McNealy: Sun still strong on Oracle

Chief executive speaks at OpenWorld conference

SAN FRANCISCO -- Despite Oracle’s strategic push for Linux- and Intel-based deployments, Sun Microsystems retains its position as the leading platform for Oracle, Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy said Wednesday at the Oracle OpenWorld conference here.

McNealy touted Sun offerings, including its AMD and Sparc hardware and Solaris operating system, as the platforms that IT shops should choose and stressed that Sun, rather than being an alternative to open source, is in fact a major contributor of open source technologies.

Sun plans to maintain its position as the leading platform for Oracle deployments, McNealy said. “You will not see us back off from that relationship. We’re going to invest like crazy in that relationship, no matter much Larry [Oracle CEO Ellison] says 'grid' or 'Intel' or 'Red Hat' or 'Dell,'” said McNealy, who joked several times that he may not be invited back again to speak at the conference.

McNealy disagreed with the notion that computers have become commodity systems. “Understand that computing is not a commodity and really see that there is value to be [added],” he said.

Stressing Sun’s commitment to openness and open source, McNealy said Sun publishes all of its interfaces and that the Sparc architecture itself is available via open source. Sun is the No. 2 contributor to open source behind the University of California at Berkeley, and Sun was founded based on the Berkeley Unix derivative developed by Sun co-founder Bill Joy and made available via open source, McNealy said.

“We were kind of the Red Hat of Berkeley Unix back in 1982 and fundamentally drove commercialization of that open source software [including indemnification],” said McNealy. Sun was doing open source before Linux founder Linus Torvalds “was out of diapers,” he said.

Next, Sun will be providing its Solaris OS via open source in early 2005, said McNealy. “It would be like Oracle open sourcing the database,” McNealy quipped. “I figure if this is going to be my last time up here, I might as well make it good.”

“We just announced a couple weeks ago Solaris 10. I can say this is far and away, across the board, the best enterprise OS on the planet,” McNealy said.

“We put things in like dynamic tracing [of kernel operations] that nobody else has,” he said. Also. Sun has overtaken Red Hat in the speed of its IP stack, according to McNealy.   

But one Oracle user interviewed at the conference this week stressed his company’s intention to move off of Sun systems in favor of more Linux. "[The Sun environment is] expensive; it’s not as flexible an environment as we’d like to have,” said Norm Fjeldheim, senior vice president and CIO at cell phone chipmaker Qualcomm. “We’d like to get to Linux.”

Fjeldheim did endorse Java, however.

McNealy during his presentation also touted Sun’s “Calling Plans” for product pricing, such as its annual $100-per-employee fee for the Java Enterprise System. “We’re going to come out with many different Calling Plans to deal with the different workloads you have,” he said.

Noting Oracle’s push toward grid computing, McNealy cited the demonstration in Japan last year of a 128-way grid based on Solaris and Oracle. Oracle’s Chuck Rozwat, executive vice president of server technology at the company, also stressed Sun as a partner in grid technology with Oracle. But Sun was not involved in this week’s announcement of Project MegaGrid, a grid initiative involving Oracle, Dell, EMC, and Intel.

“We’ve got great partnerships, and each partnership is a little different,” Rozwat said in explaining the separate grid efforts. He did applaud Sun’s adoption of AMD chips and embrace of Linux as making Sun a better partner for Oracle.

McNealy also noted that Sun and Microsoft are working on making their technologies work together, citing products such as StarOffice and Office, Solaris x86, and Windows XP. “I wish I could report to you that all this will be open sourced and published … but a lot of it will be unique and proprietary,” McNealy said.

Also at the conference on Wednesday:

* Noting Sun still intends to compete with Microsoft despite the recent cooperative agreement between the two vendors, McNealy said Sun’s recent handshake with Microsoft is more like two boxers shaking hands before a fight just prior to beating each other up. He compared his recent meetings with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to Ellison’s alliance with Dell Chairman Michael Dell. “Larry, you hang out with Michael. I’ll hang out with Steve,” McNealy said. Like Sun, Oracle has been a fervent opponent of Microsoft.

* McNealy stressed that Sun and Ellison have been on the right track in promoting thin clients. The U.S. government is using Sun’s Sun Ray thin client systems, he said. VoIP capability is being added to these systems, he added. Sun is working with Lucent to define a reference architecture to deliver VoIP.

* The recent security issue in the Java Run-Time Environment and SDK, which potentially could have enabled system intrusions, does not reflect poorly on Java’s standing in the area of security versus Windows, McNealy said. “It’s not a virus, if you will. It’s an implementation issue,” he said. “It’s interesting that [the Java issue is] news.”

* McNealy lauded the Java Community Process as an innovation in technology licensing. “The JCP has probably been the most underestimated, stunning innovation that Sun has ever delivered. It’s done better than GPL,” McNealy said.

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