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Oracle to focus on Sun scale-up servers

Sun will devote itself to large Sparc-based servers, which has prompted questions about x86 future.

Oracle will focus its Sun franchise on high-end servers, leaving other hardware providers to duke it out in commodity servers, CEO Larry Ellison said last week.

According to Ellison, Oracle Corp. will not compete against Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc. in low-end, commodity server market. Instead, Oracle plans to concentrate on large Sparc-based SMP machines and bundled database and hardware products such as the Oracle Exadata , Ellison told analysts on Oracle's quarterly earnings call.

"Sun just really does not now and is never likely to have the volume to compete in the high-volume, low-margin business of just selling an Intel server with Windows on it or Linux on it one at a time," Ellison said.

Sun to dump x86?
Those remarks cast doubt on the future of Sun x86 boxes running Solaris although Oracle just released Oracle 11g R2 for Solaris on x86 .

Even before Ellison's recent comments, some experts had predicted that the  Oracle acquisition spelled the end of Sun Solaris on x86 . "Solaris on x86 plays in a volume market, and having a small market share makes survival difficult," wrote analyst Bill Claybrook. "Linux has a 24% share of the operating systems shipped on x86 servers, whereas Solaris 10 on x86 has a 4% share."

But others said the end of Sun x86 is not near. "Larry Ellison's path has been consistent throughout; however individual quotes, picked apart, can seem conflicting," said Ben Rockwood, the director of systems at a cloud computing infrastructure company and a Solaris evangelist. "Ellison has made it clear that the focus will be on high-performance, high-value Sparc-based systems. But Oracle will not abandon either Sun x86 offerings or Solaris x86. He doesn't want to compete with Dell but isn't pulling out."

Rockwood said Sun's appliances, such as Fishworks storage solutions, will rely on x86, and there will always been a need for commodity servers for infrastructure components, middleware or other applications.

Rockwood expects Sun x86 products to play a role in Oracle's integrated hardware-database-middleware products like the Exadata. "The x86 systems act like mortar, filling in the gaps of the larger workhorse systems," Rockwood said.

Sun customers, like Bill Bradford, a data center admin and founder of, are happy to hear Ellison touting the strengths of Sparc.

"I think it's a good thing that they won't be making commodity x86 servers a primary focus, as some feared that was the direction Sun was moving pre-Oracle-acquisition," Bradford said. "I hope they do continue to sell their x86 server line, but trying to compete directly with Dell or HP would be silly. Sparc has always been what Sun does best, and it's good to see Ellison and Oracle embracing this fact."


Matt Stansberry is the Executive Editor of Let us know what you think about this story; email Matt Stansberry.

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