Oracle's big bear hug for Java bodes really well

The database leader has big plans for Java as it begins merging Sun Microsystems' software product line with its own -- fears of Java's demise now seem misplaced

It's been almost 10 months since I first pondered the possibility of an Oracle/Sun merger. Now, with the European Commission's last objection lifted, that merger is finally a reality. Senior Oracle execs outlined their plans for Sun in a media event Wednesday, and while most of the attention was on Oracle's forthcoming line of integrated hardware/software solutions based on Sun technologies, there was encouraging news for Java developers, too.

Java gets a cash infusion
Uncertainty has dogged the Java platform in recent years. Sun's decision to license the JDK as open source software was hailed as a step forward by many developers, but critics worried that the move meant Sun would never be able to properly capitalize on one of its most important technologies. In turn, they argued, the lack of a strong profit motive could leave the Java platform effectively rudderless.

[ InfoWorld's Paul Krill outlines Oracle's strategy for integrating Sun's technology. | Relive the rise and fall of Sun Microsystems in InfoWorld's slideshow. ]

In a Q&A session following Wednesday's briefing, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison dismissed such concerns in typically breezy fashion. "Sun didn't make a lot of money from Java, but we sure did," he said. "BEA sure did."

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Oracle acquired BEA Systems for $8.5 billion in 2008, and with it BEA's highly profitable WebLogic J2EE application server business. With the Sun acquisition, Oracle gains stewardship of the Java language itself; and while many of its components are open source, Oracle's CEO sees Java's big picture as being greater than the sum of its parts.

"I don't think it's essential that we find a way to make money from [specific Sun] components," Ellison said Wednesday. "We have the money to invest in Java, because Java is a very profitable business for us already. Exactly where additional revenues will come from is less important than simply growing our middleware installed base."

To achieve that growth, Oracle plans to invest $4.3 billion on R&D in the coming year, according to Oracle president Charles Phillips. That's up from $2.8 billion last year -- so you can bet some of that cash will be heading Java's way soon.

One Java, many targets
As for exactly how the Java group plans to use its newfound funds, Oracle Senior Vice President of Product Development Thomas Kurian said delivering a new Java runtime is a top priority. Java SE 7 will bring important improvements, he said, including greater modularity, better support for non-Java languages, and better performance, including garbage collection optimized for multicore processors.

Many of these features will benefit Java EE, also -- modularity in particular. Application servers will be able to run in a variety of resource profiles, Kurian said. For example, a server could be configured with a lightweight profile for simple Web apps, or a more resource-intensive profile for enterprise workloads.

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