March 24, 2010 2:25 PM
Posted by: Shayna Garlick
, Sun Microsystems
As Oracle works to ease anti-competition concerns over the MySQL open source database, its takeover of Sun Microsystems has been approved by the U.S. Department of Justice and the European Commission. And as of last Friday, we can also add Russia to that list.
Russia’s anti-monopoly regulator (FAS) approved the deal on conditions that Oracle continues to develop MySQL and create new versions of the database. FAS also said that Oracle should allow customers to buy commercial licenses for MySQL without being required to purchase Oracle services.
Some members of the open source community seem to still be holding out hope, however, that they can “save MySQL” from Oracle. This campaign and online petition driven by MySQL founder Monty Widenius was launched over concerns about competition and Oracle’s “empty promises.” The petition is still active, with its latest statistics showing 25 sign-ups in the past 24 hours (and 42,723 total).
But are we finally starting to see that regulators and the general open source community may have less to worry about than they think?
According to some, yes. In his blog post, “MySQL’s new best friend forever? Oracle,” Cnet’s Matt Asay discusses his takeaways from talks with Oracle executives at last week’s Open Source Business Intelligence Conference. Asay says that it seems like Oracle will not only continue to invest in MySQL, but increase its investment in the open source database.
“The little-open-source-database-that-could will become the not-so-little-open-source-database-that-does,” he writes, referring to the effect that Oracle’s long history of expertise in database engineering could have on MySQL’s future.
Still, Oracle has some hurdles to cross. Even with Oracle’s own expertise, it also needs the help and knowledge of veteran Sun staff, many of whom, such as Chief Open Source Officer Simon Phipps, have recently left the company. The growing popularity of the NoSQL movement could also be a threat to MySQL offerings. NoSQL, a termcommonly translated as “not only SQL,” refers to open source databases that are non-relational and horizontally scaled. Their increased scalability and flexibility are making them a new alternative that is ideal for Web applications needing to handle large amounts of data storage. It should be interesting to see how (and if) this has any major impact on the use of MySQL.
Do you think Oracle will live up to its promises on MySQL, given these recent developments? Or should we really be worrying about the rest of Sun’s open source products (Java,OpenSPARC, GlassFish, etc)? With all the attention on MySQL, is there a chance of these being forgotten?
March 17, 2010 3:51 PM
Posted by: Shayna Garlick
, Oracle acquisitions
Oracle recently made one of its biggest and boldest advancements as a company with an acquisition — the buyout of Sun Microsystems. The deal handed the software giant a handful of industry jewels including Java, MySQL, the number four position among server hardware suppliers, and much more. But according to SAP’s new CEOs, building — not buying — your way to fame and fortune is the way they plan to compete.
At a media event on Monday, co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe discussed their plans for SAP, and shared their feelings on Oracle’s acquisition strategy. According to this article, “SAP to shun growth through acquisition strategy,” Snabe says that with Oracle, the industry is “seeing lots of acquisition to build revenue growth, but very little innovation. We have done the opposite.”
But has it worked? According to this article in BusinessWeek, Snabe and McDermott are promising a turnaround in the slow delivery of new products from SAP over the past few years. While SAP appeared to have no problem criticizing the acquisitions-happy Oracle, they don’t seem completely against acquisitions (even big ones) themselves.
“If an acquisition made sense, we would not shy away from it,” McDermott was quoted as saying. SAP’s multi-billion dollar Business Objects business intelligence product is the company’s only major acquisition in the past few years.
It seems the media is picking up on SAP’s seemingly contradictory stance on this matter. While eWeek entitled its article, “SAP to shun growth through acquisition strategy,” coverage by Market Watch of the same event was entitled “SAP revamp could include large acquisitions: CEOs.”
So, which will it be? We likely won’t know for a year or two, but it’s still hard to imagine SAP, or any company for that matter, taking such an aggressive approach to acquisitions as Oracle has. Two years ago, we examined Oracle’s “hostile acquisition” strategy and how Ellison has made such an approach acceptable – or at least effective. Ellison, when discussing Microsoft’s failed attempt at acquiring Yahoo, said, “They are copying us. Others would be foolish not to try.”
