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Oracle-Sun end users warily ponder the future of Sun technologies

With Oracle due to post important fiscal numbers today, end users debate the future of Sun technologies, including Sparc and Solaris.

With Oracle announcing financial results today for its first full quarter with Sun Microsystems, Sun end users are questioning vague roadmaps while still holding out hope that the technology could win out.

Today’s numbers and report will give a better indication of how Sun has fared since Oracle completed its acquisition of Sun in January. It is also the end of Oracle’s fiscal year, and so its end-of-the-year report should have insights on acquisition details. Needless to say, some Sun end users are nervous; others are downright upset. When one heard about Oracle’s recent poor server numbers, he laid into the company.

“Not surprised,” said Bill Bradford, a senior systems administrator at an energy services firm in Houston, who also runs the Sun news and reference site “The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, and their changes in support policy have angered and alienated a lot of customers.”

Figuring out the future of Sun technologies requires a private investigator at times.

A recent Solaris roadmap shows that a new version of Solaris, dubbed “Update 9,” is expected out sometime this year. There is no word yet from Oracle on when that will be. The focus of the update, according to the roadmap, is nothing new: “performance improvements to networking & storage stacks” and “mission-critical reliability and quality” are two typical bullet points. It does mention “new platform support” but offers no more details on that matter.

The roadmap, which is by Harry Foxwell, a principal consultant in Oracle’s Public Sector unit, also mentions the new version of OpenSolaris, dubbed OpenSolaris 2010.03. There is an extensive description of OpenSolaris 2010.03 on the OpenSolaris site, but when it points you to a page to download it, the latest version for download is 2009.06, an update from last year.

The whole situation has Sun end users wondering what is going on and what Oracle’s public face for Solaris and OpenSolaris is.

“They need an obvious, planned, visible strategy,” Bradford said.

Though Sun shops are confused by the lack of direction from Oracle, it isn’t diminishing affection for the technology at most of them. Matthew Leeds, vice president of IT operations at Gracenote, said he and his IT staff have been “strong partisans for a long time” regarding Solaris.

“The threading model is excellent, the tools like DTrace remarkable, the file system (ZFS) offers great flexibility and manageability, and the OS is remarkably stable,” Leeds said.

He said they have systems with uptime of multiple years and had one server that was up for six years without any downtime before Gracenote decommissioned it.

Another big Oracle shop is the Tucson Electric Power Company. Aside from running Sun hardware, the company also runs PeopleSoft and Hyperion software, both of which Oracle now owns. It also runs more than 60 Oracle databases, mainly on big Sparc-based Sun boxes.

Back when there was talk of IBM buying Sun, the IT department at Tucson got nervous.

“Back when Sun was flailing, we all went out and got Red Hat certified,” said Scott Myers, senior systems administrator on the Unix support team.

Once Oracle made the acquisition announcement, Tucson decided to stick with Sun, at least for the time being. Earlier this year, it bought four new Sparc boxes, the M5000s. Myers said the ordering and delivery went smoothly, adding that it even “seemed quicker than it was with Sun.”

“We’re wondering what’s going to happen,” he said – “as most people are.”


Mark Fontecchio can be reached at

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