Ellison and McNealy stage OpenWorld lovefest

Kicking off OpenWorld 2009, Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy said Oracle-Sun will emerge as stronger competitors to IBM, Microsoft.

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Hoping to build confidence about the impending union of their companies, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Sun co-founder Scott McNealy each heaped lavish praise on the other, saying the combined company will emerge a stronger competitor to both IBM and Microsoft.

Speaking before several thousand attendees at Oracle's annual OpenWorld conference, Ellison reiterated his commitment to Sun's hardware and open source software businesses. He promised to invest even more heavily in Sun's SPARC, Solaris and MySQL products than its current owner.

"First, we are not selling any part of [Sun's] hardware business. SPARC is a fantastic technology," Ellison said. "In fact, I think we can accelerate innovation and make the chip even faster and more power efficient."

McNealy said he felt comfortable with Ellison's assurances that Oracle would continue to build on the innovations Sun established with SPARC and other Sun hardware. It is a legacy that came across as personally important to him a number of times in his words last night.

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Listen to what Ellison has to say about his commitment to hardware

"Will this innovation with SPARC continue after Oracle takes over? We have over 216,000 SPARC servers out there; it has been a major, major effort for us," McNealy said. "We asked Larry about this -- he said he will spend more money on SPARC than Sun, and so we are taking this as a very good sign."

Ellison made an earnest attempt to dispel doubt expressed by some observers about Oracle's commitment to Sun's popular open source database, MySQL, pointing to examples of sustained support for other open source technologies Oracle has acquired, such as SleepyCat.

"We have made big investments in SleepyCat, and when this merger goes through -- and it will go through -- we will spend more on MySQL than before and make some money on it along the way," Ellison said.

McNealy said he believes Ellison will make good on his promise to help bring MySQL greater success. He said the open source database is a natural competitor to a common enemy of both companies -- namely Microsoft -- and represents no threat to Oracle's flagship database, so Ellison has every reason to want it to prosper.

"MySQL is the leading open source, low-end database. Do I think it is going to get clobbered out there? I don't think so," McNealy said.

Mentioning the inspiration he has derived from his friend and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, Ellison said he believes Oracle now has an advantage to press against some major competitors in being able to control the integration of both hardware and software. Like Apple, Oracle now competes against many competitors that offer only hardware or software, and rarely both.

"When you think about what Apple does, they attack hardware and software problems at the same time. There is a major advantage in a single company engineering both the hardware and software," Ellison said.

Ellison couldn't resist more jousting with his new hardware archrival IBM, again bringing up the benchmark battles the two companies have been engaging in the past month comparing the performance of Sun's SPARC-powered servers with IBM's in online transaction processing. Test results, which will be officially released this week, show that Sun's servers had a response times 16 times faster and could process 25% more transactions, even though Sun used many fewer servers than IBM. This seemed to embolden Ellison to issue an industry challenge.

"We will challenge any major company to take one of their database applications now running, and if we can't run that app at least twice as fast on Sun gear -- we'll give them $10 million dollars. And by the way, IBM, you are invited," Ellison said.

Stepping back up to the microphone, McNealy quickly added, "I think Larry is going to like his new toy," he said, referring to Ellison's newfound line of hardware technologies.

A number of times during the 90-minute conference kickoff last night McNealy, whose official role in the new company remains unclear, grew reflective remarking that he hoped Ellison and his team would protect the legacy he and Sun had worked to achieve over the past two decades.

"I am counting on Larry to take care of a very important legacy of mine," McNealy said, referring to Sun's technical achievements. "We appreciate everything you have done and will do."

But McNealy quickly reverted to being the first-class high-tech comedian he has been for much of his career, finishing with, "I hope you all enjoy OpenWorld, and remember: The drinks are all on Larry."

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