Do you think SAP will ever try? Or will Snabe and McDermott stick to the idea that building, not buying, innovation is the best approach?
March 10, 2010 4:37 PM
Posted by: Ed Scannell
, Oracle acquisitions
, Sun Microsystems
Simon Phipps, one of the most vocal supporters of open source inside Sun Microsystems announced in his blog yesterday that he is stepping down from his post as Chief Open Source Officer. He didn’t write his farewell as a haiku, ala former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz, but it was poetic nonetheless.
Phipps, a 10-year veteran of the company, didn’t spell out whether he was being forced out or was leaving on his own. But given Oracle is now in a position to be the most powerful open source company in the industry, and could crystallize some of the goals Sun didn’t get a chance to complete, one has to wonder.
In his farewell blog Phipps cites several of those unrealized goals. Phipps said he is “sad” the company didn’t get the code for those projects that remained permanently outside the Sun firewall, that Apache failed to get the TCK license Sun requested, that the company never got to a place where co-developers became more of a priority for a number of Sun’s product groups.
Lastly, perhaps in a jab thrown at Oracle, Phipps writes he is disappointed that despite the overall success of the company’s open source business, “it still wasn’t enough to rescue Sun in the end.”
Still he looks back with pride on what he believes are Sun’s major contributions to the open source community. Under his reign he says Sun got “some of the most important software in the computer industry,” released under Free licenses thereby guaranteeing “software freedom” for people regardless of own the copyrights including Unix, Java, key elements of Linux and the Sparc chip.
Another major accomplishment was creating the Open Document Format, which he said was instrumental in guiding “the quiet revolution” that has helped restore competition to the productivity software market.
Announcing his departure though his blog is appropriate given he believes one of his major accomplishments was starting the first blogs at Sun.blog.com, which kicked off the “corporate blogging revolution.”
Lastly, he takes satisfaction in changing Sun’s attitude about open source turning colleagues who were bitter critics of the technology into defenders of it, and even convincing people to join Sun because of its fervor in supporting open source.
Besides continuing to blog, Phipps says he has not decided what he will do next. Given his resume Phipps shouldn’t be unemployed long, unless he chooses to be. I think IBM might be interested in talking to Phipps and getting their hands on his little black book containing Sun’s open source plans.
Oracle has yet to fully spell out its plans for how it intends to leverage Sun’s rich portfolio of open source products and technologies – aside from committing lots of cash to the care and feeding of the MySQL database.
But open source figures to be an important if not strategic asset to Oracle for both its proprietary and newly acquired open source portfolios. It will be particularly important as it engages Microsoft in hand-to-hand combat at the lower end of the enterprise market. It should be careful about the open source talent it lets walk out the door.
March 3, 2010 5:07 PM
Posted by: Shayna Garlick
Using a third-party maintenance and support vendor can be a smart decision for some Oracle customers given those customers can expect better service, a significant reduction in fees and more flexible maintenance policies.
Naturally, Oracle hates this.
In January the software giant sued third-party support provider Rimini Street for intellectual property theft, claiming that the company and CEO Seth Ravin are responsible for “massive theft of Oracle’s software and related support materials.” It also accused Rimini Street of alleged copyright infringement, fraud, breach of contract and unfair competition.
Two years earlier, Oracle made TomorrowNow the target of a similar lawsuit, in which the software giant made numerous allegations – including committing “corporate theft on a grand scale” and stealing software products — against the SAP-owned third-party support provider, some of which SAP admitted to.
But as Oracle turns against third-party maintenance providers, more and more users are turning toward them. In a new report from Altimeter Group analyst Ray Wang, interest in third-party maintenance services are shown to have increased by 113.8% from Q3 2009 to Q1 2010.
So what’s causing such a surge?
According to Wang, survey results show that high costs (Oracle charges 22% annual fees) and reduced budgets are the biggest culprits, but other contributing factors include customers disliking the vendor, poor service and feeling they are not getting enough value for their money. Also, 30% of respondents reported delivering their own support, having no need to pay for outside maintenance.
In Oracle‘s defense, it has good reason to be concerned with protecting its intellectual property. Wang’s survey showed that the vendor had the highest percentage (88.1%) of users who expressed interest in seeking third-party support with SAP coming in second at 76.2%.
