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Oracle pulls about face on Solaris support

Barb Darrow

Data center pros viewed Oracle's recent decision to support Solaris running on Hewlett-Packard and Dell hardware with great interest.

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They hope the news -- published in a release that also said HP and Dell can resell Solaris OracleVM and Oracle Enterprise Linux -- signals new pragmaticism and flexibility on the part of a company they feared was becoming ever more proprietary.

The support move is an about face from an earlier posting saying that Oracle would not support Solaris on non-Sun hardware. That change-of-management memo from May outlined support offerings from Oracle -- none of which were to be available on non-Oracle/Sun hardware.

The perception that Oracle is not exactly friendly to third-party vendors or the open source community led to a lot of consternation, including the apparent rebellion of the OpenSolaris community over how Oracle is handling the OpenSolaris effort.

"A lot of companies run Dell, HP or a combination of the two, and people were dismayed when HP (and IBM) no longer offered Solaris on their hardware or support contracts. Oracle should have just told everyone, 'We're working on re-doing the contracts, hold tight,' instead of yanking the OEM sales agreements without a word and then making an announcement a couple of months later," said Bill Bradford, a senior systems admin at a Houston-based energy services firm. Bradford also maintains the Sunhelp.org website.

"Someone at Oracle needs to clarify the roadmap and license options for Solaris and make this information public; you can't sell an OS the same way you sell database software," he added.

Oracle's goal: Monetizing Sun
Sun Microsystems's success propagating Solaris beyond its Sparc franchise is at the root of the issue Oracle faces now. Oracle spent more than $7 billion to buy Sun and its Java, Sparc and Solaris technologies. Now it needs to monetize those assets. On the one hand, Oracle would dearly like to sell an all-Oracle software-hardware solution. On the other, it can also profit supporting its software on third-party hardware. Support and maintenance, as Oracle knows very well from the software world, can be very lucrative.

Some in the Oracle community said Oracle merely issued a reprieve with the Dell-HP announcement and that it will push Solaris on Sun hardware and running Oracle software as its new benchmark platform. That harkens back to early days of Sun-Oracle partnership when Sparc/Solaris was the preferred platform for Oracle databases. That relationship was superseded as Oracle CEO Larry Ellison saw the benefit of promoting high-end Oracle databases running on low-cost commodity hardware and software -- cheap boxes running Linux.

The Dell-HP support deal "is not a long-term thing; this is just a reaction to customer pushback," said one long-time Oracle partner who declined to be named. "The writing is on the wall -- Oracle is pulling Sun into the mothership."

For months, Oracle execs from CEO Larry Ellison down touted Oracle's "Software, hardware, complete" slogan in pushing the company's Exadata data center appliances. So far Solaris and Sparc have not made it into the vaunted appliance, which runs Oracle Enterprise Linux on x86, but that may change. John Fowler, Oracle executive vice president of systems (and veteran Sun executive), is to host a Web conference outlining the company's hardware roadmap next Tuesday.

This source said to expect to see more Oracle media blitz around new Exadata machines that layer Oracle software atop custom Sun boxes -- even some running Solaris on Sparc. To date, the Exadata boxes run Linux on Intel chips.

Many took Ellison's words about Oracle offering turnkey Sun hardware-Oracle software solutions to heart. One industry executive said it is clear to him that long term, the only way to buy Oracle's powerful database will be as part of a hardware-software appliance.

"Oracle is it, if you're a public company compelled to follow Sarbanes-Oxley and other regs -- you need Oracle Financials and database. And if you have to buy Oracle hardware to get the software, you'll do that," added the exec, who said he is by no means happy about it.

Barbara Darrow is the Senior News Director for SearchdDataCenter.com. Writ to her at bdarrow@techtarget.com. Also, check out our blogs: Data Center Facilities Pro, Mainframe Propeller Head, and Server Farming.


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