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Sun shuffles software execs

Aisling MacRunnels takes over software marketing, while predecessor Peder Ulander is now trying to woo start-ups.

Sun Microsystems has named a new marketing vice president for its software group, Aisling MacRunnels, while naming earlier leader Peder Ulander to a job trying to drum up business from start-ups.

The changes took place Tuesday, Sun spokeswoman Kathy Tom Engle confirmed.

MacRunnels has worked closely both with Rich Green, Sun's executive vice president of software, and Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's new chief executive and its former software chief. Recently, MacRunnels was a senior director in the Sun Grid project, which has now been folded into the software group.

Ulander initially joined Sun through its $2 billion acquisition of Cobalt Networks in 2000. He left to work with embedded Linux specialist MontaVista Software in 2004, then returned to Sun in 2006.

Sun has been trying to promote its wares to start-ups recently through its Startup Essentials program, offering heavy discounts to new companies on its Sparc and x86 servers, its Solaris operating system, its Java Enterprise System server software and on services.

Courting start-ups can be a good way to impress customers at a time when their technology choices haven't yet been set. But there are risks, too, particularly in the current era, when many Web 2.0 start-ups are visible on the Internet--and so, potentially, are their business dealings.

One recent example is Matt Mullenweg, the initial programmer behind the WordPress blogging software and founder of Automattic, the company that's commercializing it.

Mullenweg tried to participate in Sun's Startup Essentials program, he said on his blog last week, but the company didn't call him back about his application.

"Sun isn't relevant to start-ups...I've given up, I've lost hope, and our business has moved on," Mullenweg said. "This is also what I've started advising other start-ups. If we had trouble getting anything going, I can't imagine what trouble a brand new start-up with a smaller profile would go through."

The posting caught Schwartz's attention. He responded on his own blog a day later: "We screwed up, and you're completely right to suggest if that's the norm, we should kiss goodbye our aspirations of reestablishing our business in the start-up community. If there's anything I can do to win a second chance, I'd like to know."

That, in turn, caught Mullenweg's attention.

"In a move most would never expect of a public-company CEO," he said, "Jonathan Schwartz has responded. More than that, he has apologized in a human and personal way that is utterly admirable."