But how will Oracle’s legal battles with third-party providers affect not only the companies they put under fire, but their own customers?
In his article “ERP Support: How far will Oracle go to protect the golden egg?” Thomas Wailgum wonders if continued litigation by Oracle will discourage competition, giving customers little choice but to stick with Oracle for support at a time when, as Wang points out, they already have few options.
If Oracle has reasons other than simply protecting its $3 billion in profits from maintenance and support to file lawsuits and providers are actually breaking laws, Oracle should protect its rights. But customers have rights as well, and third-party enterprise support is entirely legal.
Wang is encouraging users to band together and take action. ”Users and user groups must vigorously defend their positions in contracts and legal action or lose this right. Failure will result in a continued software maintenance monopoly. Success will ensure market competition and renewed innovation.” he writes.
Do you use third-party support? Why or why not? Do you feel like you have enough third-party maintenance options? Do you think Oracle has gone too far in going against providers of third-party support? If you have any answers or opinions to these questions we would like to hear from you.
February 24, 2010 3:20 PM
Posted by: Ed Scannell
, Exadata Database Machine
, Hewlett-Packard Co.
, Oracle-Sun deal
, The America's Cup
Speaking at an event over the weekend celebrating his triumphant return with The America’s Cup in hand, Oracle chairman Larry Ellison said he expects his other prize – Sun Microsystems – to be profitable “right away”.
This is not exactly breaking news. Just last month at the combined company’s debut, Chairman Larry said he expected to revive Sun’s sagging fortunes, pulling the company back into the black even by the end of this month. At that event he said he expected to make about $1.5 billion in operating profit from Sun’s portfolio after owning the company for a full year and that he expected to take that number much higher over the next few years.
This sort of unbridled optimism gives one pause however. From early September, when the European Commission (EC) began its investigation of Oracle’s acquisition of Sun, until late December we heard a steady rant from Mr. Ellison about how that investigation was slowly strangling Sun’s chances for survival.
For instance, in late September speaking at a dinner sponsored by The Churchill Club, the chairman said the investigation was significantly contributing to Sun losing some $100 million a month. This statement came in the heels of Sun having reported a quarterly loss of $147 million.
In that talk the good chairman said the longer the EC’s approval process takes “the more money Sun is going to lose, and that’s not good for anybody. We want to get this (acquisition) done to save as many jobs as we can.”
Also contributing to Sun’s cloudy outlook around that time were multiple analyst reports surfacing indicating Sun was losing huge chunks of market share to archrivals IBM and HP in server hardware. A major contributor, of course, was the lingering uncertainty of Sun’s fate thanks to the EC’s investigation, which prompted Sun users to halt purchasing decisions or jump ship.
But with yesterday’s comments, all the angst Larry had over the EC’s four-month long investigation sun setting Sun’s future seems to have dissipated rather quickly. Now he is talking boldly about hiring a couple of thousand new employees to bolster Sun’s products instead of laying them off (although he did indicate there could be up to 1,000 employees let go), and exhibiting confidence about how the Oracle-Sun developed Exadata 2 super server, and the various stack computing strategies built around it, will soon outgun any offerings from IBM and HP.
So was Larry crying wolf to the EC about its investigation crippling Sun, or is his bold optimism about Sun’s chance simply masking the tough task he has ahead of him to make this deal succeed over the short term? It is hard to say, it may be a little of both. But given his claim he will make Sun profitable by the end of the month, it won’t take long to find out.
If you are concerned about Larry giving up his day job to spend more time plotting his defense of The America’s Cup, don’t be. The 65-year-old chairman says is not ready for retirement indicating he will continue to pursue software and sailing with an equal amount of vigor.
“I love Oracle and I love sailing, and I think I can do both,” he said.
February 17, 2010 4:25 PM
Posted by: Ed Scannell
, Larry Ellison
, Oracle-Sun deal
, stack computing
Larry Ellison is having himself a year.
First, he outlasted the European Commission (EC) which held up his attempt to acquire Sun Microsystems for over four months. Now he has followed that triumph with another by winning the America’s Cup, one of the most valued trophies in all of sports.
