Oracle to Invest in Sun Hardware

Oracle will accelerate the investment in Sun's SPARC and Solaris server and storage hardware, making it the foundation upon which to build the company's tightly integrated technology stacks. During an event outlining the new road map for Sun products, Oracle officials said the company has plans for the next four generations of UltraSPARC processors, will invest in enhancing Solaris and will expand Sun's T and M Series server lines.

Oracle is planning to accelerate investments in Sun Microsystems' SPARC and Solaris hardware business, both in innovating and selling the platform, according to executives of the now-unified company.

Speaking during Oracle's 5-hour presentation outlining how the company will use Sun's product portfolio, Oracle President Charles Phillips and John Fowler, executive vice president of hardware engineering and a former Sun executive, said servers and storage devices acquired from Sun will form a foundation of Oracle's plans to offer businesses a more tightly integrated and highly optimized set of solutions to improve the performance of their applications.

"You will see a constant message coming from us going forward, and that is we will give application performance leadership, because that is what the customer sees," Fowler said at Oracle's Redwood Shores, Calif., headquarters during the event, which also was shown on Webcast.

The presentation was made only hours after Oracle announced that it had completed its $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun. The deal was finalized after European regulators approved the deal earlier in January after a five-month review addressing antitrust concerns over Oracle acquiring Sun's MySQL database technology.

Phillips said Oracle's goal is to create tightly integrated solutions that would bring back the reliability found in IBM computers in the 1960s, but that are based on open standards. With Sun in the fold, the company can now do that, he said. Where Oracle once had offerings solely in the database, applications and middleware arenas, the company now has added servers, storage technology, operating systems and virtualization capabilities, Phillips said.

Having all those layers in a single company, being worked on by thousands of engineers with the same goal, is something that no rivals can offer, he said.

"No other company can claim they are in the complete systems business," Phillips said. "This is part of our differentiation."

When Oracle announced in 2009 it was buying Sun, much of the speculation centered around the future of Sun's hardware business, which was struggling to compete with those of IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Dell. Throughout the months leading up to the closing of the deal, CEO Larry Ellison and other executives said they intended to keep the hardware business, invest more in it than Sun could, and challenge HP and IBM in the high end of the server space.

That is still the plan, Fowler said. The goal is to enhance the Solaris operating system in such areas as scalability to support thousands of threads of instructions and tens of terabytes of memory, he said.

Oracle, which is keeping the Sun brand on the hardware systems, also will continue to improve Sun's M Series of systems-based on Fujitsu's SPARC64 chip technology-and T Series, which are powered by Sun's own UltraSPARC processors.

"We are investing heavily in this area," Fowler said.

In the x86 server space, Oracle will look to create solutions that enterprises will buy in clusters, he said.

Mike Splain, Sun senior vice president of microelectronics, said engineers from both companies will be working on all aspects of the solutions-from the chips and applications to the middleware and database-to enhance how Oracle applications, such as its RAC (Real Application Clusters), run on Sun systems.

Splain also pointed to road maps laid out for the UltraSPARC and SPARC64 chips. Sun in 2008 introduced the Enterprise T5440 server based on the UltraSPARC T2 processor.

Now Oracle later in 2010 is planning to release the UltraSPARC T3, which will offer more processing cores, a larger cache and faster memory, all of which will enable database and other applications to run faster on the servers, he said. There also are three other generations that are being planned, proof of Oracle's commitment to aggressively investing in the SPARC and Solaris systems, Splain said.

He also said there are upcoming generations of SPARC64 being worked on with Fujitsu.

Such investment will be needed in the competitive Unix space. IBM in the first half of this year is preparing to launch its Power7 processor, which company officials say will offer two to three times the performance of the current Power6 chips while staying within the same power envelope.

Meanwhile, HP is awaiting Intel's release of the long-awaited quad-core "Tukwila" Itanium processor, which will offer DDR3 (double data rate 3) memory support, a greater common architecture with Intel's Xeon processors and better performance than the current Itanium chips.

HP is by far the top user of Itanium chips, putting the technology into its high-end NonStop and Integrity systems.

In addition, Advanced Micro Devices continues to increase the number of cores in its Opteron processors, getting ready for the launch later in 2010 of its "Magny-Cours" chip, which will offer up to 12 cores.

Oracle's Phillips said the company is pouring more R&D money into fueling its vision of integrated technology stacks. He said Oracle this year will spend $4.3 billion in R&D, up from $2.8 billion in 2009 and $2.7 billion in 2008.

"We're not only going to keep the Sun name, we're going to invigorate it," Phillips said. "We are going to make Sun the gold standard in servers under our products."