Sun and Oracle Get Closer with Low-Cost Computing Options

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Sun and Oracle teamed on Monday to define new, low-cost computing options for customers that could help Sun shore up its credibility in the Linux market.

In a press conference at San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art, Sun chairman and CEO Scott McNealy and Oracle chairman and CEO Larry Ellison shared center stage and unveiled a raft of announcements. For starters, the two companies announced that they have agreed to extended Sun support for Oracle products across Sun's full line of SPARC, Solaris x86 and Linux Systems. Before this, Sun could only offer full support for SPARC products.

Sun also unveiled new V60x and V65x rack-optimized servers, the latter of which boasts a 50 percent cost-savings over a Dell 2650. In addition, Sun announced a global partnership agreement with Linux provider Red Hat, as well as the addition of 100 partners to its iForce partnership for Solaris x86.

The announcements represent the second iteration of Sun's Network Computing Initiative, first showcased in February. Under the new plan, the company will make a flurry of product announcements similar to these every three months.

McNealy, for one, admitted that his company may have been slow to get on board with low-cost computing, but he said everything Sun has heard from partners and customers indicates how high the demand is for it. "We got too fired up about 64-bit and large-scale computing," he said at Monday's event. "We're still bullish on that, but everyone is looking for ways to take costs out these days, and no one can deliver end-to-end systems at the cost and scalability that we can."

A key component in making this strategy work will be Sun's channel partnerships. "We need our distribution partners to go make this happen," McNealy said. "We're making investments and incentivizing the channel to get the low-cost distribution we need in the marketplace."

Ellison, who has been evangelizing the network computing concept in some form for years, noted that Oracle has found the right partner in Sun to sell its message. "Our competitors have always said our stuff is good enough, but that we cost too much," he said. "They kept hitting us on our cost, but nothing else. So we decided to hit it head on."

As he often does, Ellison used the public setting to take some sarcastic digs at Microsoft. The combined Sun and Oracle software creates the illusion that 32 little machines working in a cluster are actually one big machine, he noted, adding that "we can run SAP applications on 32 machines that Microsoft and IBM can only run on one machine, and ours is even faster."

"It's faster and unbreakable, but you have to be willing to spend less. Meanwhile, 40 years after the first mainframe was invented, Microsoft has announced that Windows now runs on a mainframe," Ellison said.

Even a simple question about Microsoft's agreement, announced Monday, to license Unix technology from SCO Group, brought out Ellison's disdain for Microsoft. "Bill said 'Just give me the opportunity to innovate,' and now he's doing it. Microsoft has always stood on the shoulders of giants."

The genial demeanor exhibited by the two CEOs at Monday's event gave rise to some speculation that the two companies may be up to more than just collaborating more closely than before. Arguably technology's newest Odd Couple--at the event Ellison wore an impeccably-tailored suit and black shirt while McNealy donned casual jeans and a Sun-monogrammed oxford worn over a t-shirt--Sun and Oracle share common foes in IBM and Microsoft. Now that they appear to be more in synch on Linux, many industry watchers are wondering what will come next from the two companies, if anything. The comments made Monday by the two CEOs made this observer, for one, wonder.

"I can't think of anything we're not doing together," McNealy said. "It's the collaboration and integration of two arm's-length organizations in a complementary partnership that still allows us to give a choice to our customers and partners."

"We've always had a close relationship with Sun, and it will only get closer," added Ellison. "We won't abandon our relationship with Dell, but we are each other's largest partner, and I expect that relationship will only continue to grow."

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