Software. Hardware. Complete.
By David A. Kelly
Oracle finalizes the acquisition of Sun, heralding a new beginning.
The completion of Oracle’s acquisition of Sun in January 2010 was big news for Sun customers, but it’s also big news for Oracle customers and enterprises in general. The combined assets of the two companies offer organizations an unsurpassed breadth of products from disk and storage systems to servers, database, middleware, applications, and management tools. The combination of Oracle’s enterprise software with Sun’s software, hardware, and storage systems provides a complete stack that can be integrated into solutions that are optimized for higher performance, improved reliability, and enhanced security. (See the “ Delivering a Complete Technology Stack ” sidebar for more information.)
“Having a complete stack is something that we’ve wanted for years,” says David Maitland, CIO and director of corporate services at Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE). “The combination of Oracle and Sun products now provides us a top-to-bottom, integrated, open-infrastructure stack.”
Based in the U.K., AWE is a government-owned, contractor-operated establishment charged with providing and maintaining warheads for the country’s nuclear deterrent. AWE’s employees conduct advanced scientific research and manage advanced design and production facilities.
“Over the years, we’ve needed to adopt a systems integration role. We have to spend a lot of money and a lot of time trying to get whole stacks of technology infrastructure to work together,” says Maitland. “We really look forward to Oracle being our single port of call for future consultation. That will help us to substantially reduce our costs.”
Maitland is pleased that the Sun product line will continue to be supported and improved. “Technologies like Sun’s file systems are particularly close to our hearts because of our high-performance supercomputing needs,” he says. “We feel particularly satisfied with Oracle’s demonstrated commitment to maintaining these technologies going forward. We feel very comfortable now that they’ve found a good home.”
Robert Shimp, group vice president of sales support and marketing at Oracle, says that maintaining high service levels is important. “We are dedicated to delivering without interruption the quality of support and service that our customers have come to expect from Oracle and Sun, and more,” he says. “Software and hardware performance and reliability will be unmatched. And our open standards-based technology will give customers choice.”
The acquisition not only expands Oracle’s range of products to include servers and storage solutions; Oracle also has announced increased investment in Oracle’s Sun technologies. The addition of the Sun product line—as well as the increased R&D investment— will bring improvements to each best-of-breed component as well as to the entire Oracle stack.
“In the software group, we’re focusing on exploiting trends in processors, system design, storage, and networking to deliver fundamental breakthrough innovations combining Oracle software and Sun hardware—and breakthrough improvements in performance, scalability, reliability, and security,” says Thomas Kurian, executive vice president of product development at Oracle.
John Fowler, executive vice president of systems at Oracle, agrees that the acquisition will mean huge improvements in the two companies’ product lines.
“Thousands of engineers at Sun have been building mission-critical enterprise infrastructure—from the core technologies of microprocessors to system servers, storage, and networking,” Fowler says. “Now we’ll be joining that with the community of thousands of developers at Oracle who work on the world’s #1 enterprise software solutions. Together, we’ll be able to build vastly better best-of-breed components as well as a completely integrated stack.”
One way that the integrated stack can benefit customers is by simplifying product integration. Jean S. Bozman, research vice president for IDC’s Enterprise Platforms Group, says that companies are focusing on how their IT projects can be done most cost effectively, given concerns about IT-related operational expenditures.
“New projects typically require hardware and software integration at the customer site,” she says. “The idea that Oracle’s and Sun’s engineers could work directly together within the company to do a lot of that system integration work—getting this work done more simply, more quickly, and getting new projects to the deployment stage more rapidly than they would have in the past—would be very, very attractive to customers.”
Ensuring the value of existing investments, managing risk, and reducing complexity have been key concerns for Mark Kamlet, executive vice president and provost at Carnegie Mellon University. Oracle’s acquisition of Sun mitigates these key concerns in three primary ways.
