Sun prank takes potshots at CEO proclivities

Sun Microsystems Chief Executive Jonathan Schwartz is a fan of corporate transparency, sharing his thoughts and personal experiences on a publicly available blog. Some of his minions used that style, along with Sun's Blackbox data-center-in-a-shipping container project and the company's telecommuting policy--as the basis for an April Fools' Day joke.

A mock news release trumpeted OpenWork 3.0, a plan to build eco-friendly offices into shipping containers. And John F. Prowler--John Fowler, Sun's top server executive disguised with Groucho glasses--offers a tour of the top-shelf model geared for corporate titans in a YouTube video.

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Fowler explained that the solar-powered, glass-walled container--called Project EcoBox and installed in Sun's Menlo Park, Calif., campus--is geared for Schwartz and Sun Chief Technology Officer Greg Papadopoulos. (In reality, Schwartz shares an office with Chief Financial Officer Mike Lehman.) Webcams provide an around-the-clock view of what the CXOs are up to.

"Because of the latest Sarbanes-Oxley rules, we wanted full transparency for our executive staff. We've put in Web cameras so office work is actually on the Net," Fowler said in the video. "It's not enough to know all your financial transactions. We'd like to actually watch them at work on a full-time basis."

Schwartz and Papadopoulos both are gourmet cooking fans, so the EcoBox comes equipped with dual Easy-Bake ovens (rack-mounted, like most of the servers Sun sells), complementary aprons, and a stocked wine cabinet. Bonus features include a wide-screen TV, a loft for naps, and outside, a bistro table and hot tub.

"They can cook, they can drink, they can work, they can relax," Fowler said. "If the CEO or CTO likes to have company, we have a fully functional hot tub for bringing the company in and having great discussions around strategy and other aspects of the company performance."

OpenWork 3 is a reference to Sun's policy that permits employees to work from home or from satellite offices. Many Sun employees don't have regular office space but instead use anonymous empty cubicles. The program previously was called iWork, but Sun ran afoul of trademark issues concerning Apple's word processing and presentation software of the same name.

Sun hopes customers will want to buy computing equipment in Sun's Blackbox shipping containers instead of building their own data centers; Blackboxes can be easily shipped and set up in parking lots. The idea extends to the EcoBox, too, according to the news release: "Strong but slender, EcoBox shipping containers can be wedged into small plots and stacked up to 9 units high--sufficient to not only move executive management out of the building, but middle management as well!"

April Fools' pranks are an annual tradition at Sun. Some are documented on the company's Web site. For example, pranksters floated the new Ferrari of co-founder Bill Joy on a landscape pond in 1987.

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