Ellison’s BMW Oracle Racing team won the Cup over this past weekend sweeping the two-time defending champion Alinghi 2-0, just off the coast of Valencia, Spain. Naturally, with Ellison involved, so was technology. His trimaran, aided by the largest wing sail ever built, simply overpowered Alinghi’s catamaran in the two races.
Larry Ellison may be brash and boastful, but he is also patient and focused. This year’s win ended Ellison’s 10-year mission to win the America’s Cup, marking the first time an American challenger has claimed the trophy in 23 years. This is the same sort of dedication he applied in acquiring PeopleSoft after years of pursuit and this latest battle with the EC.
Speaking of the technology used by BMW Oracle Racing, it’s funny Larry didn’t give any props to NetSuite’s cloud computing based business management software. Apparently the team uses that business suite for a range of accounting, reporting and international tax compliance functions. He probably would have mentioned it, if it wasn’t cloud computing based.
If he decides the NetSuite product would be instrumental in bringing him another America’s Cup he can always buy it and grid enable it. I mean, what’s one more acquisition? In the first five weeks of the year Oracle completed its $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun and acquired two more companies, AmberPoint and Convergin. I am beginning to wonder if Larry made some sort of New Year’s resolution to buy a company a week in 2010.
But it is this display of steely resolve that Ellison’s major archrivals, particularly IBM, have to look forward to as he puts all the moving parts of Oracle and Sun together over the next year. It will take all of Ellison’s resolve and patience to ensure the long-term success for the newly combined company, along with maybe more than a little showmanship.
The first thing he has to do is to stop the steady migration of Sun customers over to IBM and HP’s hardware platforms. Sun has lost a significant number of accounts to its archrivals since the deal was first proposed on April 20, 2009.
A good way to start is to be straight forward with Sun’s remaining top accounts about exactly what hardware lines he is going to keep and what he is going to jettison. By selling a range of products and services directly to Sun’s top 4,000 accounts, Larry must treat these accounts more like strategic business partners, and do away with some of the overly aggressive, nickel-and-diming strategies some users accuse them of to win product and maintenance support deals.
Another way to hold on to skeptical Sun accounts is winning them over to Oracle’s still-not-quite-defined stack computing strategy. While the company made an appetizing pitch to its customers and the press at its Jan. 27 rollout, buying stacks of mission critical hardware and software is just not in the blood of large heterogeneous IT shops. This is where Larry’s showmanship will come in handy.
A third approach, and maybe the most difficult, would be to come up with an attractive and innovative licensing strategy for their various stacks and individual software and hardware offerings.
Lord knows there are legions of existing Oracle customers unhappy with the 22% maintenance fees the company charges, especially given the quality of service they get in return. And some Sun customers have one foot out of the boat anticipating Oracle will find a way to jack up licensing fees on a per processor or per box basis for hardware.
I have yet to hear of any such licensing program(s) being proposed that would convince Sun users to stay put. But if you have, or you have one of your own, let me know.
February 10, 2010 5:56 PM
Posted by: Shayna Garlick
My Oracle Support
, Oracle support
“Fiasco” and “unmitigated disaster” were words used to describe My Oracle Support when Oracle revealed the new support portal to replace Metalink last November.
Does this sound like the same company that claims it will be offering Sun customers “the highest level of customer service” once the acquisition is finalized?
Well no, but it is. And while it could be a valid claim, if the complaints of aggravated users have been resolved, it seems like My Oracle Support is still the cause of many frustrations.
Oracle has taken measures to reach out to its customers regarding this issue. For example, Oracle’s Chris Warticki, who writes Oracle’s Support blog, has offered resources such as an FAQ for My Oracle Support migration and Oracle Support best practices.
However, for many users this isn’t enough, as even simple tasks like logging into the support portal still seem to be an issue. PC World recently reported that problems were hitting My Oracle Support again, with an “intermittent login issue” on the site. Warticki recommended solutions in his latest blog post, but this hardly seemed to ease users’ frustrations, with many leaving comments expressing their anger:
“If the MOS is DOWN ???? Should not be an option in 2010 from a company which is making money from selling High Availability.”
