending conferences are tight, so there's a need for the type of specialised low cost support that user groups can provide.
  • I assume that Sun's budgets for market research and focus groups are half what they used to be when Sun was a bigger company. Maybe even less. SUGs provide a low cost marketing solution which can't easily be ignored.
You don't have to wait another year or so for Sun to get this message. If you run a Sun User Group send me an email with details of where you are, what you do and your web site, and I'll list them. Lets put the "User" back into the driving seat of SUGs.
Later... nearly 3 months after this article was published, Sun did indeed launch a special interest user group called SunSHINE aimed at the medical market.
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