Oracle Outlines Plans To Tie Sun Hardware To Oracle Software

software stack

Oracle on Wednesday brought several Sun executives on stage to discuss the company's hardware strategy after Oracle's acquisition of Sun, which officially closed this week.

Oracle's strategy, now that it has both its legacy application business and Sun's hardware and operating system business, is to build integrated systems similar to the mainframe of the 1960s, but on open systems, said Charles Phillips, president of Oracle.

This is a move Phillips said no other vendor can do. Some companies have engineering teams working on databases, and others have engineering teams working on storage, but getting them to work together is not something that has been done successfully before. "Ask IBM," he said. "They know."

John Fowler, executive vice president and head of engineering at Sun, said that thousands of Sun engineers will be joining thousands of Oracle engineers to build the integrated stack that Phillips mentioned.

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"Together, we're going to build vastly better components and an integrated stack ... The engineers have been chomping at the bit," Fowler said.

The consistent message going forward with Oracle is a focus on application-focused hardware, Fowler said.

A big part of that will include a focus on Sun Solaris, which Fowler called the only general purpose operating system that fully implements strong security and which scales from very small systems to hundreds of threads and multiple petabytes of storage.

As part of Oracle, Sun will develop Solaris to drive even more key technologies, such as fault management, serviceability, and scalability, and will be tied to Oracle's applications to improve such functions as upgrading and testing of patches across the entire software stack, Fowler said.

Oracle will also increase the investment in developing ZFS, an open source file system which underpins much of Sun's storage strategy.

In terms of the server business, Oracle, in addition to increasing its investment in the Solaris operating system, will also accelerate its investment in its SPARC processor-based server line, and will continue to focus on forward binary compatibility, Fowler said.

Sun will also work on its x86 platform where there is a software value-add, but will no longer develop servers focused on the Microsoft Windows operating system or on small businesses.

Phillips said that Oracle is not interested in the x86 market. "Other people want to do that," he said. "Let Dell do that."

On the storage side, Oracle will take advantage of Sun's number one position in terms of storage sales to the Unix market and in terms of tape sales to beef up the offering to match Oracle's software stack, Fowler said.

That includes investing in Sun's ZFS storage appliance, making it a single platform for all Oracle applications and for all three storage tiers from primary to backup to archiving, Fowler said. He said Sun is the only company to have storage appliances with all three tiers tied to a software stack.

Oracle will also continue to invest in Sun's StorageTek archiving products for compliance, entertainment, and long-term archiving needs, Fowler said. That also includes integrating the StorageTek archiving products with the 7000 ZFS and Oracle applications. "We're going to make this all seamless, including security and key management," he said.

Flash disk, or solid state disk (SSD), will also be a focus of Oracle investment going forward, especially in optimizing it to run Oracle applications, Fowler said.

Such optimization has the potential to increase application performance by 10 times without changing the underlying architecture of the storage, which could turn the entire software industry upside-down, Fowler said. "Everything until now has been focused on disk," he said.

Oracle is also investing on integrating the ZFS file system with Oracle VM, the company's hypervisor-based virtualization platform, a move which could significantly boost the deployment of virtual server images, Fowler said. Oracle VM can also get a big boost from flash-based storage, he said.

Mike Splain, senior vice president of microelectronics at Sun, said that Oracle is planning significant investments in developing the SPARC64 and UltraSPARC processors as a way of accelerating Oracle application performance.

Splain noted that microprocessor development is not just focused on hardware, but also on software, which gives the ability to optimize microprocessors for the applications.

"We'll be working with engineers at Oracle to do integration across the different layers," he said.

Another big change as Sun becomes part of Oracle will come in the supply change, said Cindy Reese, senior vice president of Sun and head of supply chains there.

Sun traditionally built hardware to stock, and then moved its products as needed to distribution centers or configuration centers before shipping to customers, Reese said.

Going forward, Sun is adopting a build-to-order system which will help cut costs related to component and finished goods inventories and shipping, Reese said.

At the same time, Sun has already cut by 50 percent the number of different products it sells, and will make more cuts as it moves to the build-to-order model, Reese said.

It also plans to cut its component supply chain by about 50 percent in terms of suppliers. It will also cut 60 percent of its manufacturing locations, and will cut some of its distribution centers, she said.

Oracle's new partnering approach, which includes an emphasis on technology specializations, create tremendous new opportunities for Sun's partner base, wrote Bob Olwig, vice president of business strategy at World Wide Technology, a St. Louis-based solution provider and partner of both vendors.

Olwig, who blogged on the technology update while listening to the presentation, wrote in an e-mail to that World Wide Technology is continuing to accelerate its investment and focus on specializations, especially related to virtualization, blades servers, and data center networking.

Olwig also wrote that, while Oracle and Sun talked about having a complete hardware and software stack, they did not about one key data center technology: networking.

"(Networking is) one key element that is not part of Oracle's suite and not represented in the 'red stack of blocks,'" he wrote. "With over a billion dollars in Cisco sales these past two years, as well as being Cisco's leading Data Center partner, WWT is unique in our ability to complement Oracle's sales team in designing and building holistic data center solutions for customers."