Earlier this week, Oracle announced that it reached an agreement to acquire Sun Microsystems for $7.4 billion. The deal will give the software giant ownership of Sun's Java franchise, the Solaris operating system, a raft of open source products and technologies (including the best-selling MySQL database), and ownership of the fourth-largest installed base of servers.
SearchOracle.com site editor Ed Scannell and assistant site editor Shayna Garlick talked with Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) president Ian Abramson about the IOUG's take on the deal, how it will affect the Oracle user community, and what changes we might expect Oracle to make with Java, MySQL and Oracle jumping headlong into the hardware business.
SearchOracle.com: Will the IOUG endorse the Sun acquisition?
Ian Abramson: The User Group is excited because it is a technology acquisition for Oracle. For instance, I think it will be interesting to see how MySQL and the [open source] community itself integrate and what Oracle ultimately does with MySQL. I think it makes a lot of sense for Oracle because it is a complementary acquisition for them.
SearchOracle.com: It was funny that Oracle didn't bring up MySQL during yesterday's press conference.
Abramson: They did make a statement in their FAQ section saying that they will continue with MySQL, just like the other open source databases that they have acquired. Ultimately, I don't think they know today what they are going to do with MySQL, but I expect they will have to do something with it.
SearchOracle.com: How significant is it that Oracle is coming into possession of Java?
Abramson: I think Java is pretty exciting. Oracle obviously has made a significant investment in Java for their whole application layer and integration layer. This is their focus. I think they must have realized how important Java is when the IBM talks were going on. They realized that potentially they could lose control of their entire development environment. So this became an opportunity for them to be the gatekeepers of Java moving forward, which will be beneficial to them. In the user community, we are just happy that Java will continue to be enhanced. We hope Oracle will keep it as open as possible.
SearchOracle.com: Well how could they not keep it open? It is like oxygen now to developers; it is everywhere. You can't mess with a technical standard of this magnitude without causing major disruption across the larger development community, right?
Abramson: No they won't try to yank the standard their way, but will there be an Oracle-enhanced version of Java? They could – as they did with Linux – repackage and repurpose it under their own name and leave the industry-standard version alone.
SearchOracle.com: At the press conference, Ellison said that by gaining more control over Java, Oracle could do a better development job. What could Oracle do better with Java that it couldn't do before?
Abramson: Maybe it is the idea that now they can Oracle-ize Java, which would be beneficial to the Oracle community. I think ultimately it would propagate into the end product. It could be just like Red Hat Enterprise Linux vs. the free version of Linux.
SearchOracle.com: Do you have any plans to add more speakers at the upcoming Collaborate 09 conference, to talk about the Sun acquisition?
Abramson: We haven't yet; this all just happened. What I expect is that some of our SIGs [special interest groups] will pick this up immediately. Our Best Practices SIG, for instance, will use this as a discussion point within our special interest group. I think there will be a lot of interaction and discussion regardless of whether there is going to be any formal content. We can't do a lot of formal content because we don't know ultimately what this will all come to. The user group will support Oracle as this goes forward with webcasts and roadmaps, which we tend to provide to our user community.
SearchOracle.com: As the Oracle and Sun user environments inevitably grow closer, are there any user concerns about how maintenance and support will be handled?
Abramson: I think ultimately that the user community is hoping that the consolidation of all these different support organizations, and Oracle's ability to support a complete technology stack, will lower maintenance costs. I think efficiencies that Oracle can drive internally will drive those efficiencies out to the clients. I think maintenance fees are always a challenge for all organizations, but to me it is like buying insurance. I buy it, and I hope I never have to use it.
SearchOracle.com: Will this deal spur more interest on the part of Oracle to deliver more appliance products, like Exadata, as a way to simplify support issues and lower costs?
Abramson: Definitely; you see Oracle moving toward that. Yesterday, they talked about how they can now deploy an entire applications stack with a database and applications on a Solaris platform that is customizable by industry. That is a pretty interesting concept. I think there are some benefits to that paradigm. Ultimately, what you are saving is not so much in support costs, although a single support interface and the ability for Oracle to understand a configuration they themselves have provided will offer better, simpler support. But I don't think it is that different from what exists today. If I pick an Oracle-approved configuration for applications, they are going to support me the same way whether or not it is going to be on Solaris. I think what they can do with Solaris is tweak it to get the extra performance that only Sun people could exploit.
SearchOracle.com: The whole hardware piece of this deal is a gray area. What's Oracle's experience in competing in a volume, low-margin hardware business involving resellers? Will HP step back in and be Oracle's partner on all matters hardware?
Abramson: I thought that was a real option. Oracle has always had a good relationship with HP, which has been looking for ways to ensure that it can continue to have a certain amount of growth. It is very conceivable that Oracle will sell off its hardware component to an HP and/or work with them in a real tight partnership to continue what they have been doing. HP is very good at providing hardware and has all the infrastructure in place. Sun has all that too, so it is a question of how involved in hardware Oracle wants to become. You are right they don't have a background in the hardware arena. Hopefully, a guy like Scott McNealy can be a good advisor to him [Oracle CEO Larry Ellison] because he has been doing it for years, and you know there is some trust between those two guys. I only wonder how Scott will feel about working for Larry after a while.