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April 03, 2019

Wayback: Oracle embraces Sun and Solaris

Hurd-Ellison
Current Oracle CEO Mark Hurd (left) at a conference with Oracle founder Larry Ellison (far right) in 2010

Ten years ago this month, Oracle announced it was purchasing Sun Microsystems. The move led by CEO Larry Ellison ended the independence of the one company that nudged the world, including HP 3000 customers, into the realm of dot-com and fully networked servers.

HP lost the march on Internet growth to Sun, and those setbacks led to the departure of HP CEO Lew Platt, the final leader of the full Hewlett-Packard who'd grown his career from HP upward. In the late 1990s, the 3000 division moved heaven and earth to integrate the Internet services for MPE/iX that HP-UX had. But not even the HP-UX technical leg up could outrun the Sun rocket launched by its CEO Scott McNealy in 1982.

The 2009 deal dialed down the competition to HP's Unix solution. IBM was near a deal to buy Sun in March of that year, but talks fell through. Oracle said its $7.4 billion acquisition brought it the most important piece of software Oracle ever purchased: Java. But the world's biggest database supplier said the Solaris operating system, key to Sun's server solution, was an important prize, too.

There are substantial long-term strategic customer advantages to Oracle owning two key Sun software assets: Java and Solaris. Java is one of the computer industry’s best-known brands and most widely deployed technologies, and it is the most important software Oracle has ever acquired.

Oracle's statement went on to place the Solaris-Oracle combination of OS and database as the best possible for a company choosing Oracle. The future seemed to hold special features for Unix customers who chose Sun's hardware.

The Sun Solaris operating system is the leading platform for the Oracle database, Oracle’s largest business, and has been for a long time. With the acquisition of Sun, Oracle can optimize the Oracle database for some of the unique, high-end features of Solaris.

Solaris is an asset that one 3000 ally counts upon today. Oracle has given Stromasys the ability to transfer Solaris licenses as a part of installations of Charon for SPARC. HP still requires a separate transaction if a customer will be preserving the official status of an MPE license while moving to Charon for the 3000.

HP 3000 customers who were migrating to one of the Unix or Linux solutions — HP's, IBM's, or Sun's — had seen IBM display egalitarian strategy toward the operating systems in its solutions. According to migration service supplier Charles Finley, Solaris was on an equal footing with Linux at IBM.
We have one very large customer that we migrated from the HP 3000. We had been working with the customer for at least one year before the customer decided to use SUSE Linux with Virtualization instead of one large [IBM] AIX box. They were offered both by the same IBM sales team who seemed to us to be totally indifferent to which OS was chosen. Perhaps that offers a clue about what they will do with Solaris if the acquisition actually happens.

Moreover, IBM is so committed to Java that you would swear that they already own it.

Today Oracle owns Java, technology that ran in a few HP 3000 sites but never was a big hit in the MPE community. The fact that the leading database provider to HP-UX sites then came to own a competing OS and hardware platform posed problems for HP — as well as extra study for its customers. Market share growth stalled on HP-UX. Seeing a competing OS land in the hands of a company that Hewlett-Packard then tried to retain as a software partner — well, it had never happened before in the market.

The year after Oracle's Sun purchase, HP's replacement CEO Mark Hurd — the one who followed Carly Fiorina after Lew Platt — went to work for Oracle. HP had forced his retirement in the wake of  accusations about a business relationship Hurd was alleged to have had with a reality show actress. Hurd started at his new job selling Sun hardware for Oracle, stinging HP with an insider knowledge of how Unix wins could be had at enterprise levels. He's the CEO of Oracle today, more than eight years after joining the company.

06:53 PM in History | Permalink

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