Oracle, Sun chiefs announce alliance

Oracle's Larry Ellison and Sun Microsystems' Scott McNealy shared the stage at a conference to herald a new partnership between the vendors. Paul Krill reports

If there was one key message at a public summit meeting of sorts between the CEOs of Sun and Oracle earlier this month, it was that the companies have been and will continue to be partners. Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison and Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy took the stage at an Oracle-Sun "Employee Town Hall" meeting at Oracle headquarters in San Francisco to herald this partnership. Specifically, they revealed that Oracle has signed up for a new 10-year license to develop on the Java platform and Sun will offer a specially-priced bundle of a Sun UltraSPARC server with Oracle 10g database software and a year of service. Sun also will migrate its internal ERP systems to Oracle's latest ERP software and rely on Oracle's advertising and marketing group to help promote Sun products. "We have a good position here with you guys and we want to maintain that," McNealy said, adding "We're going to market together against some fairly formidable competition". Ellison said "I can't emphasize how important Java is to Oracle — we have based our entire middleware strategy on Java and J2EE." Oracle is rewriting its business applications in Java. Presenting a stark contrast from Oracle's recent emphasis on Intel and Linux, which compete with Sun's systems, the two CEOs' systems instead emphasised common interest, but Ellison noted the partnership was not exclusive — Oracle will continue its endeavors in Linux and with the Eclipse open source tools endeavor that has rivaled Sun's NetBeans open source platform. "I don't want to imply that our only partner here is Sun just as Sun doesn't want to imply going forward that its only partner is Oracle," Ellison said. Oracle did note that it also backs NetBeans. However, Sun NetBeans program director Timothy Cramer said the companies are exploring exactly what types of collaboration they will have with regard to NetBeans. The session featured the usual potshots at rival Microsoft, which Ellison called proprietary; at SAP, which Ellison also called proprietary; and IBM, with McNealy bashing the IBM Global Services group. Asked about Sun's ongoing partnership with Microsoft, McNealy said the forum wasn't the place to delve into that. Ellison noted that Sun and Oracle will compete in certain areas of middleware, but added the companies needed to work together. He cited LDAP directories as one area of overlap. The forum provided an opportunity for Oracle to endorse Sun at a time when Sun's financial prognosis has been in question, says analyst Jean Bozman, research vice president at analyst firm IDC. "I think [with] alliances like this, one of the intentions is to underscore viability," she says. Ellison and McNealy mixed their presentations with humor, or attempts at such. "Everybody here wants to know right up front, if we could just take this off the table [and get a] big announcement out of the way, "are you buying Sun", McNealy asked Ellison at the opening of the session. "Well, you know, Scott," Ellison responded, interrupted by a request for "simple yes or no," from McNealy. "It turns out Oracle's strong preference is to do everything hostile-ly," Ellison replied, in an apparent reference to the company's takeover of PeopleSoft. McNealy also joked that Sun can't match Oracle's large conference room, where the presentation was held, because hardware has lower margins than software. Oracle recently announced its endorsement of Sun's Solaris 10 operating system as its preferred development and deployment platform for 64-bit computing. Oracle also endorsed Sun's recently announced Sun Fire T1000 and T2000 servers.

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