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Sun server shops keep heading for the exit

The latest research backs up anecdotal evidence that Sun server shops are fleeing Oracle.

Many Sun data centers are looking distinctly less like Sun shops as time goes by.

Anecdotal reports are backed up by new numbers from IDC and Gartner that show Oracle (aka Sun) server numbers falling in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared to the year-ago period.

Gartner said Oracle’ s server market share for the fourth quarter fell 16.2% to 7.6% share in terms of worldwide revenue.  Measured by server units sold, Oracle’s share fell 40.8% to 2.8% share for that period. In the same period, Hewlett-Packard Co. shipped 32.1% more units year-over-year for 6.9% growth. In revenue, market leader IBM saw 26.4% growth, bringing its share to 32.7%. (That number includes mainframe sales.)

According to IDC, Oracle and Fujitsu (which also sells Sparc-based servers) were the only two of the top five server vendors showing revenue erosion for the fourth quarter. For the calendar year, Oracle was the only vendor that showed negative growth (14%) in revenue.  Oracle did not return calls requesting comment.

One Boston-area data center consultant said he sees a lot of HP and IBM blades replacing Sun hardware in his accounts. And, among those accounts that are sticking with Sun hardware for now, many are going to third-party support providers, he added.

Oracle’s hardware support policies are cited by some unhappy customers as one reason they’re not sticking with their hardware of choice. The independent Sun Microsystems, in a bid to retain customers while it struggled, was very flexible when it came to hardware maintenance and support policies. With Oracle’s ownership, that flexibility ended, users said.

One big Oracle partner said that last fall, an Oracle exec told a select group of executives that Oracle fully expected to lose 25% of existing Sun hardware accounts. “His message was, we don’t care about low-end hardware,” this person said.

Eric Guyer, an Oracle architect and blogger with Forsythe Solutions Group, said there is much concern among Sun shops. “There’s a general lack of confidence in Oracle’s commitment to Sun, to the hardware business. That, combined with Oracle’s very disciplined maintenance policies where you have to buy all or nothing, is also forcing a lot of customers to think at least twice, if not more, about what to refresh to,” Guyer said.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has been very open with his opinion that Oracle doesn’t care about the commodity hardware market. The company seems to think it can more than offset losses in that arena with big-bang, high-margin Exadata and ExaLogic sales.  Oracle has said it has “billion dollar” pipelines for these machines, but that is difficult to verify.

Some Oracle watchers wonder if Ellison or Oracle really care about even high-end hardware given the rich margins Oracle reaps from its market-leading database.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Barbara Darrow, Senior News Director at, or follow us on twitter.

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