“Turn Metalink back on. It’s that simple!!!!… I am furious about this and even more furious that Oracle simply doesn’t listen to its customers and acts like they know what’s best for them.”
“I would like some answers and some firm dates on the outages and the bugs instead of some hapless drone reading from a prepared script.”
This isn’t the first time since November that users have had a login problem, which remains an ongoing issue. Many comments continued to be left on Warticki’s FAQ blog post through December. Likewise, his January post on best practices in the new year was also not well received. One customer summing up the thoughts of many users well:
“Enough is enough. If you truly want to ‘resolve the issues as quickly as possible’, there is no easier and quicker fix than bringing back Metalink and taking this thing back to the testing pit.”
If you had problems with My Oracle Support in November, have they improved at all since? Do you think these issues have been overblown by some users? Do you think Oracle is not doing enough to fix these problems, and will the Sun acquisition cause even more? Let us know what you think.
February 1, 2010 4:22 PM
Posted by: Ed Scannell
Exadata Database Machine 2
, Oracle-Sun deal
, stack computing
In his hour-long Q&A session following the Oracle + Sun press briefing, Oracle chairman Larry Ellison addressed a wide range of topics both seriously and playfully from his brazen confidence about the newly combined company fundamentally changing the way IT will buy products to trash talking competitors to lambasting the press. Some moments of the performance will certainly find their way onto “The Best of Larry Being Larry” DVD.
Much of the trash talking focused on IBM, a competitor Larry continues to have a curious love-hate relationship with. He again said he believes the Sun acquisition will allow him to recreate the IBM of 1960s, a company that delivered seamless hardware-software solutions bundled with great technical support.
But apparently a lot of things Big Blue has done since the 1960s has caused it to drift away from the “IT gold standard” it came to represent, which Larry now believes he can resurrect with Sun’s help.
With one hand Larry gives the old IBM a pat on the back: “Our vision for 2010 is the same as IBM’s in 1960 – deliver seamless systems. That strategy made IBM the most successful company in the history of the world. We like that model.”
And with the other hand Larry gives the present day IBM a backhander: “How many servers can IBM put together for OLTP applications? Umm, one. Just one server attacking really big jobs. They can’t scale out, do clouds or clusters. It fascinates me why IBM didn’t come out years ago with something like our Exadata Database Machine. We have huge advantages over them.”
Or completely dismissing their chances to succeed in the database business: “IBM is so far behind, they don’t have any chance at all. In databases, they are a decade or so behind us. I’m serious.”
Boldly, he believes the Oracle-Sun approach to selling stacks of integrated systems along with support directly to the largest customers will significantly alter IT industry’s approach to how it receives, installs and supports mission critical components:
“At the heart of what we are trying to do, and what customers are really looking for, is to completely change the experience of buying systems from databases to middleware to development tools. No one has ever had all that inside one company and did so with open technologies.”
Some other quotes for the The Best of DVD:
On press reports just prior to this week’s event speculating that Oracle would lay off half of Sun’s workforce:
“The people who reported that should be ashamed of themselves. The truth is we are hiring 2,000 people over the next few months and that will be twice as many people as we are laying off. We will make $1.5 billion (in profit from Sun products) in the first full year. Sun has a fabulous installed base and pipeline of technology.”
On Oracle’s plans for Sun’s MySQL open source database, the product that caused the European Commission to hold up the deal for almost four extra months:
“MySQL will be made better. We will do a better job at improving at it than has been done for the past five years. For instance, we have our own version of Linux that we have added new features to. We also want to make both Solaris and Linux better. Our goal is to make all these systems better technologically because we can make more money for products and support.”
On what he valued more, wining the America’s Cup or winning a deal against IBM:
“I don’t have to choose.”
On whether he plans to buy the Golden State Warriors:
“I’m trying, I’m trying, but unfortunately you can’t have a hostile takeover of a basketball team.”
On whether Oracle is missing out by not competing in the consumer electronics market ala Apple:
“We are not good at a hundred different things, but we are good at a small number of things and that is what we need to do. I am not sure Oracle is the right company to take on Apple in telephones. Instead of making phones we’ll make Java that goes into those phones. It would be very dangerous for us to go into consumer electronics.”
