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Good-bye, Sun

July 25, 2010

In Februrary 1996, I came out to Sun Microsystems to interview for a job knowing only two things: that I wanted to do operating systems kernel development — and that I didn’t particularly want to work for Sun. I was right on the first count, but knew I was wrong on the second just moments into my first conversation with Jeff. He was emphatic that I should join him in forging the future, sharing both my enthusiasm for what was possible and my disdain for the broken, busted and boogered-up. Fourteen years later, I don’t for a moment regret my decision to join Jeff and Sun: we fostered an environment where the OS was viewed not as a regrettable drag on progress, but rather as a nexus of innovation — incubating technologies that today make a real difference in people’s lives.

In 2006, itching to try something new, Mike and I talked the company into taking the risk of allowing several of us to start Fishworks. That Sun supported our endeavor so enthusiastically was the company at its finest: empowering engineers to tackle hard problems, and inspiring them to bring innovative solutions to market. And with the budding success of the 7000 Series, I would like to believe that we made good on the company’s faith in us — and more generally on its belief in innovation as differentiator.

Now the time has come for me to venture again into something new — but this time it is to be beyond the company’s walls. This is obviously with mixed emotion; while I am excited about the future, it is very difficult for me personally to leave a company in which I have had such close relationships with so many. One of Sun’s greatest strengths was that we technologists were never discouraged from interacting directly and candidly with our customers and users, and many of our most important innovations came from these relationships. This symbiosis was critically important at several junctures of my own career, and I owe many of you a profound debt of gratitude — both for your counsel over the years, and for your willingness to bet your own business and livelihood on the technologies that I helped develop. You, like us, are innovators who love nothing more than great technology, and your steadfast faith in us means more to me than I can express; thank you.

As for my virtual address, it too is changing. This post will be my last at; in the future, you can find my blog at its new (permanent) home: (where comments on this entry will be open). As for e-mail, you can find me at the first letter of my first name concatenated with my last name at

Thank you again for everything; take care — and stay in touch!

46 Responses

  1. What a terrible loss for the (Open)Solaris community! From a relatively non-technical reader, thanks for all the insight and laughter since opened. Best of luck in the future!

    (If you haven’t had the chance to see Bryan speak, check out the LISA ’09 videos or Google TechTalk session on DTrace…)

  2. Bryan,

    Oracle will be forever poorer for losing you.

    DTrace alone would have been a worthy legacy, but you gave them and us so much more.

    It pains to me say Goobye (at least from a Sun/Oracle perspective) to more than just a visionary, but someone that could not only ‘get stuff done’, but could do it himself, and inspire others to ‘do more stuff’ in the process.

    PS: Please don’t take Adam or Brendan etc with you! Oracle really *really* need them and the rest of the FishWorks team now…

  3. Sad to hear your leaving Sun Bryan. Any possibility of seeing you join up with QNX?

    (selfish wish on my part, as I’d love to have dtrace on QNX).

  4. Bryan,

    you haven’t written any blog post for many, many weeks. You also was not active on dtrace list. I thought that maybe you are working on something new and exciting like Dtrace or … think of leaving Oracle/SUN. Sadly it turned out that the latter was true. For me you, Brian, was one of those who guarantee high, technical level of Solaris. Personally Dtrace was one of those features which was crucial when we had to decide whether install Linux or Solaris. Now you leave SUN/Oracle. Sad. Really sad …
    I really hope that we will hear soon something like Dtrace2 😉

  5. Bryan, You were a shining example for how great work can still be produced from a big company. I wish we could work for the same company again sometime. Let me know if you want a good hacker in your new venture.

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  7. So many great ideas unfinished with dtrace, models of a system and deviation from it as it is running, interfaces to Wonderland so you have a real time virtual world where you could go sit by the L2 cache, :). Thanks for dtrace.

  8. Bryan:

    This is devastating news, we have no one else to lookup to in Sun (err — Oracle ;-(

    Good luck in all your endeavors. I am curious to read/hear on your new projects.

    Best Regards.

  9. Bryan,

    It’s a shame to see you leave Oracle, their loss, as everyone pointed out.

    The way I see it, however, is that your thoughts are no longer bound by the corporate walls. So it may be a good thing from the technology innovation point of view.

    Thanks for the great work!


  10. All,

    Thank you all for the kind comments. James: I hope to not grace the pages of Obituary for quite some time — but I’m relieved that you continue to show the refined tastes of a scholar and a gentleman. Rennie: I obviously have many fond memories of QNX, but I’m afraid that I won’t be reemerging in Kanata — though please give my best to dtdodge, and I hope the RIM deal is working out for everyone. Finally, for those that lament my departure, note that it in no way denotes the death of the technologies that I have worked on — especially those that are open source. (Indeed, I would point to Simon’s observation about where I have elected to host my blog.) To be clear, I do not intend to abandon the open source technologies that I have developed; quite the contrary, I hope to energize them by being an advocate for them outside of their traditional corporate walls…

  11. I have enjoyed greatly reading your blogs, playing with the wonderful toys you made, and watching your presentations as they’ve cropped up. Having worked in a past life with Oracle, I knew this was inevitable. Not disappointed; hopeful you’ll find another place that wants you thinking and making new stuff. I look forward to playing with that too, whatever it is. Courage!

  12. “One of Sun’s greatest strengths was that we technologists were never discouraged from interacting directly and candidly with our customers and users” – so that might be the reason behind your decision. Now you can enjoy doing that again.

  13. Bryan

    It was a pleasure working with you and listening to the Bryan and Mike show at OS.amb conferences.

    Good Luck in your new venture it’s taken time but I’ve now left Sun after being asked to leave 14 months ago.


  14. Bryan,

    I am sad to see you go, but I feel that it may be inevitable for many. I wish you good fortune in your future endeavors. Thanks for helping us out on soo many occasions and thanks for bringing all these wonderful products to Sun.


  15. Bryan,

    I am glad I had the opportunity to meet you. I thought you might embark on a stand-up comic career (the Lisa video is great) but it sounds like you will settle for the VP job 🙂

    Good luck with everything and thanks for the inspiration.


  16. Bryan,

    I have admired your work, and the work of others in our community, for a very long time. I, too, joined Sun in 1996 and found it to be an extremely stimulating place for the first five years. Unfortunately, those with the greatest and most innovative ideas have left and those remaining do not seem to possess the same ingenuity and/or integrity in their craft!

    Best of luck at Joyent! I hear it is a very good company!

  17. It was great to meet the great “Bryan Cantrill” @ lisa 09 in DC. It’s truly amazing the tracing framework you co developed – I’m a total novice at “D”; but I’m still impressed..

    What will happen to fishworks?

    Good luck with cuddletech dude..

  18. Derek,

    I was just discussing today with Jason that we need to resurrect the old Joyeur podcast “ps | grep” (I was confiding that I had always been bothered by the fact that it wasn’t just “pgrep”). And now I really think that ‘truss -p `pgrep -d, “”`’ is a much catchier name. Or maybe I should just resurrect BattleTris and use this as a tetris sound…

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