Oracle Sun Merger Closes

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, the Oracle acquisition of Sun has closed. From MySQL and Java to OpenSolaris, OpenOffice.org and more; it’s difficult to understate the potential impact this will have on the Open Source community. Many people are skeptical of Oracle. This perception, correct or incorrect, may have the ability to negatively impact some of the communities that this acquisition affects. One point that is difficult to argue with is that Oracle is maniacally focused on profitability. That wasn’t always the case with Sun and I’d expect there to be some immediate changes as a result of this. Shortly after the deal closed, Oracle had a five hour webcast discussing Oracle’s plans. As Stephen O’Grady notes, “Between Ellison, Kurian, Phillips and the rest, we got our share of answers yesterday. But as is almost always the case in such situations, there was as much left unsaid as said”. A few tidbits from his very good Q&A:

Q: What’s the big picture of this transaction?
A: What was old is new again? A couple of years back, some of the best and brightest Solaris engineers began blurring the lines between what was hardware and what was software. This skunkworks project was called Fishworks, for Fully Integrated Software and Hardware…works. Basically the project was a storage device that blended features of Solaris (DTrace, ZFS, etc) with some impressive analytics, and an interesting storage hybrid incorporating both disk and flash storage elements. It’s hardware like this, I think, that is the future for Oracle.

Q: How do you figure?
A: As Cote covered in his excellent quick take, Ellison, in planning for the future, is looking to the past. Specifically, IBM’s past. “Our vision for the year of 2010 is the same as IBM’s for 1960,” as he says, meaning that you buy a single machine that has everything you want on it, preintegrated.

Will Oracle still sell you their database if you’re running on, say, Dell servers? Certainly. But will they also be telling you how much faster it runs on their integrated appliance, and how that appliance – through the magic of ZFS and storage pooling – will give you better performance at a lower cost, and real time performance analytics via DTrace? You bet.

Q: Which stated plans are those?
A: In talking to the Journal, Ellison said the following:

“We are not cutting Sun to profitability,” Mr. Ellison said. “We think that this business will be profitable immediately.”

He went on to say, however, that he would be leaving certain non-profitable lines of business:

Mr. Ellison said that Sun will add $1.5 billion to Oracle’s bottom line in the first year, largely because he will get out of “businesses that don’t make money.”

Q: Which businesses are those?
A: Exactly.

Q: Meaning we don’t know?
A: It’s certainly less than obvious. Likely candidates like NetBeans or OpenOffice.org were explicitly mentioned on yesterday’s call, which presumably wouldn’t be the case if the plan was to immediately retire them. No, the Sun Cloud and OpenSolaris were but a few of the obvious product lines that were MIA on Wednesday.

Q: What is Oracle going to do with OpenOffice?
A: Apparently continue to invest in it, and marry it to that which Ellison hates most in a product referred to as “Cloud Office.”

Q: MySQL is getting its own salesforce, though, right?
A: MySQL will maintain an independent sales and development staff, yes, though organizationally it will be grouped with Oracle’s open source GBU. You could argue that this is because MySQL’s more of a competitive threat, that it’s natural given the differing markets served by the products, or that it’s at the behest of the EU. Or all of the above. Either way, it means that MySQL – at least for now – has some room to move.

Q: Back to the operating system question for a second. When the acqusition was announced, you said the following:

The betting here is that Solaris will continue to be supported, but not as a frontline option, with the possible exception of cloud offerings where the quirks of the operating system are rendered invisible by the platform. Think IBM with AIX, HP with HP-UX, and so on: there is ample precedent for the (successful) continuation of two competing product lines, and as Oracle itself acknowledges above, there’s an awful lot of Oracle running on top of Solaris.

You further speculated that some of the Solaris assets might be candidates for relicensing. What do you think now?
A: That that view is wrong. We’ll see, of course, how things play out, but it would certainly appear that Oracle is committed to the Solaris platform indefinitely. Personally, I think that will be difficult to manage over time, but it’s pretty clear that the above guess was off. As some Sun folks were kind of enough to tell me when it was published.

If anything, Oracle advantaged Solaris vs Linux during yesterday’s presentation. When discussing them both, Solaris came first and had bullet points like Secure, Scale, and so on. Linux? It was described as the most “widely used” operating system.

I remain convinced that Oracle will have a tough time maintaining and messaging two competitive products, but given the depth of their appliance ambitions they may see that as a short term problem only.

As you can tell, in the short term there are probably going to be more questions than answers. While it seems MySQL is safe for now, how the developer community reacts to the Oracle ownership of the product remains to be seen. Will people stick with MySQL? Will Percona or MariaDB be the ones to benefit? Or will it be a completely different DB such as PostgreSQL that gains as a result.

While it’s clear that Oracle is going to kill some products, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on exactly what will survive. That uncertainty could be extremely detrimental to some projects. One of the biggest questions for me is what will become of OpenSolaris/Solaris and how that decision will impact Linux support within the company. Sun had a mixed history with Linux, but Oracle has been a big proponent recently. Will they switch gears and go with a product they have more ownership over, or will they stick with Linux which is doing much better in the marketplace.

I have quite a bit of other commentary on this topic, but I’ll attempt to break that into separate posts in the near future as more information becomes available.

Additional Reading:
* Sun & Oracle’s impact on open source acquisitions
* Best of luck to Jonathan, who is stepping down.

–jeremy

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