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Oracle-Sun Great for Cloud Computing...or Not

Culture Clash May be the Least of the Problems. Beware New Vendor Lock-In!

It's an obvious point, already commented upon elsewhere, that the respective cultures of Sun Microsystems and Oracle Corp. couldn't be more different.

Sun, although brash and aggressive in the mode of its co-founder and chairman Scott McNealy, has produced numerous "characters of the game" other than McNealy over the years.

Folks such as co-founders Bill Joy and Andy Bechtolsheim, Ed Zander, James Gosling, John Gage, Radia Perlman, Whitfield Diffie, Bill Raduchal, Greg Papadopoulos, and Bernie Lacroute to name just a precious few.

The company was also a famous breeding ground for CEOs, including Zander, Eric Schmidt, Bill Larson, Carol Bartz, current Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz, and in the glory of the dot-com days, Kim Polese.

McNealy was always clearly the boss, but having grown up around powerful people, always seemed utterly at ease in working with high-wattage personalities and letting them shine on their own.

Not so at Oracle. Larry Ellison's company has also produced CEOs such as Marc Benioff, Craig Conway, and Tom Siebel, but there has never been an indication that Ellison is comfortable sharing either power or the limelight. This history is well-documented and needs no further comment here.

Ellison has also seemed to get personal in some of his acquisitions, notably the extended, nasty PeopleSoft takeover.

So the grand meeting of idealistic Sun and hard-boiled Oracle will no doubt be difficult, with an expectation that much of Sun's idealism will ultimately be squeezed out of the combined organization.

If you go to the very southern tip of Ellison's and Siebel's home state of Illinois, you will see the pretty blue Ohio River merge with the dirty brown Mississippi. This is one of the greater river confluences in the world.

The two colors run along side by side for awhile, but all is brown soon enough. After the rivers merge, the river is known simply as the Mississippi. The bright blue Ohio simply disappears.

The technology merger aspect of this deal--presumably why Oracle is paying $7.4 billion--seems more harmonious. Many of Oracle's database customers run on Sun, and most of any hardware company's vendors run on Oracle.

The two companies have been long-time marketing partners, there are oodles of ways the two companies are touting their Java synergy, and this merger seems to create a nice overall platform that should not raise anti-trust hackles in the way an IBM/Sun might have.

Oracle will presumably not croak open-source competitor MySql (now owned by Sun), but use it to hook and reel in new generations of smaller businesses. Sun also is a significant player in the storage arena through its StorageTek acquisition of a few years back.

But, getting to the point the headline of this article makes, is this merger too harmonious? Will it simply represent more vendor lock-in?

Sun has been aggressive in promoting its Cloud Computing strategy, yes...but is vendor lock-in to a major Cloud provider fundamentally different from vendor lock-in to today's IT customers?

Capitalism does not reward that nice spirit of sharing that we all teach our kids when they're fighting for toys in the sandbox. And Ellison seems hell-bent on turning his observation--that Silicon Valley would start to look like Detroit in a few years by dint of massive consolidation--into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Cloud Computing promises new waves of innovation by IT visionaries who will be less encumbered by the same old same old, having delivered enormous cost savings by outsourcing the drudgery to Google or Yahoo or whomever.

Will this promise be broken when, encumbered by precious little vendor choice, cloud provisioners establish pricepoints that simply return IT departments back to the budget jams of old?

Follow the author at ww.twitter.com/strukhoff and at his blog.

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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