The New Oracle Threat

Continuing its long-running campaign to acquire other technology companies, Oracle recently announced the surprising acquisition of Sun Microsystems. Unlike the aborted IBM-Sun merger, the pending Sun acquisition makes a lot of sense. Oracle has been a major leader in the technology marketplace, and the Sun acquisition strengthens Oracle in a number of fundamental ways. Notably, the addition of Sun puts Oracle in the hardware business for the first time.

What Sun Brings to Oracle

Oracle will now have technology that covers the entire breadth of IT technology including:

  • Hardware—Oracle now has both Sun’s SPARC server line and Sun’s well received x64 line of servers; plus it now has Sun’s Unified Storage System and their StorageTek tape libraries.
  • Operating systems—Oracle has offered their Red Hat-based Oracle Enterprise Linux OS for some time. Now, they will also have Sun’s Solaris OS.
  • Database—After all, what is Oracle best known for? Oracle 11g and the Oracle Real Application Cluster (RAC) are the core of Oracle’s business. The Sun purchase adds the open source MySQL database.
  • Language—Apart from PL/SQL Oracle’s SQL variant Oracle has never been in the language business. Sun brings Oracle the popular Java language to add to their product suite, along with Sun’s NetBeans IDE. Java might very well be Sun’s most important asset.
  • Enterprise Application Software—Oracle’s previous acquisitions such as PeopleSoft, Siebel, and JD Edwards helped put the company on the map in this space. In spite of Java, Sun has never been in the enterprise application software market.
  • Office applications—Oracle didn’t have a presence here before. Sun’s multi-platform StarOffice is one of the primary competitors to Microsoft’s ubiquitous Office Suite.
  • Virtualization—Although its adoption is small, Oracle has its own Xen-based Oracle VM virtualization platform. Now Oracle will have Sun’s promising VirtualBox virtualization software.

The Oracle vs. Microsoft Competition

So what does the Oracle Sun acquisition mean to Microsoft and SQL Server IT professionals? Much of it depends on how Oracle uses their new acquisition. One thing seems certain: The Sun acquisition will completely polarize Oracle and Microsoft. They have been competitors since Microsoft acquired SQL Server from Sybase, but this move will put the majority of non-Microsoft IT technologies in Oracle’s software portfolio. The Oracle camp will provide Oracle databases, Java, and Linux. At the other end of the spectrum, Microsoft will back Windows, SQL Server, and the .NET Framework. Businesses will tend to fall into either one camp or the other.

The acquisition of Sun will make Oracle even more formidable because it will be able to offer an end-to-end solution that should appeal to enterprises. Oracle can now deliver a turnkey hardware, OS, database, and development solution. While I doubt this will influence existing SQL Server customers it definitely will enable Oracle to be very competitive for organizations seeking new solutions or looking to upgrade at the enterprise level.

What Will Happen to MySQL?

The addition of MySQL and StarOffice could enable Oracle to be formidable at the low end as well. Although the pesky MySQL database does compete with other Oracle offerings and SQL Server at the low end of the market, I don’t think Oracle will pull the plug on MySQL. Oracle doesn’t often kill off the technologies it buys, and MySQL’s widespread adoption by ISPs should ensure its continuity—even if it does compete with Oracle’s flagship database. SQL Server’s lead in usability, business intelligence (BI), and pricing should allow it to continue to gain market share. However, the combination of Oracle and Sun will make Oracle an even tougher competitor—especially at the high end of the market.

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