It’s done, and the takeover of Sun by Oracle will go ahead. Now the speculation on the future can begin, though we should learn some of the likely strategy during a web conference this evening. I’ll post on that when it’s done. However, I thought it might be fun to speculate ahead of the news, not least because I don’t expect there to be complete clarity even after the call. The topics reflect my own interests, rather than any attempt to be comprehensive.
I find it hard to believe that Oracle wants to move into sales of general purpose x86/x64 servers. While the Sun kit of recent years has always been exceptionally well-engineered and, contrary to popular belief, competitively priced, it’s a large volume, small margin business that is unlikely to appeal to Oracle. In fact, I think it’s more likely that Oracle will continue to push hardware-OS-database bundles with suppliers like Dell and HP, focussing on a highly tuned version of Solaris (more on that below).
Instead, the business return for Oracle in servers will come from three areas:
- The creation of database appliances built in highly optimised configurations, like the Exadata V2.
- The development of general purpose high-end servers that afford significant opportunities for differentiation, probably on SPARC. Whether that is the SPARC VII line and its successors, in partnership with Fujitsu, or the Niagara T-series, remains to be seen. I’d suspect the latter, even though they still suffer in raw throughput comparisons and their multi-core advantage is being rapidly eroded by mainstream suppliers.
- Storage appliances, represented by the Sun Open Storage range, a highly attractive and highly competitive offering that has been extremely poorly sold to date. Oracle sales will be much more aggressive in taking this to market.
So, what of Solaris and OpenSolaris now that Oracle has custody, and more particularly what will become of Solaris 10 x64? Actually, I expect all of these to thrive, and there will be a continued drive to ensure adoption of Solaris more generally in its open source form. However, I anticipate that Solaris 11, while based on OpenSolaris, will gradually contain more and more closed-source technology to make Oracle perform better. So, you’ll be able to get and install Solaris for free just as you can now, but if you want the extensions to make your database run faster you’re going to have to take a support contract with Oracle.
I regard myself as a Unix fan, rather than a Solaris or Linux aficionado, so support for both from Oracle isn’t a bad thing. However, while Unbreakable Linux allows Oracle to promote an offering that does not benefit Microsoft, I think the additional control that they can have over Solaris will make it a more appealing choice for their primary platform going forward. Don’t take that to mean that I expect any sudden change, or that I expect them to drop Linux, but watch for more and more announcements promoting Solaris.
I left Java until last because I honestly think it’s the least interesting in a way. I expect no change. None. This will be how Oracle prove that they are committed to doing the right thing for the community, and I expect them to be honest and open in their dealings with partners. While they will control the JCP, as Sun did before them, it will remain a largely benevolent stewardship.