When Oracle was going through legal contortions with the European Commission over its pending acquisition of Sun Microsystems in 2009, co-founder and CEO Larry Ellison was asked on several occasions what Oracle was planning to do with Sun's many hardware businesses.
The questions referred to Sun's divisions that designed, but didn't necessarily build, servers, storage arrays, workstations, thin-client terminals, digital tape libraries, processors, networking (yes, Sun made a networking switch) and several other types of IT.
Would Oracle, which has produced only a modicum of hardware in its 33-year history, continue to invest in all those businesses-some of which were leaking red ink?
"I know a lot of people wonder why a highly successful software company like Oracle wants to buy Sun, with all of its lower-margin hardware businesses," Ellison said at a Churchill Club dinner in San Jose, Calif., in September.
"Well, they're good businesses. Sun has always had some of the world's best IT, in software and hardware. There are a lot of very smart people working at Sun. However, they didn't always execute optimally, as we know.
"Oracle's stuff [such as middleware, applications and application development tools] all runs on Java. Sun is Java. All of Sun's products and Oracle's products work together very well, and we've benchmarked some of the fastest performances in the world for big enterprise applications running on Java, SPARC chips, Solaris, Oracle databases. It's a no-brainer," Ellison said.
Four months after the Oracle-Sun merger was completed in January, Ellison has kept his word. Oracle is investing in the Sun businesses, hiring a group of additional engineers and swiftly moving into rarified air by becoming an all-purpose IT systems hardware, software and services supplier alongside IBM and Hewlett-Packard.
In fact, Ellison's argument is that Oracle-plus-Sun offers a more complete menu of data center items than either IBM or HP. But that is a topic for another day.
For now, we will focus on the Oracle storage road map. Not much has been written, if anything, about what Oracle's plans are for the Sun StorageTek division in the immediate future.
"Storage is a very important business for Oracle, going forward," Ellison said in September. "StorageTek has built a great reputation for years in its [digital tape] market, and we intend to continue to invest in that part of the business. A lot of people are still using tape every day, and they have to be served. Sun has all those super-fast arrays. There is never going to be a shortage of content to store."
Oracle also intends to invest a great deal in the development of NAND flash-based storage.
"Flash will turn the storage industry upside down because everything is designed for disks," former Sun hardware chief and current Oracle Vice President John Fowler said back on Jan. 27.