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Commentary: Oracle buys Sun, Good for Apple

Oracle buying Sun is probably better for Apple than IBM buying Sun…seriously! For starters Oracle and Apple are good partners, bolstered by a BFF relationship in Ellison and Jobs that goes back decades. Secondly, Sun and Apple have nice supplemental technologies, support and sales, and other avenues of ideal collaboration–including Sun’s Virtualbox and getting Solaris on the Mac Pro.

Oracle’s announcement yesterday that it plans to acquire Sun Microsystems for $7.4 billion or about $9.50 per share of Sun common stock in cash shocked much of the tech industry. Ellison and company are clearly looking at the possibilities of marrying key software to some of Sun’s key hardware on the database side. 

An interesting note from a conference call question was that Oracle President Safra Catz said that Oracle believes it can run Sun at substantially higher margins. It is not clear exactly how Oracle could do that without cutting costs associated with Sun projects. 

Java is a critical middleware software for Oracle’s database software projects and now Oracle will own and control a major industry standard that effects all platforms, including Apple’s. And Ellison was quoted a saying Sun’s Solaris operating system is “by far the best Unix technology on the market.”

In years past Sun and Apple talked of mergers and when Apple was at its low point in the late 90’s Ellison may have played a role in encouraging the idea of the two hooking up. Larry Ellison is a best friend to Steve Jobs and the two share a common enemy in the tech industry up in Redmond. 

The idea that Sun and Apple could make strong bed mates (today) went something like this:

  • Sun has great tech but bad marketing. Apple has great marketing and would be able to help solve this problem. 
  • Sun has a strong enterprise sales and support team that can help Apple in the enterprise market.
  • Mac OS X and Solaris could share some common tech benefitting both tremendously, especially some of Solaris in OS X. 
  • Apple could push and utilize Sun’s storage in its media and video markets where Apple dominates.
  • The brilliant sparc chip engineers could join up with the brilliant PA Semi chip team at Apple, and engineer even more wonderful micro-processors. This indeed is very compelling!!

But here are some other ideas that could be interesting for Sun. Earlier I wrote about Sun’s Virtualbox virtualization tool and the possibility of reviving its engineering workstation legacy vis-a-vis the use of Apple’s Mac Pro workstations. In this scenario Sun could work closely with Apple to leverage its new Grand Central and OpenCL technologies in the upcoming Snow Leopard OS, concentrating efforts on performance of OpenGL, OpenCL and native graphics support in the virtualization space. 

Additionally, Sun could foster an interest in running Solaris in its own Virtualbox as an industry Unix workstation platform, giving Mac Pro customers even more options. Sun could sell Virtualbox in the future preconfigured for a guest Solaris install and highly tuned and configured for engineering and science on the Mac Pro. 

What this does today is allow Oracle’s Sun to take a step backwards on the Sun workstation front and put the hardware part squarely in the hands of a good friend (Steve Jobs & Co.). At the same time, Apple could update both Boot Camp and work together with Oracle’s Sun to focus Virtualbox on becoming the strongest performing virtualization tool for engineering and CAD, thereby enabling thousands of engineers and scientists with deep history in Solaris-based workflows to continue along in this direction but with the added benefit and flexibility of Mac OS X behind them. This helps Solaris stay meaningful in the high-end science and engineering world.

Virtualbox + Solaris for Mac Pro would be one hot product if given the proper attention in this, albeit, dreamy scenario!!

Commentary: Do you like this idea? Shout back below, we’d love to hear from you on this.

Reader Comments

  1. Posted by:
    May 7, 2009 11:19 am EDT

    I hope Apple outbids Oracle and buys Sun. Its up to the shareholders!

  2. Appreciate the comment. You are not alone in this. There ARE others who also feel that way. I would love to hear why in more detail you think Apple owning Sun is valuable for Apple.

  3. Posted by:
    May 8, 2009 11:33 pm EDT

    Let’s face it Sun has probably the smartest engineers, enterprise experience and support infrastructure in place, but they lack the marketing and user centric polish that Apple brings to the table. Sun could be “Apple Enterprise” really revolutionize Enterprise IT, Software and Services by providing not only reliable, secure and stable offerings but also, Apple’s ease of use and intuitiveness which is currently lacking in corporate markets. In other words the complete package.

    I really want the best features of Solaris to be merged with Mac OS X. Especially Zones this will allow OS level virtualization ( I know Mac OS X has Jails but it pales in comparison to Zones or Linux Vserver. Zones would improve security, by being able to virtualize users, applications, etc… and keep them separate from each other without the overhead of full blown virtualization like VMware.

    Solaris has also been around a lot longer the Mac OS X so its kernel/foundation is a lot more solid and more battle tested. On a side note I would also like to see Mach either replaced or enhanced with the L4 microkernel ( its the next generation microkernel minus a lot of bottlenecks.

    Back to Sun, their StorageTek SANs can be targeted at Apple’s creative pro’s. Native ZFS storage pools and Final Cut Server is a no brainer!(along with iSCSI, and please none of that horrible PromiseRAID storage that they currently offer).

    MySQL could be form part of Filemaker (Apple subsidiary). The list goes on.

    Apple needs to step in and outbid Oracle right now before its too late. Sun shareholders listen up don’t approve the Oracle deal, if it goes through you can bet Sun Engineers will be looking for work after major cuts.

  4. z3r0 your comments above are pretty interesting and you clearly know your Sun stuff! Improvements to OS X’s underpinnings have been wanting for quite some time now and I too am attracted to gaining both Zones and native ZFS. I’m less certain MySQL needs to replace the underpinnings of FileMaker as that company is doing just fine on its own, focused on workgroup databases and person and mobile solutions–all growing areas.

    In thinking about Jobs’ failing or struggling health and the absence of a clear succession plan (public that is..) I wonder if Apple today shouldn’t just merge with Oracle outright, thereby absorbing Sun and the strengths mentioned here and elsewhere and also gaining Ellison. Could Larry Ellison make a great next CEO of Apple when and if Jobs is no longer to fulfill the role? While I think everyone loves Tim Cook, those on the inside say he is not the “front man” Apple needs because he is not the front man type. Ellison on the other hand is!

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