Oracle Outlines Sun Integration Plan

Redwood Shores, Calif. -- With its acquisition of Sun Microsystems completed, Oracle Corp. on Wednesday laid out its plans for integrating Sun's software and hardware systems into its own product lineup.

During a five-hour press and analyst conference held at the company's Redwood Shores, Calif., corporate headquarters, Oracle executives, both old and newly arrived from Sun, revealed the fate of a number of technologies that could impact enterprise software developers, including the Solaris operating system, the NetBeans IDE and the MySQL database.

Here's a rundown:

  • Java: Oracle intends to not only continue supporting the Java platform and language fully, but to "revitalize" the Java developer community and to "enhance and extend the reach of the Java programming model to support emerging application development paradigms," said Thomas Kurian, Oracle's senior vice president of product development. Oracle plans to add modularity and support for multicore processing to Java Standard Edition, for example, and to provide new levels of support for Java Micro Edition with "new interaction paradigms" for mobile apps, such as multiple-touch. The Java Enterprise Edition will also get some modularity enhancements, he said, as Oracle drives the evolution of the Java EE 6 implementation.

  • Solaris: Sun's open source operating system will get a big boost from Oracle in the form of investment in the SPARC-Solaris server and storage bundle. Both the Solaris OS and the SPARC hardware will be integrated into Oracle's technology stack, said John Fowler, Oracle's executive vice president of hardware engineering (and a former Sun exec). Oracle is planning for four generations of UltraSPARC processors, and will enhance Solaris to support them. Ultimately, according to Fowler, Solaris will scale to run thousands of CPU threads simultaneously and handle multiple terabytes of memory.

  • JVMs: Oracle plans to integrate the Sun HotSpot and Oracle JRockit Java virtual machines, Kurian said.

  • JavaFX: Kurian said that Oracle will continue to support Sun's runtime-and-tools combo for content authors and Web developers building rich Internet applications (RIAs). JavaFX "fills a vacuum created when Oracle terminated BEA's former arrangement to bundle Adobe Flash/Flex development tooling," wrote Ovum analyst Tony Baer in a post-press-conference blog post.

  • MySQL: Edward Screven, Oracle's chief open-source architect, said that his company will continue to support the open-source MySQL database. Oracle views MySQL as complementary to its core database technologies, he said, not a competitive product. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison insisted that his company will do a better job of improving MySQL than its previous stewards, without mentioning Sun or the open source community. Oracle will offer MySQL through a separate sales team, while enhancing its compatibility with other Oracle software applications. "Oracle will make MySQL better," Screven said.

  • NetBeans: Kurian referred to Sun's well-loved integrated development environment as a "lightweight" Java IDE. He said Oracle plans to focus NetBeans on dynamic scripting languages, such as PHP and Python, while supporting its JDeveloper IDE as its strategic development environment. "There really is no need to do scripting in a Java IDE," said Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions. "This might just be a way of sunsetting NetBeans."

  • Glassfish: Sun's Web app server will continue to get support from Oracle, but it will be offered primarily as a departmental solution, Kurian said, while Oracle's own WebLogic Server will continue to be marketed as the enterprise solution.

  • OpenOffice: Rather than being abandoned as some predicted, Sun's free productivity suite will continue on Oracle's product list. The company plans to invest in the applications and manage them in a separate business unit. The company plans to integrate OpenOffice with its business intelligence and content management products.

  • JavaOne: The annual gathering of Java jocks in San Francisco will continue as a stand-alone conference, said Oracle co-president Charles Phillips, but co-located with Oracle Openworld. Both shows are scheduled this year for Sept. 19 through 23.

Phillips kicked off the event by addressing the elephant in the room: three billboards picturing him and a woman with whom he later acknowledged having an affair that went up in New York, San Francisco and Atlanta recently.

"Hopefully you've had a slightly smoother week than I have," he said, drawing laughter and gentle applause from his audience.

Phillips said that Oracle plans to invest heavily in the integration and continuing development of Sun technologies, and to keep the brand on some products. The $2.8 billion Oracle spent on research and development in the fiscal year that ended in May will jump to $4.3 billion this year, he said. And he voiced Oracle's renewed commitment to standards and open source.

After lunch, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison took that stage solo and answered questions from the audience. After one questioner asked him about Oracle's cloud computing strategy, the occasionally hyperbolic Oracle exec indulged in a short tirade on the term. "What does cloud computing mean?" he asked his audience. "It's just computers, databases and networks. If I'm missing something, please tell me now!" He added that Oracle has been doing cloud computing for 15 years.

Ellison also harshly criticized media outlets that published recent rumors that Oracle would be laying off Sun employees. "We're hiring, not firing."

In fact, Oracle plans to hire 2,000 salespeople and engineers, Ellison said. Nearly every presenter at the press conference called for resumes, and virtually all Oracle employees wore bright yellow buttons proclaiming "We're Hiring!"

"That's some great PR," Interarbor Solutions analyst Gardner said. "But keep in mind that Sun already laid off about half its people before Oracle even entered the picture, so all the bloodletting has been done. It's a bit disingenuous for Oracle to say that they're not going to cut anybody; all the people have already been cut."

Concerns about the fate of MySQL in the hands of the database and business software giant caused the European Union to challenge Oracle's $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun. Allaying the EU's concerns was the final hurdle the two companies had to clear before the acquisition could move forward. This was Oracle's 52nd acquisition since 2005.

Early concerns about Oracle's performance as the new steward of Java seem to have receded also.

"I don't expect Oracle to do anything sinister with respect to Java," said SpringSource founder Rod Johnson in an e-mail. "If they were, it would strip them of any control... Applications are written in Java and the revenue that Oracle derives from Java far outweighs any revenue that Sun is maintaining themselves."

Java is essential to Oracle, Gardner observed, but it's also essential to IBM. "That's their number one competitor in the world," he said. "So it sets up a potential conflict. Ellison can't just do well; he has to take business away from IBM. And Java might be one avenue to do that. It'll be interesting to see how Oracle balances the needs of the Java community against its need to undercut IBM. This is something that needs to be monitored closely."

"The question raised by most," added Johnson, "is how will Oracle continue to innovate the Java language? Java leadership has fortunately (for SpringSource) gradually moved away from Sun. The Java world does not have the dependence on Sun that it had five to 10 years ago. We are optimistic about the future of Java...but we don't see Sun/Oracle doing much to advance it in any way."