On plans for going after the high end of the market with Solaris-based solutions as opposed to focusing on opportunities at the lower end:
“Unix still does well at the high end, which is where Solaris is going. We won’t be making it for single systems though, but for a cluster of computers. The high end to me is not Intel vs. SPARC, it is more like a cloud of SPARC machines in the data center. It will be a long time before Linux catches up there. I am a Linux fan, but I don’t think the high end is in danger for us at all.”
On whether the acquisition of Sun now makes Oracle too big a company to consistently deliver innovative products:
“Everyone said IBM was in trouble because of its size and that was just nonsensical. This idea that you are too big to innovate is just insane. A long as you have quality people – and we have quality people in quantity – I will never hear me tell you Oracle is too big to innovate.”
I had mentioned in a blog last week that with its newfound power and position in the IT industry thanks to the Sun deal, Oracle might display a bit more humility than hubris. Larry and company might be more humble eventually, but not this week.
But Larry didn’t have all the best one liners. In his opening remarks Oracle President Charles Phillips, under siege from jilted mistress YaVaughnie Wilkins’ billboard campaign highlighting their once romantic relationship said, “welcome to this important day in the history of enterprise computing. Hopefully you have had a smoother week than I did. But on to bigger and better things.”
January 27, 2010 3:30 PM
Posted by: Ed Scannell
, Oracle-Sun deal
It’s finally done.
After nine long months of wending its way through all the necessary international government agencies, Oracle’s $7.4 billion bid to acquire Sun Microsystems has been approved and so officially declared not to be a health hazard to the IT industry. There are still China and Russia’s sanctions to gain, but no one is expecting any hand-to-hand combat there.
So now what? We’ll get some answers to that this Wednesday (January 27) when Oracle chairman Larry Ellison, President Charles Phillips and a platoon of Oracle and Sun executives outline some of the short and long-term plans for users, partners and the press.
I suspect there will be further details about leveraging the higher-end of Sun’s server hardware line as both standalone products and as part of hardware-software stacks, how the company plans to ensure the viability of the open source MySQL database, why it won’t lay off half of Sun’s 30,000 plus workforce, and a deep technical dive on a number of Sun technologies designed to enlighten Oracle users.
What will be interesting to me is what might be said, or not said, about some of the Sun products and technologies Oracle officials have not talked much about over the past nine months.
For instance, Sun has more than MySQL in its open source lineup. The company has a promising Web server, Glassfish Enterprise Server, which has been downloaded in some pretty impressive numbers that could be a nice compliment to Oracle’s Weblogic proprietary offerings. Sun also has the well known OpenOfice.org suite of desktop applications. That offering hasn’t put much of a dent in Microsoft’s office sales, but in the hands of Oracle it could become part of a client-server bundle that could make users think twice about renewing their software licenses with Redmond.
While Oracle doesn’t figure to mess too much with Java given its status as one of the most important programming standards in the market, I am interested to see in what direction the company might take it. Some have speculated Oracle will maintain the existing standard, but could also create a variant more specifically tailored for Oracle environments.
With Solaris in hand, Oracle is now in the operating systems business for the first time. It will be interesting to see how much strategic importance the company places on its own OS relative to those of its competitors/business partners it has dealt with for decades.
And what is inside Sun’s technology candy store? Sun has poured billions into development of hardware and software products over the years, some of which were never delivered or put on hold because of tough financial times. Will company officials talk about some hidden hardware gems that could help Oracle’s budding cloud computing and older grid computing software run faster or more efficiently?
And will Mr. Ellison and cohorts give any indication about how they might approach licensing server hardware (not by the processor, Larry, please), or coordinate maintenance and support of users common to both companies, or if and how they will combine data centers?
It is probably too much to expect detailed answers to all of these questions, although Oracle is certainly giving itself enough time (five hours) this Wednesday to address any and all of these matters.
Whatever it reveals, Wednesday figures to be the first day of a very interesting era in Oracle’s already colorful history. It has a real chance to significantly redefine itself, not easy for a 32-year-old, $25 billion company to do, and in the process also change the competitive landscape of the IT industry.
With this new-found power and position let’s hope Larry and company handle it with more humility than hubris.