Oracle's Plans for Solaris on SPARC: Good News for Linux?
Oracle has released a PDF transcript of an interview with CEO Larry Ellison regarding its plans following the acquisition of Sun Microsystems. While the interview doesn't delve into the many questions surrounding what Oracle will do with Sun's open source products and initiatives, it does make very clear that Oracle will retain and extend Sun's hardware business, focusing on "designing hardware and software to work together." That's going to be a complicated proposition for Oracle, and, as one observer notes, it may be good news for Linux.
In response to a question about whether Oracle will exit the hardware business, Ellison said this:
"No, we are definitely not going to exit the hardware business. While most hardware businesses are low-margin, companies like Apple and Cisco enjoy very high-margins because they do a good job of designing their hardware and software to work together. If a company designs both hardware and software, it can build much better systems than if they only design the software. That’s why Apple’s iPhone is so much better than Microsoft phones."
Ellison also confirms in the interview that far from discontinuing the SPARC chip, he intends to increase investment in it. "We think designing our own chips is very, very important," he said. He also notes that Sun outsources almost all of its manufacturing to companies such as Fujitsu.
Still, Oracle is going to face a lot of internal culture shock as it digests Sun's big hardware businesses. Also, Savio Rodrigues makes a very astute point about software development for Oracle's hardware/software hybrid offerings in this blog post:
"Did Larry mean to say that ISVs building solutions for Sun’s systems are in for a world of hurt?!? Considering that the lifeblood of a hardware system is the applications that run on it (through the associated/affiliated operating system), why would ISVs continue to target Solaris on SPARC in light of this news? Wow, this move will hasten the ISV shift away from Solaris on SPARC to Linux on Intel/AMD/Power/System z."
It does indeed seem very likely that many ISVs (independent software developers) who are focused on Solaris will start taking a long look at Linux in light of Oracle's Solaris on SPARC solutions. Ellison makes it sound like digesting Sun's hardware divisions will be a piece of cake, but I expect that it will be much more complicated than he thinks. The more complicated the transition is, the more likely it is that Solaris-focused ISVs will seek out alternative platforms.