First, Carnegie Mellon already runs both Oracle and Sun technologies, relying on these products for everything from the underlying hardware to middleware and Java software programs. The continuing availability of Sun products protects Carnegie Mellon’s IT investment. “It’s very pleasing to know that the Sun systems we rely on will continue to be available and will continue to get even better,” says Kamlet. “The acquisition protects a very important investment for us.”
Second, Kamlet also believes that the acquisition will simplify technology coordination and integration and make support and troubleshooting significantly easier.
“Oracle is now the first organization that vertically spans the entire technology stack,” he says. “And that gives Oracle the potential for coordinating and optimizing across the different layers of the stack. This infrastructure is something that has stupendous potential, and as customers we’d be the beneficiaries of those enhancements.”
Third, combining the Oracle and Sun product lines lowers risk for Carnegie Mellon.
“The technology stack has become very complicated, and there are growing issues about the risk of change management. In addition, trying to get so many layers of technology working correctly with products from so many companies is an immense hassle,” says Kamlet. “We want integrated solutions. We want appliances. We want things that we can plug in and that work. With the Sun acquisition, Oracle will be providing them, and we’ll be the beneficiaries.”
Providing unmatched performance, scalability, and reliability will continue to be Oracle’s key goals.
“We’ll be engineering Oracle and Sun products to provide fundamental improvements in reliability,” says Oracle’s Kurian. “We also will be providing the lowest cost of ownership to customers, both through automated management as well as simplified support for our customers across products.”
Engineering a Solution
At its heart, Qualcomm—which designs and supplies a wide range of electronics that enable mobile computing and digital products—is an engineering company. Consequently, Sun’s engineering-oriented solutions have played an important role in Qualcomm’s success.
“We rely on Oracle to run our business, but we have relied even more on Sun to run our engineering applications,” says Norm Fjeldheim, senior vice president and CIO at Qualcomm. “The engineering tools that we use to create our products run on Sun hardware and software, and that’s an important part of our business. We’ve been longtime Sun customers, going back to 1992, and it’s been a great partnership over the years.”
For Fjeldheim, Oracle’s acquisition of Sun is a like a safe harbor for his technology infrastructure.
Just as important is the investment that Oracle has committed to key Sun technologies.
“I’m really excited to see additional R&D investment on the Sun hardware and storage side platforms,” says Fjeldheim. “That level of R&D spending is good news for Sun customers.”
As part of the acquisition, Oracle also takes over the management of Java, an object-oriented, multithreaded, platform-independent environment for application development and deployment. Java is used in a wide variety of computing platforms—from embedded devices and mobile phones to enterprise servers—and is the foundation for Web and networked services, applications, and platform-independent desktops. More than 2.1 billion mobile devices powered by Java are in use, as well as 2.5 billion Java cards and 800 million Java desktops.
“Java is one of the crown jewels that is coming to Oracle as part of this acquisition,” says Oracle’s Kurian. “Java is, by far, the most popular programming language in enterprises, with close to 10 million developers in the world building applications with it. We’ll enhance and extend the reach of the Java programming model to support the emerging application development paradigm.”
In addition, Oracle plans to integrate and simplify the runtime platform for Java while optimizing it for both existing and emerging deployment architectures. Oracle also plans to invest in and revitalize the Java developer community both by offering best-of-breed Java technology and by making the Java community process more participatory to people from a variety of different organizations.
Sun has long been known for industry-leading, standards-based computer systems, software, and storage. And Oracle has been well-known for its high-performance databases, middleware, and applications. Now organizations will be able to leverage the core strengths of both companies through a new, integrated enterprise software and hardware stack that both reduces complexity and increases agility.
“By acquiring Sun, Oracle will be able to provide an integrated hardware and software solution, in which all the components of the technology stack are optimized to work well together,” says Qualcomm’s Fjeldheim. “This optimization will enable Oracle solutions to perform faster and more reliably. Oracle and Sun will be able to do that better together than separately.”
David A. Kelly ( email@example.com) is a business, technology, and travel writer who lives in West Newton, Massachusetts.