Oracle to invest in Sparc iron, clusters

No onesies and twosies


If you were expecting a huge amount of detail on Oracle's plans for Sun processors, servers, and storage products at the five-hour mega-event held in San Francisco today, you'll be disappointed. But if you're a Sun customer, you'll be relieved to know that Oracle at least said it will invest in Sparc and x64 servers, storage, operating systems, and other technologies.

That's something that Sun itself has not done in a very long time. And in hindsight, Sun hasn't really talked about its future since former chief executive officer Jonathan Schwartz, fired 6,000 employees and opened up takeover talks with IBM back in November 2008, before Big Blue walked away, setting up the $7.4bn takeover by Oracle.

The point is: Sun has not said much about its product roadmaps for more than a year. It hasn't even admitted that it killed off its high-end UltraSparc-RK "Rock" processors and their 'Supernova" systems, which happened sometime in the middle of last year after Oracle started its takeover.

What we learned at the event today is that Oracle is dead serious about building integrated systems. Charles Phillips - the co-president at Oracle who had an extra-marital affair outed by a former girlfriend on New York City billboards last week - kept his sense of humor as well as his sense of purpose. "We're pumped," Phillips said after telling the crowd that Oracle had actually closed the deal yesterday. "Hopefully, you have had a slightly smoother week that I have."

As El Reg reported earlier, Phillips said that Oracle was the one and only IT company that can put together a complete integrated stack, from hardware out to application software and said that it was Oracle's intention to build integrated systems and get away from best of breed integration of components that IBM's Global Services behemoth gets rich on.

"That's very unreliable, and very unpredictable," Phillips explained, saying that Oracle wanted to return to IBM's roots in the 1960s - something Oracle has been saying since launching the takeover last April - with an integrated system that Phillips called "the gold standard" for the computer industry.

Phillips said that Oracle would increase its research and development budget this fiscal year, to $4.3bn, up 54 per cent from last year and due predominately to the acquisition of Sun, and the key purpose was to re-energize the key hardware and software assets at Sun and to provide the tools and support that make an integrated Sun-Oracle system less costly and easier to support. "We're going to make Sun the gold standard for servers underneath our products," Phillips said. "We're going to invest in this."

Phillips confirmed reports that Oracle would hire 2,000 engineers, sales people, and marketeers to help create and peddle Sun's products. To pay for the extra research and development, sales, and marketing investments, Oracle is going to eliminate Sun's back office operations - that's what it always does with acquisitions - and it will streamline Sun's parts supply chain and manufacturing operations, pare down and organize Sun's support operations and align them with Oracle's, and shift to direct sales at the top 1,700 global Sun accounts.

(Later in the call, Larry Ellison, Oracle's chief executive officer, said that Oracle would be taking over the top 4,000 accounts. Go figure).

Oracle will also move away from Sun's recently implemented general sales approach - where sales reps pushed all Sun products - and go back to using sales specialists in servers, storage, and tape.

"We want to have more direct relationships with our strategic customers," Phillips said, adding that Oracle wanted to compensate sales reps based on margins, not on revenues, and have "the best paid sales reps in the industry." Or as he calls them, Derek Jeters.

"We're going direct, and we're getting back in front of customers," Phillip said as he pitched the 2,000 job openings. "We're going to pay you more and you're bored doing what you are doing right now anyway."

John Fowler, who used to be general manager of Sun's Systems Group when it was an independent company, is now executive vice president of hardware engineering at Oracle and seems to be the highest-ranking Sunner to make the jump. (Mike Splain, who had been running Sun Microelectronics, the chip arm of Sun that bounced in and out of the Systems Group over the years, is a senior vice president of Oracle Microelectronics).

"What a long and strange journey it has been," Fowler said as he took the stage to go through the Oracle hardware business that he now runs. "I can tell you that the engineers are champing at the bit."

They'd better be, because Oracle has a lot of work to knock its hardware product lines into shape.

Next page: Say no to commodity

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