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Oracle lays out its vision for a Sunny future

Oracle and Sun executives laid out their product plans focused on integrated hardware-software stacks and selling to and servicing large customers.

Hoping that their company will be the reincarnation of the 1960s IBM, Oracle officials laid out their ambitions for the newly combined Oracle-Sun with a focus on providing tightly integrated software-hardware stacks that they hope to directly sell and support.

With this approach, the company hopes to fundamentally change how corporate IT shops will buy, implement and receive support for many of its mission-critical systems.

“We have this notion that vertical integration can deliver huge value to users. It can result in systems that run faster, more reliably and more securely," said Larry Ellison, Oracle’s chairman and CEO. "Our vision going into 2010 is the same as IBM’s in 1960, to deliver seamless systems. That strategy made IBM one of the most successful companies in the history of the planet. We sort of like that model.”

Oracle highlighted the Exadata II Database Machine that Oracle delivered last fall as the shining example of what Oracle and Sun engineers can accomplish together.

Ellison pointed out again today how much faster Exadata II was than any other server on the market, most notably the existing offerings from IBM, the company Ellison is both modeling Oracle-Sun after and the one he most wants to take down.

“It is fascinating to me that IBM, years ago, didn’t come out with a database machine," Ellison said. "They had DB2 and they certainly had the hardware. I think we now have huge advantages over them.”

Some believe Oracle’s integrated stack approach, along with a significant bump in its research and development dollars toward building up key Sun technologies, gives the company a chance to reinvent itself as a latter-day IBM.

“Oracle's 60-plus acquisitions now give it the option to recreate the gold standard 'IBM experience' of the 1960s," said Ray Wang, a partner with Altimeter Group. "With $4.3 billion committed toward R&D for building integrated stacks in industry apps and horizontal apps with middleware, database, operating systems, VM, servers and storage, they can eliminate a lot of waste in integration.”

Integrated Sun-Oracle products should also free users from the time-consuming, expensive task of bringing together all the individual pieces on their own, essentially forcing them to be their own systems integrators, Oracle officials claimed.

“Piecing together all the parts, or hiring integrators to do that, is a hard model to maintain over time," said Charles Phillips, Oracle’s president. "From the database, to middleware to management tools, to the hardware, [users] can now get all that from one company.”

While producing integrated stacks will be a strong focus, Oracle officials said they will also work to ensure best-of-breed products from both the Oracle and Sun sides of the house. The company is financially committed to improving the quality of Sun’s SPARC chip -- delivering souped-up members of that family this year -- and to Solaris, which Ellison said will play a key role in the company’s grid and cloud computing strategies fueling large clusters of servers.

“This doesn’t mean we are getting out of the components business,” Ellison said. “We want to make SPARC the best chip in the world. Being in both the best-of-breed and integrated systems business can give us a unique advantage.”

Given the European Commission’s four-month-long investigation into Oracle’s acquisition of Sun, which centered largely around Oracle’s possession of the open source MySQL database, company officials made a point of outlining their commitment to that product and a couple of other open source products.

Oracle will not only spend more money than Sun did on improving MySQL over the next few years, burnishing it with new features and better performance, but MySQL will serve as an important complement to Solaris, executives claimed.

“We’ll do a better job at improving MySQL than has been done for the past five years," Ellison said. "The goal is to make [MySQL] and Solaris technologically better because we can then make more money for the products and their support.”

MySQL will have its own separate sales force and engineering group, according to Edward Screvin, Oracle’s chief corporate architect, who heads up the company’s open source group. The company will also build “integrations” into MySQL, allowing it to work more productively with other key Oracle software, as well as making it easier to deploy. The company will also take steps to improve its technical support.

OpenOffice in the cloud, Glassfish and WebLogic

Somewhat surprisingly, Oracle said it plans to manage Sun’s open source desktop suite as a separate unit within Sun and plans to deliver a version of the product called Oracle Cloud Office. The product will be aimed at corporate users and will have tight connections with some of Oracle’s business intelligence products.

Oracle said it also has plans for Sun’s open source Web-based applications server, Glassfish. However, it appears that the more strategic product in that space will be Oracle’s WebLogic server, with Glassfish being positioned as a reference product for Java Enterprise Edition 6, according to Thomas Kurian, who oversees Oracle’s middleware and application products.

Oracle plans to support both Oracle and Sun users through its MyOracle Support portal, which will be operational in the next couple of months. The company’s goal is to have a single point of contact for support customers, particularly for those customers with both Oracle and Sun products in their shop.

Company officials said they have plans for integrating a number of Oracle and Sun tools, particularly diagnostic tools, which can better collect users' configuration information that can not only fix problems but predict them.

As part of its shift toward dealing more directly with customers, Oracle will take over Sun’s top 4,000 customers, selling them products and services through its direct sales force, Ellison said.

“We want to ensure that those users get a good return on their investment,” he said, “so we will use our technologies not just to build products for them but to deliver it to them as well.”

Ellison added that for all other Sun customers below the top 4,000, Oracle would still rely on Oracle and Sun reseller networks to be the main point of contact.

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