Eye on Oracle

Jan 27 2010   3:30PM GMT

Here comes the Sun

Ed Scannell Ed Scannell Profile: Ed Scannell

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.

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