Sun, Oracle eases anxiety over merger

October 12th, 2009 | by Aaron Tan

In the world of enterprise technology that has become dominated by an increasingly smaller pool of players, company leaders often swing between taking potshots at their rivals and singing praises next.

When Sun Microsystems’ co-founder Scott McNealy slammed Oracle for its software pricing policy in 2004, he probably would not have known that five years later, his legacy now lies in the hands of Oracle, the enterprise software behemoth that has now cast its sight on IBM with the Oracle-Sun merger.

During the Oracle Openworld opening keynote, which was clearly aimed at reassuring Sun customers over the future of their investments, McNealy expressed confidence that Oracle would take care of his legacy. “Our technology will find a nice home,” he said, adding that Oracle will continue to innovate on the Sparc and Solaris more than what Sun is doing now.

McNealy also brought up MySQL, the open source database that was one of the points of contention in the Oracle-Sun deal that lead to a European Commission probe over the impact on competition in the database market.

“Let’s look at what Oracle did with InnoDB which they bought – did they kill it? No, they supported it. We shouldn’t be worried,” McNealy said, adding that the GPL that governs MySQL will prevent Oracle from messing with the open source database.

“There’s just not an issue here, and I’m not quite sure why [the deal] is being held up and Oracle is working closely with the authorities to help them understand that,” McNealy added.

If there’s anything that McNealy could gripe about Oracle, it is the fact that Oracle clearly had been “unprepared” for the sheer number of Sun developers and users, noting that downloads for JRE was averaging 15 million a week.

When Larry Ellison took to the stage, he backed up McNealy with assurances that Oracle will increase Sun’s investment in MySQL. “If this merger goes through, and we think it will, we will spend more not less on MySQL.” Similarly, he noted that Oracle will make the Sparc microprocessor faster and more energy-efficient.

Contrary to what Oracle rivals have been saying about spinning off Sun’s hardware business since Oracle is predominantly a software company, Ellison emphasized the importance of having greater control over hardware and software in a systems-based approach.

“There is a limit if you just do software. If you can engineer the hardware components while engineering the software components, you really can build systems that are faster, cheaper and consume less power, are reliable and easier to use,” Ellison said.

“Witness the company Apple. I think Apple has done a terrific job of tackling hardware and software problems simultaneously,” he added.

Ellison was recently criticized in an Information Week commentary for talking too much about Oracle competitors and not paying enough attention to customers during a Churchill Club event.

This time, he avoided any backlash by noting that these “wonderfully integrated” systems should be used to solve real customer problems so that businesses can become successful. “If they don’t make money, you [Oracle] won’t make money to invest in the innovation process,” he said.


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