Channel Says Oracle-Sun Merger A Slam Dunk


Solution providers were caught by surprise by the news that Oracle plans to acquire Sun, especially so close on the heels of the failed attempt by IBM to acquire Sun.

However, they said they expect the combination is one that will lead to more data center opportunities for the channel, and could even lead to a newly enlarged Oracle going head-to-head with IBM and even with Cisco Systems, which is expanding its data center presence with the introduction of its Unified Computing System platform.

Many of Oracle's solution providers also work with Sun already, and those partners expect the combined entity to be a boon for them.

It's an extremely good deal for both sides, said Jim Guinn, executive vice president of the Solutions Division of Partners Consulting, an Irvine, Calif.-solution provider and partner to both vendors.

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"We do dozens of [Oracle] PeopleSoft implementations with Sun's ID Manager, and this deal would tie both technology bases," Guinn said. "If it becomes part of the same code base, it really extends the technology for Oracle."

While both Oracle and Sun have overlapping technologies in terms of database and ID management software, that will not be an issue if the acquisition is closed, Guinn said.

"There's a place for both Oracle and [Sun's] MySQL databases," he said. "It's just like when Oracle acquired PeopleSoft and JD Edwards. There was no killing code. And both companies have advantages with their ID management software. Both are leading products. If Oracle merges the code, no one will be able to touch them from a technology perspective."

Mark Teter, CTO of Advanced Systems Group, a Denver-based Sun solution provider that also does some Oracle business, called the acquisition one of the most exciting acquisitions in the IT space.

"It combines the software strength of Oracle with Sun's innovation," Teter said. "Oracle really knows how to run the software business, and will do well with Sun's software."

For example, Teter said to look at the high-performance computing market.

"Oracle's in a lot of HPC environments, and Sun's hardware, especially its blade servers, are winning in those environments," he said. "So for customers, there will be only one back to pat from the hardware to the software to the operating system."

The combination also means the future for Solaris has never looked better, Teter said. "There's a good Oracle-Solaris installed base," he said. "There's been a good relationship between them over the years."

The combination also gives Oracle a complete solution set with which to compete against IBM and Microsoft, and even against Dell and its close relationship with Microsoft, he said.

Sun has for years been the de facto hardware platform for Oracle software, and getting the Sun hardware will give customers an option for a complete Oracle/Sun solution, said Rob Wolfe, president and CEO of AvcomEast, a Silver Spring, Md.-based partner to both Sun and Oracle.

Wolfe said he was happy to see Oracle publicly talk about the value of Sun's hardware in its letter to customers on Monday. "I see it refreshing to see Oracle understand that Sun continues to be relevant in the hardware side as well as the software side," he said.

The acquisition will be very positive for the channel, Wolfe said. "I will be able to deliver an integrated stack from one vendor," he said. "And I hope our competency with the Sun platform will be important to Oracle."

There is a lot of synergy between the two vendors that should work to the channel's advantage, Wolfe said. "If an Oracle sales rep works with a customer, and the customer chooses another hardware vendor, Oracle gets a $1 million sale. But if the rep works with a partner like us, we can turn it into a $1.4 million sale."

Hope Hayes, president of Alliance Technology Group, a Hanover, Md.-based Sun solution provider, said she is excited about the prospect of working with Oracle, as the vendor will have to depend on the channel to handle its hardware business.

"Oracle is the largest vendor of databases, among other things," Hayes said. "How many data centers and people use their stuff? They're everywhere. There are very few companies that say, 'I don't want Oracle.' Now, for customers using HP or IBM hardware, I can go in and say, 'So what about Sun?' "

Oracle will want to sell databases on its own hardware platform, Hayes said. "We're their way to do it," she said.

Bob Olwig, vice president of corporate business development at World Wide Technology, a St. Louis-based Sun and Oracle partner, wrote in an e-mailed response that the feedback he got from a Sun executive on Monday is that an acquisition of Sun by Oracle is "way better" than being acquired by IBM.

"And I have to agree," Olwig wrote. "I believe Sun and Oracle's product lines are more complementary than competitive, with the one exception of MySQL. There's a lot of speculation about what Oracle will do with MySQL and it's difficult to say. [But there's a lot] of synergy with Java and I'd like to see Oracle take advantage of Sun's partners to strengthen their channel strategy."

Teter said that Oracle already has an open-source database, and the addition of MySQL will give it a new way to attack the market. "Companies can still run their Oracle database, but they don't use it for everything," he said. "They can use MySQL where it works for them. And Oracle can use MySQL as a way to go against Microsoft SQL Server."

Several Sun partners expressed relief that speculation about who would acquire Sun appears to be over, and that Oracle is by far a better suitor than IBM was because of a lack of hardware overlap between Sun and Oracle.

"With IBM, the fear was there would be disruption in the hardware business," Teter said. "With Oracle, there's less disruption."

Oracle is in a lot of customers where Sun is not, but not vice-versa, which is a big difference when compared to IBM vs. Sun, said Brooks Byerly, president of Soccour Solutions, a Dallas-based partner of both vendors.

"So this will open new doors for us," Byerly said. "It was a big issue when Sun looked at other buyers, but not with Sun."

The acquisition of Sun by Oracle also should go much smoother than it would have by IBM, Byerly said. "Oracle and Sun are both Silicon Valley companies, so there's not a corporate culture clash," he said.