Oracle will keep flagship Sun server and OS products

With its deal for Sun Microsystems Inc. finally official, Oracle Corp. unveiled its strategic road map for the acquisition at a launch event Wednesday, promising to boost investments in Sun’s UltraSparc, Java, and Solaris product lines.


While just getting to this road map event has been a long process for Oracle — which saw its US $7.4-billion deal slowed down by the European Commission last November — the delayed transaction has given the company more time to plan how exactly it will integrate the former hardware giant, said Oracle president Charles Phillips.


The plan is simple: Oracle will keep the Sun brand name and continue to pump money and resources into its newly acquired UltraSparc, Solaris, Java-powered product lines.


The ultimate goal behind keeping all of this technology is to create a “complete, integrated system” that goes beyond Oracle’s application, middleware, and database layers. Oracle said the Sun deal will bring it the operating system, virtual machine, server and storage layers to give it the most comprehensive storage stack in the industry.


“It’s the same idea I’ve been talking about for years, just extended to more layers,” Phillips told the audience at the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based launch event.


“We’re going to make Sun the gold standard for computing for server underneath our products.”


To pull this off, Phillips said engineers from Oracle and Sun will work together to build interconnected systems. This means that a lot of the breakthroughs going forward will be in how each layer of the stack works with each other, he added.


As for Sun’s Java footprint, Phillips called Oracle “a leader in Java specifications” and promised customers he is committed to finding new, open standards and using them in the Oracle product line.


“We’ve always had a vested interest in seeing Java succeed,” he said.


The piece of technology that caused a few extra months of delay in the close of this acquisition, Sun’s open source database MySQL, will become part of Oracle’s open source global business unit and operate under its own sales force.


Spending spree won’t stop at $7.4 billion


In addition to promising to hire 2,000 new sales employees, the company also vowed to seek out new engineers that could help build the new Oracle-Sun stack. Engineers who decide to work at Oracle should also have plenty of cash to work with, as Phillips promised to spend $4.3 billion in R&D for fiscal year 2011 — a figure that has never exceeded $3 billion in one year for the computing giant.
CEO Larry Ellison — who addressed the audience toward the end of the event — said he was “very upset” to read the media reports that claimed Oracle would cut half of Sun’s staff. He said those rumours were absolutely false.


“We’re not cutting Sun to profitability, we’re growing Sun to profitability,” he said.


Other changes include Sun’s popular JavaOne show being integrated with Oracle’s OpenWorld event, as well as Oracle’s commitment to have a more direct relationship with its customers.


“Sun had moved toward a more generalist model, but there are specialized technologies,” Phillips said, referring to Oracle’s new push to hire talented sales professionals with skill sets in storage, server, and other enterprise technologies.


Sun’s server line lives on, four new chips in pipeline


John Fowler, who prior to the acquisition was the head of Sun’s Systems division, was announced by Phillips as Oracle’s new head of hardware engineering. Fowler said that customers can ignore the “lurid press clipping” about the future of UltraSparc servers and the Solaris OS can rest assured that Oracle will be investing heavily in these technologies.


“The engineering people are chomping at the bit,” he said.


“Any talented chip designers out there, please give us a call,” Fowler added.


In addition to increasing the investment in both technologies, Oracle promised customers that they would see new UltraSparc systems that work well with future version of Solaris and with Oracle’s existing software suite. The company also said it is focused on developing x64 enterprise-class clusters and engineering its systems from applications to disk.


Mike Splain, formally a CTO for Sun’s System group, said he is extremely excited about the idea of “engineering innovation across the layers” because previously Sun could only fully optimize its servers at the virtual machine and the operating system level.


He added that Oracle’s commitment to increasing investment and engineering resources in UltraSparc chips is highlighted by the fact that the company now has four new chips in development. The next release, scheduled for later this year, will double the cores, boost the cache, and provide faster memory.


“These are all the things that make database software or Siebel CRM run faster,” he said, adding that Oracle is delivering value by looking at the entire stack and optimizing that way.


The other UltraSparc chips on the way — none of which have been given release dates — will follow a similar pattern, Splain added.


Long time coming for some customers


In the midst of this product update event, a pair of customers took to the stage to express their excitement over what they were hearing out of Oracle’s camp.


David Maitland, the director of corporate services and CIO for the U.S. Atomic Weapons Establishment, said he’s looking forward to the day when something goes wrong with his IT system and he only has to call on one company to get it fixed.


“This integrated stack is something we’ve wanted for years,” he said, adding that the biggest downside to working in enterprise IT is spending the time and energy in getting the whole stack to work together.


Mark Kamlet, senior vice president and provost at Carnegie Mellon University, expressed a similar sentiment, calling Oracle “the first organization to vertically span the entire enterprise stack.”


“The technology stack has gotten pretty complicated for us and it’s an immense hassle to have so many layers with vendors from so many companies trying to get it all to work,” Kamlet said.


“We want things that plug in and work,” he added. 

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