Ten ways Oracle could make money from Sun

"Consolidation" will be the watchword as Oracle absorbs Sun Microsystems, but it shouldn't ignore the plum technologies in Sun's portfolio

Not many of you agreed with me two weeks ago, when I predicted that Oracle would be the one to snap up Sun Microsystems following the breakdown of talks with IBM. But as it turns out, Larry Ellison did -- and he was the only one that really mattered.

What has us all buzzing now, of course, is what will happen next. The Oracle acquisition of Sun is definitely an event that will reshape the industry. In the short term, however, Oracle claims it can wring $1.5 billion in profit from Sun this year and $2 billion the next. I don't know how it plans to do that, but since Larry took my advice earlier, I thought maybe he'd like to consider these suggestions, post-merger:

[ Neil McAllister foresaw Oracle's Sun takeover; find out why he thought the deal would make sense. | For full coverage of the Oracle-Sun deal, see InfoWorld's special report. ]

10. Unify your identity management products. The identity management market is crowded, with few stand-out offerings. LDAP servers are a dime a dozen. Thinning this herd will make it easier to acquire customers and market aggressively against the real threat in this space: Microsoft, which is developing an identity management platform based on Active Directory. Cherry-pick the best from your existing technology and Sun's stack, discard redundant efforts, and forge a strong leadership role while you still can.

9. Consolidate global development teams. Everyone hates it when American tech companies move development jobs overseas. Doubtless more heads will roll as a result of Oracle's Sun acquisition, but at least some of them won't be on these shores. While Sun maintains development facilities in India, China, and elsewhere, Oracle is an acknowledged master of offshoring. By redeploying its existing overseas staff, Oracle can create efficiencies in Sun's software divisions that Sun couldn't have managed on its own.

8. Restructure your conferences. Between shrinking travel budgets, fluctuating fuel costs, and increased airport security, customers are growing increasingly reluctant to travel to industry trade shows. What's more, with municipalities everywhere facing declining tax revenue, lawmakers are sure to be eyeing hotels and convention centers to take up the slack. Sun spent last year's JavaOne jabbering about RIAs and Web 2.0 -- again. Do we really need a whole show for that? With Sun, Oracle, and BEA now sharing the same address, it's an ideal opportunity to make OpenWorld the premiere destination for Java developers everywhere (and save some cash in the process).

7. License Sun's server technology to a partner. Hardware isn't Oracle's forte. Sun's team brings the technical know-how, but in a shrinking economy its pricey, high-end servers don't stand much chance against the x86-based competition. Oracle should de-emphasize Sun's hardware divisions and renew its relationship with Hewlett-Packard -- or some other partner, such as Fujitsu -- to produce co-branded servers. That would allow it to concentrate on selling end-to-end enterprise application solutions, which is what it does best.

6. Stop pretending Sun can be Google. Did anybody really believe that selling marketing opportunities in software installers was a sensible strategy for the likes of Sun? Ask anyone in the industry what comes to mind when you say the name "Sun Microsystems," and they'll tell you innovative engineering. To see a company with such a proud history reduced to standing on a street corner in fishnets and a leather skirt is just heartbreaking -- and it wastes effort that could be spent on more constructive pursuits. If you keep the Sun brand around, let it stand for something.

5. Make Solaris the preferred OS for Oracle. There was a time when it almost went without saying that you deployed Oracle databases on Sun servers. More recently, however, the market share once held by Solaris and other proprietary Unix variants has been eaten up by Linux. But while Linux tries to be all things to the entire Unix market, Oracle still has an opportunity to market a high-end OS that's custom-tailored for running mission-critical database servers. Give Oracle database customers an unbeatable reason to license Solaris instead of Linux and they will come.

4. Unbreakable MySQL. Under Sun's stewardship, the MySQL community has fractured amid reports of buggy releases and an exodus of former employees. Oracle needs to grab the reins and shore up MySQL's position as its new, entry-level database for departments, software developers, and Web apps. Make InnoDB the standard table type, give the code a thorough quality review, and let the industry know that it can forget about the other guys because the new MySQL is a rock-solid database backed by the full faith and support of Oracle. Oh yeah, and it's still free.

3. Build Sun's cloud on an enterprise-grade RDBMS. MySQL is a great product, but everything has its place. Jonathan Schwartz says he wants to build Sun's cloud computing platform using all open source technologies, including MySQL as the database back end. Is he offering a service or making a fashion statement? Your customers wouldn't choose MySQL for that purpose, and neither should you. Rip that out of there, replace it with Oracle's database, and not only will the project start to look legitimate enough that it might actually win some customers, but you won't need 4,000 developers to get it to work reliably, either.

2. Forget about JavaFX. Sun has had a hard enough time competing with the likes of HP, IBM, and Microsoft. Did it really think it could take on Adobe, too? JavaFX was late to the RIA party and it met with a cool reception from its intended audience. And for all Sun's bluster about uniting developers and designers, Adobe took that goal to heart years ago. Better to scrap this stillborn strategy and partner with Adobe on Flash.

1. Fire Sun's entire marketing department. Those clowns have all the savvy of the team at the Sirius Cybernetics Corp., and they deserve the same fate. Sun should have come out of its corner swinging as soon as the dot-com bubble burst. If it had, this merger might never have had to happen. Instead, it pussyfooted around with pointless maneuvers such as changing its stock ticker symbol to JAVA (as if your average Wall Street broker could care). Sun's technology portfolio should practically market itself. Let's hope it's finally found management that will play the game like it's in it to win.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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