Update: Dell, Not McNealy, Is Big Hardware Gun At Oracle World

Michael Dell takes center stage at show to bash what he calls pricey Sun systems

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Of the two no-shows at Oracle World this week, Scott McNealy's absence is more interesting than even that of Larry Ellison.

McNealy, the chairman and CEO of Sun Microsystems, is usually a fixture at Oracle World, formerly Oracle Open World. But this year, Dell is the hardware giant at the show and Dell CEO Michael Dell one of the big keynoters.

This despite the fact that the Oracle Magazine distributed to attendees at the Moscone Center listed McNealy as a keynote speaker, right up there alongside Oracle CFO Jeff Henley, EMC chairman Mike Ruettgers, and Ellison himself--who will be beamed in via satellite from New Zealand Thursday.

More interesting still is that Dell spent a good part of his on-stage time bashing what he called "proprietary Unix" and pricey Sun systems.

Oracle, of course, built much of its business, particularly during the dot-com boom, on those very systems. But Oracle's Linux push is changing all that. Clearly, Oracle is betting that the combination of Oracle9i clusters on inexpensive Dell boxes running Linux is key to the company's future.

Dell delivers the "performance and reliability" that are so critical, Oracle Chairman and CEO Ellison said in a taped intro to Dell's keynote Tuesday.

Dell was clearly targeting Sun and Solaris in his remarks, although not always mentioning Sun by name. Unix represents 17 percent of units sold but 55 percent of the revenue in the server market, Dell said. "Unix customers pay too much," he noted.

The answer is Linux, or "the new Unix," said Dell, citing IDC estimates that Linux will realize a compound annual growth rate of 35 percent through 2006.

While Dell was not much of a Unix or a Linux power just a few years ago, in the last calendar year the company sold nearly three times as many Unix/Linux boxes as Sun, Dell maintained. One attendee said the hype neglects one critical fact: Linux is Unix, he said.

Sun was not completely aced out. John Gage, Sun's Chief Researcher, is now slated to appear.

Sun executives took great exception to Dell's remarks. Peder Ulander, director of marketing for Sun's volume systems products, said Sun Solaris share is far from declining and that Dell's own credentials as a Linux booster are suspect.

"The comment that really killed me was about Linux taking Unix marketshare when 70 percent of Dell's own boxes ship with Windows," he noted.

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