SearchOracle recently spoke with Bill Bradford, longtime user of Sun (now Oracle) x86 servers and the administrator of SunHELP.org, a hub of Sun software, hardware and reference material. We spoke about the recent Oracle-Dell partnership that will bundle Dell x86 hardware with Oracle software as a single product.
Oracle recently announced a partnership with Dell under which Dell will resell Oracle software and services on Dell servers. Is this a big deal?
Bill Bradford: I wouldn't consider it a 'big' deal. It's more of a way for Oracle to be able to offer their software and services to a market that they don't want to have to be a full-stack provider for hardware, software, etc. They get the kickbacks and profit, while Dell has to deal with the low-end hardware sales and service.
Oracle has not been shy about saying that it doesn't want any part of the commodity server business. Is this further proof of Oracle pulling out of the x86 server market, and what do you think of it?
Bradford: It's definitely evidence that they're trying to shed what bits of the commodity server business they have left. It's obvious that Oracle only wants to sell mid-to-high-end Sparc hardware to run Solaris (and the associated support contracts) and the Oracle software stack.
If you're a 'little guy' or don't need their high-dollar offerings, they'll be glad to farm you out to Dell, HP or anybody else who sells x86 hardware that can run their software stack.
If you look at their website right now, under 'Sparc Servers,' there are ten Sparc servers and three offerings from Fujitsu. Under 'Sun x86 Systems,' there are four rackmount servers and one blade module. No desktops, no low-end systems -- if you don't need rackmount gear for your data center, they don't want your business.
Can you explain your situation? You've been running SunHELP.org for years now and have witnessed the changes in Sun hardware since Oracle bought them. What do you think of it all?
Bradford: I've been running SunHELP.org since 1997. From '97 up until when Sun was acquired by Oracle, I tried to be one of the best third-party sites with news, information and resources on Sun hardware and software. My efforts were well-received (and utilized) by people at Sun itself, and the company donated a T1000 system to use for the site in 2006. They also donated hardware to the University of Toronto to host the Sun Managers mailing list (which I'm an administrator of).
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As soon as the Oracle purchase went through, the overwhelming attitude that came down the pipe was "We're Oracle, we don't have to care." They killed off OpenSolaris, made it so that Solaris (and updates) was no longer free to use if you didn't need a support contract and made a number of other changes that showed they clearly didn't care about the enthusiast market. They seem to have forgotten that a large portion of that market is system administrators who play and work with older gear at home and then encourage purchasing decisions at the office.
In my specific case, I had to move the SunHELP stuff from a colocated server in Austin to a business-class connection at my home in Houston for financial reasons. It didn't take long to decide that the new machine at home would be running Debian Linux, as I was no longer able to obtain OS updates and patches without purchasing an expensive Solaris support contract. It's awkward that SunHELP.org has to run on Linux, but that's just another example of what Oracle has done.
If people running Sun hardware are moving away from Oracle, where are they going? Does it matter?
Bradford: Not only are people moving away from Oracle, they're moving away from open source projects that are owned by Oracle. See the recent news about more than one Linux distribution switching from MySQL to MariaDB due to how Oracle is handling things in general.
I've never seen another company that has shot itself in the foot so badly with their handling of an acquisition and relationships/interactions with the existing customer base. I know of companies who immediately moved away from anything Oracle-related as soon as the acquisition went through, as their prior experiences dealing with the company poisoned future chances of using them as a hardware or operating system vendor.