Oracle and Sun: The new IBM?

The even-more-cocky Ellison says he's taking a page from 1960s-era IBM to displace the iconic tech giant by offering a soup-to-nuts juggernaut

The blue suits are back. Maybe not literally -- CEO Larry Ellison wore his trademark tailored suit and black turtleneck. But the vibe as Oracle laid out its plans on Wednesday for the finally captured Sun Microsystems was distinctly IBM, circa 1960.

Indeed, Ellison said, it's "back to the future. Vertical integration delivers huge value to the customer. Our vision of 2010 is the same as IBM's in 1960, to deliver a comprehensive integrated suite of technology. It made IBM the most important technology company in the world, and we kind of like that."

[ 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. ]

Ellison was speaking to an audience of customers, partners, press, and analysts at Oracle's Redwood Shores, Calif., campus, a day after the $7.4 billion acquisition closed. And as he spoke, I must confess that, yes, I felt sorry to see the end of Sun. It was a great, albeit flawed company. However, given Sun's sad state, I'm convinced that Oracle's takeover was the best outcome. And Ellison's willingness to up R&D spending, keep on the vast majority of Sun's employees, and find a reasonable niche for MySQL are evidence that Oracle may well be the good steward Sun so badly needs.

IBM in the cross-hairs
Blue-suit nostalgia aside, it's evident that IBM is very much the target as Oracle makes its debut as a hardware vendor. A parade of Oracle executives touted complete, hardware, middleware, and database products and single points of contact for customers.

A solid half-day of sometimes detailed presentations left me with three other important takeaways:

  • Oracle has little interest in the commodity server business, although it will still sell some of Sun's x86 servers. But it's boosting R&D to $4.3 billion from $2.8 billion last year, and it's spending more money on engineering as it looks for high-value-add products.
  • Oracle's skirmish with the EU over the future of MySQL has stung. The company took pains to say that the open source database will have its own sales force and development group.
  • Oracle will not fire a large number of former Sun employees. Expect about 2,000 new hires at Oracle, against approximately 1,000 layoffs. Oracle execs were wearing big red-and-white "We're Hiring" buttons, and Ellison delivered a tongue-lashing to journalists and analysts who spread rumors that the Sun workforce would be decimated.
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