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Sun Microsystems

Sun Microsystems provides components and services for network computing, from the servers themselves to the software that runs on them. Founded in 1982, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based subsidiary of Oracle is run by President and CEO Dorian Daley.

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Company Description

Sun Microsystems gets its name not from the life-giving star above us, but from the Stanford University Network, on which co-founders Andy Bechtolscheim, Scott McNealy, and Vinod Khosla all toiled as graduate students. The homemade boxes Bechtolscheim built with scavenged parts during his college days ultimately led to a sophisticated line of proprietary servers that helped propel the rise of networked computing in the business world. Sun also became known for its Solaris operating system; in its heyday, it was one of the most powerful and polished implementations of the UNIX computing language.

The dot-com bubble of the late '90s was a heady time for Sun. Demand for its products soared among companies eager to cash in on the information technology revolution. The company's share price reached dizzying heights, and Sun expanded its operations to keep pace. The ensuing crash hit Sun particularly hard, as did the subsequent growth in popularity of cheap, open-source systems in place of Sun's pricey high-end boxes.

But Sun did one thing relatively right during the '90s -- its 1995 introduction of the Java operating system, designed to let programmers write a single program that could then run on a variety of machines and operating systems. Despite slow initial progress and plenty of technological hiccups, Java gradually gained a solid footing among programmers, and it enjoys a wide variety of uses today.

After several lean years, the company also began to successfully adapt to the changing marketplace. It started building servers with less expensive and more commonly used components; freeing its operating systems and processor architectures for open-source development; and buying up smaller companies all across the network-computing spectrum, including the popular MySQL open-source database language in 2008.

In spring 2009, after a brief flirtation with IBM, Sun was purchased by Oracle, thus becoming the most recent tech star to pass beyond the event horizon of Larry Ellison.

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