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2/9/2010
04:39 PM
Rajan Chandras
Rajan Chandras
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5 Opportunities and 3 Threats for Oracle

With the acquisition of Sun, Oracle now has a few things going for it, including something no other IT giant has -- not IBM, not Microsoft, and not SAP. And lurking also are a few challenges.

With the acquisition of Sun, Oracle now has a few things going for it, including something no other IT giant has -- not IBM, not Microsoft and not SAP. And lurking also are a few challenges.

So, that loud burp we heard was Oracle swallowing Sun with joy (although not, perhaps, with Joy -- Bill Joy, that is). Oracle paid a hefty price for Sun, but that's no great shakes compared with all the goodies Oracle gets from Sun's basket of gifts. Here are five them that stand out in particular, and which present Oracle and Oracle customers with unprecedented opportunity.

  • Solaris-SPARC. The SPARC-Solaris-Oracle combination was one of likeable success stories in the world of enterprise technology, and a very respectful ménage-a-trois. It's a formidable option in the marketplace for database-driven operations, and by controlling all three layers of the stack, Oracle can take it to greater heights.
  • Java. Given the enduring and pervasive presence of Java in our world of applications, anybody that has complete control of Java can do a lot of good for themselves and the IT world. Oracle has always been at the forefront of Java, and its acquisition of BEA only helped push that window of opportunity wider.
  • Open Source: This isn't Oracle's first foray in open source, but the acquisition of MySQL gives Oracle a solid footing in the open source community and marketplace. There's been some suspicion of Oracle acquiring a keen competitor to its flagship product (see this post), but we can only hope that Oracle's public assertions of support to MySQL (the product and the community) aren't merely deception.
  • Full Stack: The Sun acquisition gives Oracle a potentially complete enterprise stack from bottom to top (even ignoring Exadata): servers, database, storage, application servers, middleware, and enterprise applications. This is something that no other big IT firm has -- not IBM, not Microsoft and not SAP. It would be interesting to see if Oracle chooses to move in this direction.
  • Last but not the least, Talent: Sun might have languished in the face of competition, but there's no doubt that Sun is chock-full of talent -- individuals and teams that are second to none in expertise and innovation. There will be some culture shock for sure -- Oracle is more ruthlessly agenda-driven than Sun has been, which of course is partly why one ended up as the aggressor and the other the victim, but the "glass half full" is that many smart technologists that were languishing in languid Sun might get the opportunity to do something more meaningful (read "less academic and more market-oriented") with their work.

Along with these solid opportunities, though, there are some notable threats as well.

  • Unable to handle the hardware business -- where it has very little experience -- Oracle will stumble in capitalizing on the opportunities presented by the "full stack" (e.g. the SPARC-Solaris-Oracle combination) and lose a glorious opportunity to go where no enterprise app company has gone before.
  • Oracle will alienate the open source community through strong-arm tactics or strategic blunders in its management of MySQL... its "10 Point Assurances" notwithstanding. This is particularly a risk a few years down the line, when Oracle has (or feels it has) more of a control on the MySQL community.
  • Oracle will lose focus on its Fusion architecture. This is already a risk -- Oracle's road map for middleware has more twists and turns than a Hitchcock mystery, and any further diffusion in Oracle's focus will only hurt its customers more. Trying to merge the numerous Sun product lines into its own (and retiring some of them) will be a non-trivial task, and this will be one of the biggest challenges for Oracle ahead.

On a side note, IBM must be ruing this opportunity; getting control of Sun technologies would have been as valuable to IBM as not letting Oracle get a hold of them (see this blog from early last year). Oracle and IBM both now have a very wide and broad set of technologies -- more so than Microsoft of SAP -- and we can only hope that Oracle can do better at weaving a complete fabric from these than IBM seems to have done.With the acquisition of Sun, Oracle now has a few things going for it, including something no other IT giant has -- not IBM, not Microsoft, and not SAP. And lurking also are a few challenges.

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