Users Want Answers on Oracle-Sun Future

They say Oracle executives need to better explain their plans for the merged company.

When Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison hosted a webcast last week to unveil the next generation of his company's Exadata appliance, a label reading "Oracle-Sun" was prominently displayed on the high-end database and storage system.

Analysts said the arrival of the jointly built package shows that engineers at Oracle and Sun Microsystems Inc. have started working together in advance of the closing of Oracle's $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun, now expected in January.

But Ellison and webcast co-host John Fowler, executive vice president of Sun's systems business, only touted the joint engineering effort that created the Exadata Database Machine Version 2. They said nothing about the postmerger plans for the products of either company, keeping users mostly in the dark about the future of Oracle and Sun offerings.

Oracle had hoped the deal would be closed by now, but it was held up earlier this month when the European Commission opened an in-depth investigation in response to what it called "serious concerns" that Oracle's ownership of Sun's MySQL database could blunt competition in the database market.

Oracle did take an unusual step two weeks ago by running advertisements promising to spend more on Solaris software and UltraSparc hardware development than Sun does now. The ads came in the midst of aggressive efforts by Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM to court Sun's customers.

The ads somewhat reassured Richard Newman, president of Reliant Security Inc., which uses Solaris-based systems to deliver data security products and services to retail industry customers. "We're crossing our fingers that what [Oracle] stated in print is in fact going to happen," he said.

He also acknowledged that he has concerns about Oracle's plans for Sun's open-source offerings. "In the open-source community, Oracle doesn't have a particularly friendly reputation," he said.

Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at Insight64 in Saratoga, Calif., called Oracle's ad "a very unequivocal statement of support for the Sun hardware."

However, Brookwood added that he doesn't expect the move to placate Sun's customers. "It's not time to stop biting your nails," he said.

Among the Sun customers most in need of quick answers are resellers, such as PetroSys Solutions Inc., which sells repackaged systems for the government and education markets. "A lot of our clients are nervous," said Irene Griffith, who owns PetroSys. "They want to know what's going to happen."

Sun's sales representatives have been mum on the subject. "They're not talking to us, they're not reaching out to us," Griffith said.

Richard Toeniskoetter, technology director at the W.A. Franke College of Business at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, said he wants to know Oracle's plans for Sun's Virtual Desktop Infrastructure software and its Sun Ray thin clients.

"We are already running a fairly mature VDI model, and we just want to see Oracle recognize that it's a viable platform," Toeniskoetter said, adding that NAU is also interested in Oracle's plans for MySQL.

This version of this story originally ran in Computerworld's print edition. It's an edited version of an article that first appeared on

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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