Users: Oracle has lots of questions to answer about Sun deal

Oracle Corp.'s planned acquisition of Sun Microsystems Inc. is raising questions among users on, well, just about every aspect of the deal.

What will happen, for instance to Java, OpenOffice, the MySQL database and Sun's hardware support after Oracle completes its $7.4 billion purchase? And what sort of new systems might emerge from the pairing of Oracle and Sun?

There really aren't any answers yet. In a brief conference call Monday morning, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison outlined some of the reasons for the move, praised a few of Sun's technologies, notably Java and the Solaris operating system - and largely left it at that. Ellison and other Oracle executives didn't take any questions, leaving plenty to be answered.

If you're running Solaris on Sparc-based systems, an immediate issue is the pending acquisition's affect on customer support. That's the case for Alfonso Rivera, manager of network engineering at Embarq Corp., a telecommunications and Internet services provider in Winter Park, Fla.

Sun's hardware is generally more expensive than that of its competitors, Rivera said via e-mail. But, he added, the differentiators working in the vendor's favor are a more stable operating system, more reliable hardware and "outstanding service and support practices." Those factors "more than offset the premium in hardware costs," Rivera said.

Now, Rivera said, he's concerned that Oracle will "undermine the Sun culture and negatively impact Sun's commitment to provide best-of-class service and support." If that happens, he wrote, "there will no longer be justification to pay the premium costs for their hardware."

Alex Wingeier, chief technical officer at CLR Choice Inc., a Palm Coast, Fla.-based company that has developed a real-estate search engine, thinks Java has a measure of protection because many other large vendors use the open-source technology as well. And Oracle itself has a vested interest in Java; during Monday's conference call, Ellison described Oracle's Java-based Fusion Middleware as the fastest-growing part of the vendor's business.

But Wingeier said that in discussing the planned acquisition with other members of CLR Choice's IT team, "we were not really keen on the fact that Oracle is buying Java, MySQL and OpenOffice, as we worry that they quite possibly could stop internal development on either one."

Not everyone is asking questions about the deal. Susan Walker, manager of enterprise computing services at St. Luke's Episcopal Health System in Houston, believes that an acquisition of Sun by Oracle will increase the competiton in the enterprise IT market.

"Not only does it give new life to Sun, but Oracle plus Sun will prove to be interesting for the IT industry as it will create some real competition for IBM," said Walker, who added that she didn't have a good feeling about the prospect of IBM owning Sun. The latter two companies reportedly discussed an acquisition, but their talks broke down two weeks ago.

On the other hand, William Patterson, IT director at Nucor Steel Tuscaloosa Inc. in Alabama, said he has questions about the future of some of Sun's technologies, such as MySQL, under Oracle. He would have preferred to have seen IBM buy Sun.

"IBM would probably be a better caretaker of Sun's software [intellectual property], and the combination of IBM's and Sun's hardware IP would have definitely have made more sense," Patterson said.

Barry Zhang, a supervisor of systems development at FCCI Insurance Group in Sarasota, Fla., said he wants to know more about Oracle's "true motivations" behind the acquisition and the products that may be developed as a result of it.

Ellison said he envisions the development of out-of-the-box systems for vertical industries. Does that mean, Zhang asked, that Oracle is going to start building machines along the lines of IBM's System i, which combines an operating system with an integrated DB2 database? And what other steps will Oracle take in regards to Sun's hardware? The buyout deal is raising "many questions," Zhang said.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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