eWEEK Labs on Sun-Oracle: More Synergy Than Overlap in Product Lines

After IBM's failed bid for Sun Microsystems, Oracle is swooping in to pick up Sun. eWEEK Labs looked at Oracle's and Sun's product lines and found more synergy than overlap--much more synergy than with an IBM-Sun matchup. Oracle will get a boost in the hardware, virtualization and operating system categories. What will happen to MySQL under Oracle is a little bit more difficult to guess.

On April 20, weeks of speculation over a possible IBM-Sun Microsystems merger came to an end when Sun executives announced that it would indeed be acquired-by Oracle.

As with the rumored IBM-Sun deal, the pending Sun and Oracle matchup will have a major impact on enterprise IT: Overlapping product lines will collide, and complementary technologies will combine into new, more integrated offerings.

eWEEK Labs examined the products of the two technology titans and found that there does appear to be more synergy than overlap-particularly when compared to the lineups of Sun and IBM, which overlap significantly, especially on the hardware side of the house.

Following close behind Cisco, which recently announced its plans to enter the server hardware market, Oracle will gain with Sun a server hardware business of its own, with offerings to cover a full range of high- to low-end server products. This server lineup, combined with Sun's innovative open storage systems, will enable Oracle not only to reach further up the enterprise application stack-as it has done with its pickups of PeopleSoft, Siebel and BEA-but also to reach down the stack to the hardware on which its own products run.

What's more, Oracle's acquisition of Sun will net the database giant a cloud computing presence, based on Sun's recently announced Sun Cloud service.

Concerning the virtualization technologies that drive cloud computing-and, to a growing extent, traditional data center-based computing--Oracle and Sun have separate products: Oracle VM and xVM Server, respectively. However, the fact that both of these offerings are based on the same Xen hypervisor engine should make it easier for Oracle to integrate these holdings.

In addition, the virtualization product pieces from Sun and Oracle appear to complement each other. Oracle VM is a shipping product, while Sun's xVM Server remains in beta mode. On the other hand, Sun's virtualization management framework, xVM Ops Center, is now available in its second version, and promises to fill management gaps in Oracle's virtualization offering.

Unbreakable Solaris

During the past few years, Oracle has extended its reach into the operating systems space by cloning Red Hat Enterprise Linux and selling it as a platform-primarily for hosting Oracle's own enterprise application stack with one-stop support shopping. By acquiring Sun, Oracle will expand significantly its footprint in the operating system space by taking on Sun's Solaris.

Solaris should fit well as part of Oracle, since Sun's OS is already a very prominent platform for running Oracle's database and other software platform pieces. Oracle has indicated that it intends to continue offering its Linux host as an option, which makes sense if for no other reason than to maintain pressure on Red Hat and avoid ceding Linux-based business to IBM.

After completing an acquisition of Sun, Oracle will be in the position, if it chooses, of adjusting Solaris licensing to allow mixing between the Solaris and Linux code bases-a move that I speculated IBM might take following a Sun deal.

Such a code-unifying move seemed to fit with IBM's previous open-source advocacy, but it's unclear to me whether Oracle has the same motivations. While Oracle participates in a number of open-source projects, mostly pertaining to Linux, the company's stance on open source is much more muted than Sun's "open source or bust" stance. Oracle's statements around the acquisition are thick with the word "open," but just how Oracle plans to define "open" moving forward remains to be seen.

In any case, a large portion of Sun's portfolio is already available as open-source software, including elements as diverse as the Java platform, the OpenOffice.org productivity suite and--perhaps most dramatically--Sun's MySQL database product. Part of MySQL's reason for being centers on snatching share from Oracle's costlier database product, so it will be very interesting to see how Oracle deals with MySQL once it joins Oracle's stable. For now, as with Oracle's Linux product, the company says that MySQL will be an addition to Oracle's existing database product suite.

eWEEK Labs Executive Editor Jason Brooks can be reached at [email protected]