Key to Oracle-Sun Deal: Storage, DB Hardware

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2009-04-20 Print this article Print

UPDATED: The good news for Oracle is that it gets immediate new revenue streams. The good news for Sun Microsystems is that most of its hardware people will be needed to maintain those businesses; the bad news is that many software projects will be discontinued and released back into the open-source community. Depending upon how Oracle handles it, MySQL could be a minor player inside the company, or it could be set adrift.

The $7 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems emanating from IBM on the other side of the continent was supposed to have happened back on April 6. But some thorny legal issues apparently got in the way, and it was not meant to be.

Two weeks later, and for a mere dime more per share, Oracle -- located a few minutes up the Bayshore Freeway from Sun -- came from out of the shadows to announce April 20 that it was acquiring the slumping company for $9.50 per share in a cash deal totaling about $7.4 billion.

The keys to this deal are pretty simple:

1) Enterprise software giant Oracle has decided it wants to get into the storage and database hardware business, where there is plenty of room for growth, and it believes Sun is the right horse to ride at this time.

2) Sun has deep and prosperous relationships with customers in the high-performance computing, telecommunications and government sectors that Oracle can now mine for more business.

3) The price was right. Oracle won't have to finance much, if anything. The transaction actually nets out to about $5.6 billion after Sun's liquid assets (an estimated $1.8 billion) are taken into consideration; Oracle has $8.2 billion of its own in cash and cash equivalents.

Speaking of financing, eWEEK had exclusively reported on March 24 that Oracle had considered an offer, in conjunction with Hewlett-Packard, to acquire Sun late in 2008. But Sun at the time still had IBM interested and turned down the proposal; Oracle was, in fact, Sun's fallback plan when the IBM deal blew up.

There's one more key to the deal: Oracle founder and CEO Larry Ellison will finally have his own operating system in Solaris and OpenSolaris. When this deal is completed sometime this summer, he'll be able to kiss Microsoft and Red Hat goodbye to an extent -- and not have to pay the substantial operating system "tax" he's been paying for years.

The good news for Sun is that most of its hardware people will be needed to maintain the server and StorageTek storage businesses; the bad news is that many of its prized software projects will be discontinued and released back into the open-source community.

Sun Will Soon Be Out of Hot Water

Sun is in a deep tub of hot water financially, having lost tens of billions of dollars during the last eight years since the x86 server revolution began murdering its very high-margin Solaris server business. The company, which had laid off tens of thousands of workers over the last four years, was in a serious red zone of becoming bankrupt -- perhaps as early as next year.

This acquisition by financially sound Oracle not only saves Sun from insolvency, but it also keeps a big number of large enterprise customers out of a serious IT quandary, should Sun's services suddenly have gone dark.

"Oracle now will be able to provide database servers and storage systems, which will be additional revenue streams for them," Forrester analyst John Rymer told eWEEK.

"As far as Sun's software goes, doesn't sound like they're [Oracle] expecting anything particular to come from that. [Oracle CEO] Charles Phillips talked about how great it will be to have control over Java, because we all rely on it so heavily -- not because it's going to produce big new revenue streams."

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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