The rumors of its demise have been touted since the day that the evil giant Oracle gobbled them up. Sun Microsystems, the once giant of closed source UNIX is finally deceased, of course there is no official announcement of death from the keepers of McNealy’s dream, but dead they are. Just looking at the vacant car lots in Oracle’s Santa Clara office, shows the real state of the former giant. It is rumored that over 2500 have been let go, and according to former Sun Executive Bryan Cantrill the latest layoffs were “so deep as to be fatal” and included up to 90% of the core Solaris Engineering team and James Gosling the father of Java stated on his Facebook page on Friday that “Solaris … got a bullet in the head from Oracle”. Take a moment to let that sink in.
If you remember the hu-har Oracle made when they purchased the already struggling Sun for 7.2 billion in 2009, there were many questions raised about the viability of the acquisition. In fact you will be hard pressed to think of anything about the acquisition that you can say has been successful, despite getting Larry into an Ironman Film. That said he did have to play second or even third fiddle to Elon Musk and Tony Stark.
But seriously; Oracle quickly killed of SUN’s move to Open Source in an attempt to shore up revenue and attempting to rebrand it as the only way correct way to run OracleDB. The re-closing, Solaris and MySQL and effectively sped up the transition to Linux and pushed enough of the MySql community to the MariaDB fork to allow them to start a company, coincidentally not running on Solaris, or its open source cousin Ilumios; but Linux.
OpenOffice the MS Office competitor that was starting to gain traction, was renamed StarOffice starved of funds and the community so alienated by Oracle’s handling of them and the project jumped en-mass to LibreOffice.
The crown jewels Java, which to be fair was the real reason for the acquisition, as Ellison admitted in 2012 at the first of two failed $8 Billion lawsuits against Google over Java SE, and their Java EE version is heading out to a foundation.
Oracle do not have a very good history with acquisitions, they tend to be made on the whole for protectionist measures or as an attempt to expand their patent base to keep their divisions of lawyers in work. Perhaps that is unfair, It may be better to state that Oracle have ceased to be a company of innovation, and they expand their markets be acquisition.
Oracle as a company are, after considerable time as a cloud denier, attempting a Cloud based rebirth at the moment, and have quietly been buying up Cloud based companies for the last several years. With headline grabbing buys like NetSuite for 9.3Billion, to Infrastructure as a Service enablers like Dyn, Ravello Systems, to recent acquisitions like Wercker and Apiary which deal with Continuous integration and RESTful API development.
Perhaps SUN’s sunset, albeit expected, is just Ellison’s light bulb moment, perhaps he is giving up on his hubristic dream of Sauron like proportions, of total domination of all things enterprise and he has realised that a smaller piece of a larger pie is still a pretty good earner. I highly doubt it though. Ellison is a realist, Solaris is too expensive to continue to develop when the only users are themselves, Enterprise migrated off Solaris years ago, migrating to either Linux or Microsoft. There was nothing spectacular about SUN hardware, it was just another x86/64 based piece of tin. The fact is OracleDB runs just as well on Linux as it did on Solaris, AIX and Windows. The horse had well and truly bolted well before Oracle bought SUN, McNealy knew this.
Oracle Cloud is on paper a reasonable proposition, but how much is vapourware? I know they are hiring quite a lot of capable engineers from the like of AWS, VCE and other Cloud Vendors, but are they capable of playing hardball with Azure and AWS, I think not. The only way that Oracle will be able to play with the big boys now is to build big, build quickly and acquire features, Public IaaS is a saturated market with dominant player with focused offerings and skilled and well educated teams to sell it.
That said, if Oracle migrated their IaaS offering to a PaaS play offering OracleDB and their other core software assets as a platform with a fully formed CI eco-system and fully functioning RESTful API they may will have a better time gaining market share, providing the infrastructure for a new layer of SaaS based players, they already own NetSuite, and Ellison has a personal large investment in Salesforce. This is a place where their current batch of sales professionals would feel more comfortable, they are not Infrastructure sales people, they are application people. PaaS and SaaS is a more logical place for them to play.